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14.11.11

Measures needed to increase Commons diversity

A think tank has urged the House of Commons to consider diversity measures to increase the range of candidates who attempt to become MPs.

Out of 650 MPs, just 27 are from ethnic minorities, and one fifth are female. The Institute for Government suggests this is less to do with selection criteria than with numbers applying in the first place, and suggests increasing opportunities for minority groups to apply.

The report states: “The problem is increasingly not overt or covert discrimination within political parties, but the lack of women applying to become candidates in the first place. The same is true for other under-represented groups.

“Parties need to focus on increasing the supply of aspiring parliamentary candidates by removing some of the barriers to participation, including the high cost and time commitments, which act as a significant deterrent to candidates from non-traditional backgrounds.

“Childcare costs mean that this can be a particular barrier for women, while disabled candidates also often face extra costs.”

Report co-author Rhys Williams said: “Parties have to open their doors more widely and diversify the ways in which people can become involved in their activities.

“It will only be through bold action that the problems of low public participation in the political process and an unrepresentative Parliament can be addressed.”

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