In 1975, Lord David Pitt was granted a life peerage making him the first person of colour in Parliament. It was not then until 1987, that Diana Abbott became the first black woman to be elected as a Member of Parliament (MP), representing Hackney North & Stoke Newington in London. Three other MPs of colour; Keith Vaz, Bernie Grant and Paul Boateng were also elected at the same time. Still making history, on the 2nd October, Abbott became the first black MP at the dispatch box during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Although there are 32 years separating the two events a lot has happened in the interim period to diversify parliament. Over the years Parliament has continued to diversify in all categories inclusive of Gender, Disability and LGBT. Focusing in on Ethnicity, as of 2015, there were 41 MPs from minority backgrounds. By 2017, there were 52 of the 650 MPs from minority background representing 12.5%. Statistically, it’s fair to say that there is still some way to go for the number of minorities from backgrounds to be aligned to the percentage within the population. It is, however, progress from 0.6% in 1987 and the total lack of representation before this.
There is also a greater diversity in the current Government’s Cabinet, allowing Boris Johnson to boast of its diversity as the most diverse to date.
I believe that having a visual diverse parliament is a greater and can be inspiring. For it to have its full impact, it’s important that people of colour across the country are able to look at them and be able to identify with them at a deeper level with the believe that parliamentarians truly represent them and their interest. Key to this is that parliamentarians remain connected as they progress to the upper echelons with both the awareness, understanding and empathy to the day to day lives of people of colour… as everyone else. This involves the knowledge that people of colour have varied and diverse experiences. Though parliamentarians cannot be experts on all backgrounds and cultures, they do need an alertness with the ability to be able to reach out and a sense of relatability which makes them approachable.
The same applies to people of colour in all spheres of life. In many ways, this is ideal for everyone in society as relates to all backgrounds. It’s not something that can be achieved overnight, but we should all look to journey towards this position
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