Report looks at Parliamentary representation

15 July 2009

The Speaker’s Conference today calls on the parties to take immediate action to change the culture of politics and make the House of Commons more representative of society.

The special committee of MPs, set up by the House of Commons in November 2008, describes the slump in public trust towards political parties and politicians as being of "urgent concern". But, as a number of MPs announce their intentions to stand down at the next election, the Conference sees an opportunity for the political parties to select a new, more diverse group of Parliamentary candidates – and in doing so to start rebuilding public trust.

The Vice-chairman of the Conference, Miss Anne Begg MP, said:

"Despite recent changes, MPs remain predominantly white, male, middle-aged and middle-class.

"The choices local and national political parties make as to the candidates who will represent them at the next election will be central to shaping what the next House of Commons looks like, and the extent to which it is genuinely changed. Increasing the diversity of MPs – having more women MPs, more BME and disabled MPs, who can speak in our debates with the authority of lived experience – would make the House of Commons a more legitimate, credible and effective legislature.

"The political parties will be selecting candidates for their vacant seats over the next few months. For a local party to select a capable candidate from an under-represented group is a really practical way for that party to demonstrate its support for political and Parliamentary reform.

"With this report we are challenging the parties to consider how they can use this opportunity for change. We are also asking them to reflect whether there will be reason for the public to trust the parties and Parliament more if, after the general election, they are apparently presented with more of the same."

The Conference is recommending that across the vacated Parliamentary seats the parties:

  • promote equality by selecting at least 50 per cent women as candidates
  • ensure that a significantly greater proportion of candidates than at the 2005 election are selected with BME backgrounds
  • seek to encourage a wider placement of BME candidates across the country than was present at the 2005 election
  • ensure that a significantly greater proportion of candidates who identify as disabled are selected than at the 2005 election

The Speaker's Conference will publish a full report later this year.

Image: iStockphoto

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