There are 650 Members of Parliament (MPs) and about 65 million people in UK. In a perfectly just world, we might expect to see the demographics of the electorate reflected in the demographics of their representatives. It is not a perfectly just world. To find out just how unjust it is, I’ve been doing some counting, using population numbers as a proxy for electorate and comparing them to the newly-elected MPs.
Examined from a representational perspective, the numbers suck. Here are the rough percentages of various groups within the UK population:
- Women 51%
- Disabled 20%
- BAME/POC 13%
- Queer 7*%
Now compare that to the number of MPs from each group:
- Women: 208 MPs = 32%
- BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic): 51 MPs = 8%
- Out Queer: 45 MPs = 7%
- Out Disabled: 4 MPs = 0.615%
Here’s what that looks like:
The overwhelming majority of MPs are straight, white, non-disabled men.
Of the out queer MPs, all are white, 80% are men, and none are trans. I don’t know how many BAME MPs are queer or crips or women, or how many women are BAME or queer. I don’t know how many of the out disabled MPs are queer—but three are white and men; the only woman is BAME. Intersectionality is a distant dream with regard to UK national politics.
Where it gets really interesting (that is, enraging) is when we look at relative representation, that is, the ratio between the percentages of the population and those elected to speak for them:
Over represented: men, white, non-disabled.
Balanced representation: queer.
Under represented: BAME/POC, women, disabled.
The biggest gap is between the representation for disabled people (grey) and non-disabled people (gold). Take a good, long look. That’s not a gap, it’s a chasm.
Imagine 100 disabled people at one end of a room and all but 3 are gagged. The 100 non-disabled people at the other end are not only free to speak but have brought 24 loud-voiced friends. If all talked at once, 3 voices against 124, which perspective will be heard?
Imagine 100 women: 63 get to talk. But the 100 men get to bring 39 of their friends. 63 vs 139. Whose voice will be heard?
Imagine 100 BAME/POC: 62 can speak. Those one hundred white people, though, get to invite 5 extra people. So if everyone shouts at once, 62 vs 105, who will be heard?
Interestingly, queer and straight appear perfectly balanced. But of course white male abled queer voices drown out the rest.
Many of us, then, are poorly represented in the Commons. (Don’t even get me started on the Lords.)
But here’s a thing: the woman who won Kensington and Chelsea for Labour for the first time in the history of the constituency did so by just 20 votes. Twenty. That’s the number of people you’d have round to watch the fireworks, the number of people who go outside to smoke at a party, the number you’d hang out with at a family barbeque/barbecue. So at your next fireworks display/party/barbecue talk to people. Ask them to vote. Every single vote matters. Your vote matters. Next time you get the chance, vote. Make your voice heard.
*We could argue about the percentage of queers in the population until the sun dims. I’ve seen figures ranging from just over 1% to almost 10% depending on whose figures and whose definitions. I plumped for 7% because, well, why not?
4 thoughts on “Silenced voices: relative representation in the House of Commons”
Now is there a comparable chart for American Congress and Senate representatives? Great work!
@Mary: Not that I know of.
Maybe, I’ll just have to put one together.
Mary: that would be great. Let me know when you do.
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