UK Politics

Two-thirds of MPs are 'local' people, study suggests

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Almost two-thirds of the UK's members of Parliament are "local" to the area they represent, research by a political think tank suggests.

Demos found that 63% had been born or educated within 20km (13 miles) of their seat, or had worked within this distance from it in the five years before seeking election.

It suggested the Lib Dems had the most "local" MPs of the main parties.

Labour came second and the Conservatives third, Demos said.

It was once common for MPs, particularly those who represented seats furthest from London, to return very rarely to meet their constituents.

But in recent years the nature of the job has changed so that weekly "surgeries" are normal and much political campaigning stresses candidates' links to the area.

Demos, seen as a centre-left think tank, has attempted to quantify the level of localness of the 650 current MPs.

'Porous'

Spokesman Ralph Scott described the 63% figure, based on the criteria of birth, education and work, as "pretty strong" but added that "perhaps not as many" MPs had long-lasting links "as the public would like".

The think tank said it had "trawled through" all the publicly available data, including Wikipedia and MPs' own websites, and found that 82% of Lib Dems were local, compared with 73% on the Labour benches and 51% of Conservatives.

Some MPs had been given "the benefit of the doubt" over their claims to localness, meaning that "if anything we have overestimated the number of local MPs".

Demos found that among all parties MPs were becoming more local, by comparing the figures available for the intake years of the current Parliament. This is not a direct comparison, as no such research exists for previous Parliaments.

The Conservatives were getting "rapidly more local", with 65% of the 2010 intake described as such, and just 30% of the remaining 1997 intake.

Mr Scott said that "these preliminary results show that, by our definition, the political class is perhaps more local than most people think".

He added: "However, unlike some other identities, 'localness' is more porous and more easily acquired - and therefore equally liable to being questioned and revoked.

"Most importantly, it is not identified as a form of representativeness in the same way gender or ethnic background is - and therefore is not strategically encouraged through selection.

"It is likely the increase in 'localness' we have seen in the last decade is a phenomenon driven from the bottom-up, with local electorates favouring local candidates and councillors.

"But as the parties strive to improve the numbers of women and ethnic minority MPs, might this trend stall, or even reverse?"

Demos excluded 52 MPs from its findings because the information available on them was "too incomplete".

The findings of Demos's report will be discussed on BBC Radio 4's World at One from 13:00 BST on Friday.

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