This is a newspaper advertisement from the 1960s. The open and naked prejudice of it is staggering in this day and age, but it was still only forty odd years ago.
Today, of course, the modern Conservative Party has moved on from this and now embraces a non-discriminatory stance. I’m glad about that, not just because many of my heroes such as Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, Muhammad Ali and Colin Jackson – amongst others – are from ethnic minorities, but mostly because I would be uncomfortable with one of our national parties still discriminating against people on the basis of their skin colour.
Which is why I thought I’d check to see how our friends in Parliament are doing. There are several issues that have to be faced first. In many cases ethnicity is often a case of self-definition and isn’t necessarily obvious. However, the Government publishes a paper called “Ethnic minorities in Politics, Government and Public Life”.
This paper reveals that ethnic minority groups make up 7.9% of the British population, so if you round that up to eight people in every hundred, so you would expect in a Parliament of six hundred and fifty for there to be fifty-two MPs from ethnic minorities (although because of the way Parliamentary boundaries are skewed, the true figure would be seventy-eight) if there were any kind of proportionality to it all. There isn’t. Only twenty-seven MPs up to December 2011 described themselves as being part of an ethnic minority.
Of these sixteen are Labour and eleven are Conservative. None of the other parties has a member from an ethnic minority, including the very right-on Liberal Democrats. So, just 4.1% of the Members of Parliament come from an ethnic minority. Looking at the Party breakdown – sixteen from two hundred and twenty nine for Labour is 6.9% and eleven from three hundred and six Conservative MPs is just 3.6%.
This figure for the Conservatives is a big step forward from the two ethnic minority MPs they had in the last Parliament, but it really is not good enough, is it? But I’m not here to decry or condemn the Conservatives for being pretty rubbish at representing ethnic minorities, and let’s face it, Labour isn’t that much better. No, what I’d like to do is offer my praise to those constituency parties who have been brave enough to stand up and be counted. Below is a list of those constituencies represented by MPs who have declared themselves to be part of an ethnic minority:
- Bethnal Green & Bow
- Birmingham Ladywood
- Birmingham, Perry Barr
- Bolton SE
- Bradford West
- Ealing Southall
- East Surrey
- Feltham & Heston
- Gillingham & Rainham
- Glasgow Central
- Hackney North & Stoke Newington
- Leicester East
- Newcastle Central
- North West Cambridgeshire
- Reading West
- Stratford upon Avon
- Wolverhampton SW
Regrettably, none of these are in Wales or Northern Ireland, but with ethnic minority populations of just 2.1% and 0.8% respectively and a very small number of MPs, that is not surprising.
So, a lot to do, but nevertheless it is improving. Here’s the historical numbers of ethnic minority MPs.
1987 – 4 Lab – 0 Con
1992 – 5 Lab – 1 Con
1997 – 9 Lab – 0 Con
2001 – 12 Lab – 0 Con
2005 – 13 Lab – 2 Con
2010 – 16 Lab – 11 Con
I will try to dig out the number of ethnic minority candidates each of the parties selected to see if they are having a go and it would be interesting to compare this with the likelihood of them winning the seat in which they were stood.
But… still no Liberal Democrat MPs come from ethnic minorities. I’ve written to Nick Clegg to ask him about this and I’m really looking forward to his reply.