New parliament will be the most ethnically diverse ever, study finds

Diane Abbott was the first black woman elected to Parliament, in 1987
Diane Abbott was the first black woman elected to Parliament, in 1987 - GUY SMALLMAN/GETTY

The new Parliament is on course to be the most ethnically diverse ever, a study has found.

Research for British Future, a think tank, suggests there will be an increase of between 20 and more than 30 MPs in the number of candidates elected from an ethnic minority background on July 4.

Both of the main parties have chosen record numbers of ethnic minority candidates with Labour’s accounting for one in five (19.8 per cent) and the Conservatives for one in seven (13.7 per cent).

It will mean that minority representation will have increased from zero to nearly one in seven MPs (14 per cent) during 43-year-old Rishi Sunak’s lifetime – and in the space of Diane Abbott’s 40-year political career. That would match the 14 per cent of the electorate who are classed as ethnic minorities.

There were 65 ethnic minority MPs before Parliament was dissolved last month, a proportion of 10 per cent.

Sharifah Rahman campaigning with Rhun ap Iorwerth, the leader of Plaid Cymru, in Cardiff South and Penarth
Sharifah Rahman campaigning with Rhun ap Iorwerth, the leader of Plaid Cymru, in Cardiff South and Penarth

Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said: “Britain is closing the gap between the diversity of Parliament and the electorate much faster than anyone thought possible.

“Better representation doesn’t in itself guarantee strong party cultures or the right party policies on inclusion. Our race debates today often feel as polarised as ever.

“But a stronger share of voice does make a difference. So this milestone in representation remains something to celebrate – few, if any, other western democracies are keeping pace with Britain’s progress.”

Voting scenarios

The research by Number Cruncher Politics compared six different scenarios from a Tory majority mirroring 2019 to a Labour landslide with the Conservatives reduced to just 100 MPs.

The highest proportion – 100 MPs from ethnic minorities, or 15.4 per cent of the total 650 MPs in the Commons – would be with the Labour landslide.

A Labour majority of 100 would see 94 or 14.5 per cent; a majority of 50 would be 89 or 13.6 per cent; and a majority of just one for Sir Keir Starmer would see a similar number of 89.

A hung Parliament would again generate 89 ethnic minority MPs, while a Conservative majority mirroring 2019 would return 88 ethnic minority MPs, or 13.5 per cent of the total.

The minority parties have fewer ethnic minority candidates. The Lib Dems have selected 66 (10.5 per cent); the SNP three out of 57 candidates (5.2 per cent); Green Party 55 (8.9 per cent); and Reform 32 (5.2 per cent).

Plaid Cymru in Wales and the UUP in Northern Ireland have each selected one candidate from an ethnic minority background.

Progress to equality for women has been slower. If Labour wins an overall majority, there will be a record number of 252 women elected to the Commons for the first time, up from 220 in 2019.

That would, however, mean fewer than 39 per cent of MPs are women, while they make up 51 per cent of the UK electorate.

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