Representing women and minorities

Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary
In 1987, Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary, became the first black woman to serve as an MP

Although there is still far to go before the make-up of the House of Commons reflects the population of the UK, the 2017 general election did create the UK’s most diverse Parliament with more female MPs elected as well as more MPs from black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. Alongside this the number of MPs who identify as LGBT has also risen.

Out of 650 MPs in the House of Commons: –

  • 208 are female – 32% of the Commons
  • 51 are from ethnic minorities – 8% of the Commons
  • 45 openly identify as LGBT – 7% of the Commons
  • 325 went to state comprehensive schools – 52% of the Commons
  • 181 went to private schools – 29% of the Commons

Comparisons with the UK population

Just over 50% of the UK population are female so a rate 32% shows that women are still under-represented in Parliament. Over the course of the last few Parliaments that rate is increasing slowly – in 2005 the Commons was 20% female; in 2010 it was 22%; and in 2015 it was 29%.

Around 14% of the UK population identify as belonging to an ethnic minority. This contrasts with the 8% rate of MPs in the Commons.

While available data is vague, it is estimated some were between 1.5 to 5% of the population identify themselves as belonging to the LGBT community so the Commons compares favourably. However, Stonewall – a major LGBT charity – notes that the transgender community is still under-represented. In 2017 nine transgender candidates campaigned to become MPs – none were elected.

While there are no official records, as of 2017 there are currently five MPs who identify themselves as disabled. Jane Ellison (Labour) is registered blind, Stephen Lloyd (LibDem) is deaf, Jared O’Mara (Labour) has cerebral palsy, and Robert Halfon and Paul Maynard (both Conservative) also have cerebral palsy. This is less than 1% of the House of Commons while - including mental health – one in five people in the UK identify as having some form of disability.

The widest difference between the make-up of the House of Commons and the UK involves education. Only around 7% of the UK population attended a private school but in the Commons this figure climbs to 29%. A further 17% attended state schools that were able to select their own pupils.

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