Aidas Zvirblis is 17 and studying for his A Levels " I enjoy reading and watching films, I study English Literature, Maths, Politics and Sociology but my interests cover essentially anything that catches my eye. Don't know what I want to be in the future, as long as it interests me, much like all teenagers, despite what they'll tell you."
The paradox of our representatives being…well, not representative of the nation has been plaguing the UK for centuries. The monopoly of white, male, well-educated Oxfordians seems old fashioned in our new, modern, liberal, more tolerant society. Unfortunately, David Cameron and his Chancellor both studies in that storied institution, as so did Blair, the champion of the people’s Labour Party all the way back in 1997. How can we talk of a society which revolves around equality when our leaders look the same, talk the same, and carry the same education on their shoulders?
Career politicians are an eye-rolling phenomenon to most, the result of an elitist idea that the world of politics should be occupied mostly by the rich and the affluent. The fact that Jeremy Corbyn talks like a normal person shouldn’t be seen as something exceptional, but it’s an outlying quality that contrasts the well versed, careful PR talked of privately schooled millionaire MP’s, who speak as if one misplaced word might mean the end of their careers. It’s a sorry state of affairs and makes for uncomfortable reflection of our political representatives.
Some would argue that’s it’s more of a supply issue, rather than a demand one. The doors are open to candidates of a different class, ethnicity or gender, it’s wide open, the problem is that they simply don’t want to. But what people don’t appreciate is the inherent elitism within Parliament which cause many female and minority candidates to self-exclude themselves from even attempting to run for office. When parties use only female shortlists, for example, they find that there are huge numbers of women able and willing to put their name on the ballot. The issue isn’t unwillingness to run, it’s unwillingness to run in a system where the rich, white, male MP is the norm and where the female MP has far less sway. There have only ever been 450 female MP’s, less than the amount of male MP’s there are currently in the Commons. The numbers for ethnic MP’s would be considerably lower.
But the issue isn’t all bad. 29% of MP’s in Parliament now are female, more than at any time in history, same with ethnic MP’s at 6.6%. This is shockingly low for complete representation but the situation is improving, especially for women, with only women shortlists and the increased presence of influential female politicians like Natalie Bennet and Nicola Sturgeon helping to support the better representation of women. What is missing is the focus on introducing more ethnically diverse candidates into the mix, ones who will better represent the wishes of that subset of an increasingly diverse society and ensure that Parliament isn’t the outdated gentleman’s game as it once was and has still remained today.
A more representative Parliament means better politics. Better politics means a better UK. It just makes sense.