Support 100 years of independent journalism.

How representative is parliament after the general election 2017?

The general election 2017 may have been a curveball, but in one aspect progress was clear. 

By Julia Rampen

Watch a clip of a parliamentary session from any point in the 1990s or early 2000s and one thing stands out. Even though you might still have the books you read, or even the clothes you wore, parliament looks like a hundred years ago. Most of those sitting in the chamber are dark-suited, pale-faced men. 

By 2017, things have changed. But not completely. Depending on the clip you watched, you might catch the female Home secretary fielding questions – or you might stumble across pale, male and stale Tory backbenchers trying to interrupt a debate on domestic violence. So, after the snap election of 2017, will the new intake bring more consistency?

Women

In 1997, the idea of women in parliament in any significant number was so novel that the 101 new female Labour MPs were termed “Blair babes”. Twenty years on, 207 women have been confirmed elected to parliament. Women now account for one in three of MPs.

This is the highest number ever of women MPs, but nevertheless still out of sync with the population. Fawcett Society chief Sam Smethers called progress “embarrassingly slow”. 

BME

Thanks to the election of ten new black and minority ethnic MPs, and only one loss, there are now 51 such MPs.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

According to Operation Black Vote, what is notable about the new MPs is that these candidates are standing and winning in constituencies outside the biggest cities. 

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery

New MPs include Preet Gill, the first female Sikh MP, in Birmingham Edgbaston.

Despite this progress, BME MPs make up 7.8 per cent of the new parliament, compared to roughly 14 per cent of the population as a whole. 

LGBTQ

A record 45 LGBTQ MPs were elected in 2017, according to the political scientist Andrew Reynolds. They account for 7 per cent of MPs, which is higher than the official proportion of the population, although given the historical stigma against coming out, comparisons may be hard to draw.

The SNP leads the way on representation, with LGBTQ MPs accounting for 20 per cent of the parliamentary party. In Labour and the Conservatives, the proportion of LGBTQ MPs stands at 7 per cent and 6 per cent respectively. 

Disabled

Roughly 16 per cent of working adults are disabled, according to government figures, but in the most recent parliament there were just four physically disabled MPs, or 1 per cent of parliament. 

Labour added two new disabled MPs, both disability rights activists, to its cohort in the 2017 election.

One was Marsha de Cordova, who is registered blind (oh, and she is also a BME woman). De Cordova pulled off a stunning victory in Battersea, previously a safe Conservative seat.