Women lose out in race to be an MP

Being a woman is more of a barrier to becoming an MP than being black or Asian, according to a survey of the candidates being chosen to stand at the next election.

The study suggests a crucial "tipping point" has been reached in the number of non-white candidates that the political parties are choosing.

The conventional wisdom is that it would take 75 years for Parliament to reflect Britain's ethnic mix. There are 13 Labour and two Tory MPs who are black or Asian, but no Liberal Democrat MPs. That number would have to rise from 15 MPs to 60 out of 646 to be representative of the number of non-whites in the population.

The Labour-affiliated Fabian Society predicts that the number of non-white MPs could rise to 25 after the next election as the Labour and Conservative Party pick more ethnic minority candidates, meaning that fair representation will be achieved much more quickly than previously thought.

In contrast, the three main parties are only choosing female candidates in about one in four seats. In 16 contests open to men as well as women, Labour has chosen only one woman. There are 125 women MPs, including 94 for Labour, 17 for the Tories and nine for the Liberal Democrats.

Sunder Katwala, the Fabian general secretary, said: "We seem to be making more progress on race than achieving equal chances for women in politics. Gender is a much more stubborn penalty than race. The gender penalty, though reducing, is still in place."

Although one explanation could be that sexism is more deep-rooted than racism, he said a more plausible one is that the "gender penalty" may be caused less by direct discrimination or cultural stereotypes about who should be an MP and more by problems such as child care and financial sacrifices.

Mr Katwala added: "It is not so difficult for a political establishment to give up 7.5 per cent of its seats [to ethnic minority candidates]. This can be done by finding those black and Asian candidates who fit the mould – the Oxbridge graduates, lawyers and accountants. Giving up 50 per cent of the seats [to women] is more difficult and may demand more cultural change."

The Fabian Society concludes that there is no need for parties to choose candidates from all-black shortlists, an idea that pressure groups such as Operation Black Vote are pushing and that the Government is considering. All-women shortlists were instrumental in raising the number of women Labour MPs at the 1997 election.

Labour is selecting black or Asian candidates in about one in 10 seats, with a higher rate of 14 per cent in marginal constituencies. So far, the Tories and Liberal Democrats have chosen non-white candidates in about 5 per cent of seats.

Labour could have 16 or 17 black or Asian MPs after the election and the Tories seven or eight but the Liberal Democrats may still be without any, say the Fabians.

Claims that it would take 75 years to secure fair representation for non-whites are "out of date" and "not at all credible," according to the study.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Night job: Pacha nightclub DJ, Joan Ribas, is the new kingmaker on the island
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada