Politicians will continue to be male, pale and posh until the government mandates more transparent constituency recruitment, says Helen Pankhurst, descendant of the Suffragettes and convenor of the Centenary Action Group.
Despite some gains in the last general election the communities hardest hit by COVID-19 are those least represented in politics, according to a new report ‘Data Drives Diversity’, published today by the campaigners.
Women make up only one third of the House of Commons, just 63 MPs are BAME and only five have a self-declared disability.
Yet Black men and women are four times more likely to die from the virus than their white counterparts; more than half of all coronavirus deaths involved a disabled person and women in the workforce are more likely to do low paid work and in more exposed, consumer facing roles than men.
The ‘Data Drives Diversity’ report demonstrates that by taking a simple step the government could level up politics. By mandating political parties to be more open about the diversity of candidates applying to represent them at constituency level the government could ensure those hardest hit by the virus get representatives chosen from a broader range of society that better understands their needs.
This measure was considered so important to driving diversity it was enshrined in section 106 of the Equality Act 2010 but is yet to be enacted.
Speaking at the launch of the report Helen Pankhurst said, “There is no publicly available data on the diversity of candidates in this country.”
“Obviously it is only the chosen candidate that appears on the ballot paper – but who gets eliminated before this choice is made? It is all done in secret, behind closed doors, so we have no idea.”
“Today it is almost impossible to get a job in the private or public sector without having to submit diversity data. So why should politics be any different?”
“We don’t know how many women step forward; how many candidates from diverse backgrounds hope to stand or how many candidates with disabilities seek election.”
“Making this a compulsory practice now, would mean it was in place for the next round of UK elections.”
“Candidate selection needs to move into the spotlight.”
“Important decisions that affect every community across the country should be available for all to see.”
“The time to enact Section 106 is now”.
The ‘Data Drives Diversity’ report sets out how data could be collected in a simple, non-burdensome way. It states that only data on gender, ethnicity and disability should be collected initially and only once that is underway could other data be considered.
The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, the SNP and the Green Party all welcome this approach and some already keep data informally.
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