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Monday, 17 November 2008


Congratulations to Harriet Harman on the Speakers’ Conference on women and members of ethnic minority groups in Parliament. If Parliament is ever going to be a fully representative body for all sections of our society, women, black people and people with disabilities all have to be there.

The current situation where less than 20 percent of MPs are women is really not tenable. It’s one third in the European Parliament, which, though much better, is still not good enough. According to the “Guardian” today, it will take 400 years for the Conservatives to reach gender balance in the House of Commons. There should also be four times as many minority ethnic MPs as at present.

Sadly, our legislature is not at all representative. The political class, from which more and more of our MPs are drawn, to which Hazel Blears referred over the weekend, is growing apace. It is a grouping which is almost all white and middle class. This is not good news for democracy.
The number of MPs from outside the middle class, i.e. from manual worker backgrounds, is falling rapidly. While I think this is more difficult to define than race or sex in that people born into such circumstances can become middle class through education and life experience, we still need to bear this matter in mind.

As something close to my heart, I would like the Speaker’s Conference to look at our voting system. No other country in Europe uses first past the post for elections to their parliament. In this country the narrowing political class concentrates on the 20 or so percent of marginal seats which will decide the next general election. These seats are by their nature particular and unlike the remaining 80 percent.

Any system which sees only 20 percent of the country as electorally significant will never be fully representative. As someone who is elected by a proportional system, I believe it is much fairer in that every vote counts. Electoral reform would be a real challenge for the Speaker’s Conference and one they should take on board.

1 comment:

Funda Pepperell said...

It is clear from the evidence that we have a long way to go to create multi-ethnic Britian in Parliament and in other political institutions.Ethnic minority population in Britain is almost 5 million, approximately %8 of the population.There are more than 125 Parliamentary constituencies in England with an ethnic minority population over %10.
Question is how far have Labour Party helped to provide elected representation? In 2005 13 MPs from Labour Party only 2 from Conservatives. Today only%2 of Members of Parliament are from an ethnic minority group.
The Labour Party Parliamentary selection process is very hard but designed to be more democratically representative.
BAME candidates have an advantage over white candidates for short listing. This certainly helps ethnic candidates to go further but, it dose not help them get selected.As a ethnic parliamentary candidate I sometimes find very difficult to deal people with in the labour party. Seems like it is still hard for many white British man in Labour Party , to accept me as knowledgeable Politician, instead of just an ethnic woman. One wonders when people can see me beyond my gender and race.
Funda Pepperell PPC for Basingstoke