UK Politics

What to look out for in the new Parliament

Palace of Westminster Image copyright Getty Images

MPs are back at Westminster to be sworn in as the new Parliament gets under way. But what's new this time around? Here are some things to look out for:

New camera angles

Television viewers will get a new perspective on our politicians, thanks to eye-level cameras in the Commons. Approved by the House of Commons Commission in February, the cameras offer an alternative to the traditional high-level fixed positions to which viewers have become accustomed over the years. It comes after TV cameras were allowed into previously forbidden parts of the Palace of Westminster for the BBC's Inside the Commons documentary.


More women MPs

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Image caption The SNP's Hannah Bardell, Conservative Andrea Jenkyns and Labour's Thangam Debbonaire were among the winners

The number of women in Parliament has risen by about a third to 191. Female MPs now make up 29% of the overall total. The proportion of female Conservative and Labour MPs has increased, despite an overall fall in the number of Labour MPs. But the biggest rise in female representation in the Commons came from the Scottish National Party, which now has 20 female MPs, up from just one.


New Father of the House

Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman is the new Father of the House, the title given to the MP with the longest continuous service who is not a minister.

The member for Manchester Gorton replaces Conservative Sir Peter Tapsell, who stood down as MP at the election. His main duty, as demonstrated on Monday, is to preside over the election of a new Speaker.

First elected in 1970, Sir Gerald pips three other MPs - Conservatives Ken Clarke and Michael Meacher, and Dennis Skinner of Labour, who all entered Parliament on the same day - because he swore the oath before them.


...a 'Mother of the House'

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Labour's acting leader Harriet Harman appointed herself to the unofficial title after pointing out she was the longest-serving female MP in the Commons. The MP for Camberwell and Peckham, first elected in 1982, made the comments during the Speaker's election exchanges, "to prevent us all from falling headlong into patriarchy" and promised "good parenting" along with Mr Kaufman.


...and a 'baby' of the House

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At 20 years of age, the SNP's Mhairi Black is the UK's youngest elected MP since 1667.

The MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, who ousted shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, found herself surrounded by Labour MPs on the green benches during the Speaker election. The politics student - who worked part-time in a chip shop before winning her seat - has been studying for her final exams in the House of Commons of Library, she revealed in an ITV interview.


Seating struggles

The influx of SNP MPs has led to some competition on the Labour benches. This was illustrated during the Speaker election as Labour MPs found themselves displaced from their familiar spots when the nationalists arrived early to bag their places. But Labour veteran Dennis Skinner held on to his traditional seat on the front corner of the far opposition bench. The Bolsover MP was spotted wedged in next to the SNP's Chris Law. "I only had half a cheek on, but I was there before them and I will be there when they are gone," he told the Mirror. There are said to be just 427 seats available for MPs, and backbenchers use their prayer cards to guarantee a spot.


Fewer Lib Dems

Image caption Alistair Carmichael said he spoke on behalf of the "elite cadre" of Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have been hardest hit by the new seating arrangements, with their eight MPs positioned in a distant corner of the opposition benches. It's a far cry from the days of coalition, when the likes of Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander regularly fielded questions from the despatch box.


All new PMQs

Aside from the prospect of a new Labour leader grilling Prime Minister David Cameron, the SNP will also get two questions in the weekly Parliamentary showpiece because of its third party status. Moray MP Angus Robertson, the party's Westminster leader, will get the role previously filled by the Liberal Democrats before the coalition government.


More diverse Commons

Image copyright Conservative Party
Image caption Alan Mak is the first MP of ethnic Chinese origin

The new House of Commons is more ethnically diverse than ever, with 41 non-white MPs, up from 27. And for the first time, there is an MP of Chinese origin - Alan Mak, who represents Havant for the Conservatives.


Famous families

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Image caption Neil Kinnock led the Labour Party from 1983 to 1992

Stephen Kinnock, son of former Labour leader Neil, is now an MP for the party. So is Rupa Huq, the sister of former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq, and Tulip Siddiq, whose aunt, Sheikh Hasina, is the prime minister of Bangladesh.


Record number of gay MPs

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The new House has 32 gay, lesbian and bisexual MPs - more than in any Parliament in any other country. According to an analysis for the New Statesman, 13 of these are Labour, and 12 are Conservative.


No former PMs

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For the first time since 1885, there are no former prime ministers anywhere in Parliament. Labour's Gordon Brown stood down at the general election, and neither of his two predecessors, Tony Blair and John Major, took seats in the House of Lords.


Select committee shake-up

The elections aren't over in the House of Commons, where chairmen and women have to be voted in to lead most of the Commons select committees.

The committees, covering subjects like home affairs, health and transport, have an increasingly high-profile role in holding the government to account, carrying out inquiries, taking evidence from witnesses and publishing reports. Some committees, like foreign affairs and culture, media and sport, are guaranteed a new name in charge because the former holder has left Parliament or been promoted to the government.


But the same Speaker

One thing that hasn't changed, to some people's surprise, is the occupant of the Speaker's chair. John Bercow was re-elected unopposed when MPs returned after the election, despite efforts by the Conservatives to make it easier for him to be unseated at the very end of the last Parliament. Meanwhile, there will be at least one new deputy Speaker - Labour MP Dawn Primarolo stood down, and elections will be held for each of the deputy posts in the coming weeks.

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