Parliamentary Representativity

The people elected to the British Parliament should mirror, or 'represent', the demographics of people living in Britain. Too many powerful demographics are currently represented in Parliament, and too few voices of the (relatively) powerless are heard there. So if females constitute 50% of the population, it should be that women form 50% of the Parliament.

A representative parliament is essential if the interests and dignity of minorities (and oppressed majorities!) are to be given voice in British laws. Parliamentary Representativity might be achieved in a variety of ways, but will clearly relate to the electoral process.

A non-binding formula for achieving representativity would see greater and better mapping of Parliament’s demographics onto those of the general population. This might serve as the basis for a commitment at the outset of each election to redressing under-represented groups. A binding formula would see a series of staggered elections that require a minimum number of representatives from key demographics to be returned.

The characteristics themselves might be enforced in a manner similar to Equality Legislation: positive discrimination for selected demographics. Those characteristics would be determined democratically, but would presumably include the ‘classic’ protected characteristics of age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion and belief; sex; and sexual orientation. But we might be more ambitious, and add to that characteristics such as class, home-ownership, immigration status, experience of imprisonment, experience of homelessness—in short, whatever characteristics the population cares about. In this way, we would achieve a Parliament in which at least some of the MPs determining prison policy, for example, would be ex-prisoners. Our legislation would thereby benefit from the lived experience of those most affected by it.

Achieving this representativity poses challenges for ‘democracy’ (what if the electorate actually wants exclusively old, straight, white men?). Yet it is my suggestions that our non-representative Parliament results not from our desire to elect only certain types of people, but because of a lack of choice. Parliamentary Representativity would provide that choice.

Some people will complain that Parliamentary Representativity will impose a system of racial, class, and gender-based division. My response is that the current Parliamentary-electoral system, and the socio-economic system it reproduces, imposes precisely those divisions. Recognising the causes and consequences of enduring socio-economic divisions is more important than pretending that they don’t exist. It is that pretence that allows us to perpetuate such an obscenely rich, white, male Parliament in the first place. Enshrining the principle of Parliamentary Representativity will therefore go a long way towards solving the problem of social exclusion of certain groups.

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