Lots of women are selected but BAME people are under-represented
The Labour Party has selected just six Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) candidates to try and win 97 marginal seats from other parties at the next election.
Of these six candidates, just two are women and none appear to be African-Caribbean, East Asian or Latin American.
One of the two female BAME candidates, Faiza Shaheen, is trying to unseat Iain Duncan Smith in Chingford and Woodford Green.
Commenting on the private research, seen by Left Foot Forward, Shaheen said:
“When Parliament doesn’t looks like this country democracy is undermined. Given the disappointing figures in marginals, we now have to ensure that working class people of colour are prioritised in retirement seats.
“There are many talented people ready. Labour’s commitment to equality will be questioned if these figures do not improve.”
Retirement seats are those in which a sitting Labour MP decides to give up their seat. Sheffield Hallam and Newport West are two such seats – both constituency parties have selected white candidates.
Aside from Shaheen, the only other BAME candidates are Azhar Ali in Pendle, Mark Mcdonald in Stoke South, Khalil Ahmed in Wycombe, Fatan Hameed in Glasgow Central and Ali Milani who is trying to unseat Boris Johnson in Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
The process for choosing a Labour candidates is that a constituency committee draws up a shortlist and then the constituency party members vote for their candidate from that shortlist.
For example in Harrow East, where 61% of the population is BAME, three people were on the shortlist and Pamela Fitzpatrick narrowly defeated Kiran Ramchandani in winning members’ votes.
Like BAME people, women have also always been under-represented in Parliament.
Female representation has been helped by the introduction of all-women shortlists. It is generally illegal to discriminate on the grounds of gender or race but legislation was introduced in 2002 to make an exception for all-women shortlists in elections. Similar legislation has not been introduced for race so formal all-BAME shortlists remain unlawful.
The number of BAME MPs tends to increase at each election. In 2017, it went from 41 to 51 which was celebrated as a ‘record amount’. However at each election the proportion of the general population which is BAME also increases.
Certain communities are particularly under-represented in parliament. People of Chinese origin make up 0.7% of the UK population but there has been only one MP of Chinese or East Asian origin – the Tory MP for Havant Alan Mak.
The size of the UK’s Latin American community is hard to estimate as it is not an option on the census but estimates have put it close to 0.3% of the population, yet there does not appear to currently be any MPs from a Latin American background in Parliament.
Joe Lo is a freelance journalist and a reporter for Left Foot Forward
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