School of Politics and International Relations

White, male and middle class: why Britain’s political parties must change

17 September 2019

Professor Tim Bale wrote an opinion piece in The Guardian on the makeup of the UK’s political parties. ‘The “ordinary members” of the UK’s political parties aren’t really that ordinary. One million Brits belong to a political party – but that leaves tens of millions who don’t, and who would probably never dream of joining one either. Getting on for 20 per cent of the UK’s population is from an ethnic minority, but at least 95 per cent of the members of all (yes, all) its biggest political parties are white – and that includes Labour. Even more worryingly, the relative absence of people of colour doesn’t seem to have changed very much – in marked contrast to the country as a whole – since the pioneering academic surveys of party members were conducted nearly three decades ago. That absence risks perpetuating an already vicious cycle. People from ethnic minority groups don’t vote as much as their white counterparts, and are hardly likely to match them if they don’t see themselves reflected not just among MPs who sit at Westminster, but also among the grassroots members who knock on their doors in order to get those MPs elected.’
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