The House of Commons elected in May 2015 was a disproportionately white, male, middle-class and middle-aged institution. Just 29 per cent of MPs were women – making the UK one of the worst countries in Western Europe for female representation – and just 6 per cent of MPs were from ethnic minorities. A full third had been educated at fee-paying schools in a county where the figure for the population as a whole is just 7 per cent, and a mere 2 per cent were under the age of 30. The Commons was, in the words of that hackneyed phrase, ‘male, pale and stale’. The House of Commons elected in May 2015 contained more women MPs than ever before, putting the UK in the best 20 per cent of countries in the world for female representation; it contained more MPs from ethnic minorities than ever before; and it contained not only more out lesbian, gay, and bisexual MPs than ever before, but more than in any other parliament in the world. The Commons was, to quote one study of its composition, ‘the most diverse in 100 years’ (Criddle 2015). Both of the above paragraphs are accurate – and the tension between them is one of the themes of this chapter. British political institutions, and not just the House of Commons, remain unrepresentative of the British population in a descriptive sense. That is, in almost every case, those doing the representing do not resemble those they are representing. ‘They’ are not like ‘us’.
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