UK elects most diverse parliament in history

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Britain’s new Prime Minister Keir Starmer will oversee a parliament more ethnically diverse and more female than ever after securing a landslide victory in the election on Thursday that ended 14 years of Conservative rule.

Black, Asian and ethnic minority lawmakers will represent around 13 percent of the House of Commons, up from 10 percent in 2019, when Britain last held a parliamentary election.

It will be the largest-ever share of ethnic minority members of the lower house, according to an analysis by British Future, a think tank.

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In the 44 years since outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was born, minority representation in Britain’s parliament increased from zero to nearly one in seven lawmakers, British Future said.

But the share still does not fully reflect the diversity of the population and electorate. Around 18 percent of people in England and Wales come from a Black, Asian, mixed or ethnic minority background, according to official data.

“The 2024 election is a landmark for representation, with record diversity in our parliament, closer than ever to that of the electorate,” Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said.

“The irony that it coincides with the end of Rishi Sunak’s premiership as the UK’s first British Asian Prime Minister only underlines how ethnic diversity has become a new norm across the main political parties.”

The incoming parliament will include a record 242 female lawmakers, 22 more than after the last election in 2019.

When Labour’s Diane Abbott, Britain’s first Black female lawmaker, entered parliament in 1987 there were just 41 women in the House of Commons.

Abbott, who was re-elected to the seat in northeast London which she has held for 37 years, will become the ‘mother of the house’ - an honorary title given to the longest-serving female minister.

While final results have yet to be announced, Labour triumphed in Thursday’s parliamentary election, winning around 412 seats, representing a majority of 174.

Britain’s new governing party will have by far the largest number of ethnic minority MPs -- 66 out of the 87 elected. But that diversity is unlikely to be reflected in its top cabinet when Starmer elects his front bench.

Shadow foreign affairs minister David Lammy, justice minister Shabana Mahmood and energy minister Ed Milliband are among ethnic minority ministers expected to be named in Starmer’s top team. Thangam Debonnaire, who had been expected to join the top team, lost her seat.

The ousted Conservative Party has a stronger record for diversity when it comes to ministerial-level representation.

Addressing the nation outside No10 Downing Street on Friday in his final speech as prime ministers, Sunak said: “One of the most remarkable things about Britain is just how unremarkable it is that two generations after my grandparents came here with little, I could become prime minister.”

Sunak was the country’s first British-Indian leader and all three female prime ministers were Conservatives.

However, Labour’s Rachel Reeves will be Britain’s first female Chancellor of the Exchequer, or finance minister.

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