Give MPs more benefits, says diversity report

Paid leave and open primaries put forward to encourage better mix of parliamentary candidates

Candidates seeking to become MPs should have a statutory right to time off work and state funds to cover loss of income as part of proposals to make parliament more diverse, says a report.

The Government would also fund US-style "open primaries" to allow ordinary voters to participate in selecting parties' candidates for Westminster. This, the Institute for Government says, would stop MPs in safe seats being effectively elected by dwindling numbers of elderly party members who are unrepresentative of their constituencies.

The report, from a respected think tank, comes as the first subsidised parliamentary intern scheme starts.

The scheme, supported by the Speaker and with private funding worth £400,000, will allow 10 candidates to spend the next nine months working for MPs, including Ed Miliband.

Unlike most interns – who are not paid – this group will earn £15,000 a year and have been chosen not for their qualifications but their interest in politics and their diverse backgrounds.

One is a 25-year-old who fled to Britain as a refugee from Liberia at 17 after being caught up in the civil war. Another left school after GCSEs to be a joiner before being made redundant nine months ago. Two others in their 50s saw the advert in local job centres.

"Normally someone like me would never be considered to work in Parliament," said Alan Kean, 54, who was brought up in a mining village and left school at 15 with no qualifications.

Politicians are concerned at a lack of diversity among MPs. Around 35 per cent of MPs went to fee-paying schools against 7 per cent of the current school-age population. There are only 27 Black, Asian and minority ethnic MPs compared to 75-80 non-white MPs that would signify a representative House.

The Institute identifies two significant barriers to addressing the situation. The first is the financial cost. It is estimated that the average costs of being a prospective parliamentary candidate can reach £41,000 over a four-year period. The report suggests candidates should have a statutory right to time off work as well as funding for a means-tested bursary to cover expenditure. It also argues that the narrow selection process is detrimental to democracy.

Less than 1.5 per cent of the electorate belong to a major political party so a fraction of voters in most constituencies select parliamentary candidates. The Institute proposes state funding for "open primaries". But this will prove controversial as open primaries can cost £40,000 each – equating to £26m per party for every seat in Westminster.

But one of the new report's authors Rhys Williams said: "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."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat