The next parliament is unlikely to be much more diverse than the present crop of MPs, new research shows.
While there have been significant advances in improving the diversity of our elected representatives over the last 30 years, increases in the number of female MPs and MPs from ethnic minority backgrounds appear to have slowed.
This development comes despite the potential for the largest turnover of MPs since the end of the second world war.
Polimapper has launched a brand new exclusive study into the make-up of the parliamentary candidates standing at the 2024 general election.
Using our proprietary election candidate database, we have analysed prime candidates, which we have defined as a successor to an existing MP or a challenger in a key target seat that would be vulnerable under current polling.
As many as 105 of Westminster’s 650 MPs are retiring, displaced by the redrawing of parliamentary constituencies, or set to be replaced as their party’s candidate, bringing change upon Westminster even before voters get to the polls.
Added to this, the potential for a significant Labour victory overturning the large majority achieved by the Conservatives in 2019, and the SNP turning the electoral map yellow in Scotland at the same election, means the proportion of newly elected MPs could even threaten the 1945 record of 51%.
For our study, The Class of 24: An analysis of the parliamentary candidates set to become our next MPs, we have taken a deep dive into the backgrounds of the candidates who will become these newly elected MPs.
By mid November 2023, 76% of the prime candidate pool (275 out of 362) had already been selected.
And it is by examining these candidates, that we can conclude that the sustained progress towards greater diversity in general elections since 1992 is set to stall.
Only 39% of the Class of 24 are women (see Chart 1). In the current parliament, 35% of MPs are women, while women and girls make up 51% of the population of England and Wales according to the last census.
Just last week party leaders published statements in support of the campaign group 50:50 Parliament’s #AskHerToStand day, but despite their rhetoric, the reality is the next parliament will fall a long way short of gender parity when it comes to MPs.
Similarly, while the 2021 census recorded 18% of the population as belonging to a Black, Asian, mixed or other ethnic group, just 10% of prime candidates are from an ethnic minority background.
This is on a par with the current parliament, whereby 66 MPs (10%) with ethnic minority backgrounds were elected at the 2019 general election.
Our analysis also shows that the dominant background for the Class of 24 was a career in and around politics.
More than a quarter (28%) of the Class of 24 have a professional background in and around politics, compared to just 5 candidates with experience in clinical medicine and 15 who have had front line experience in science and technology.
Our report also highlights the importance of ‘localism’ in the selection process. Some 70% of the Class of 24 were local to their constituency at the time of selection, with 44% elected to a local council that covers some part of their potential new Westminster constituency.
Six and half per cent of prime candidates have served as the leader or deputy leader of a local council.
Former Conservative leader Lord Hague is among those to have criticised this trend, arguing that it tilts selection against promising individuals who grow up in an area their party can’t win and diminishes the pool of talent from which selections can be made.