The New Parliament Has More Black, Asian, And Women MPs Than Ever Before
The new parliament has more ethnic-minority and women MPs than ever before, the first turbaned Sikh, women from science backgrounds, and two new disabled members.
As the UK woke up to shock election results and a hung parliament, many people were celebrating the fact that the country has elected one of the most diverse selection of MPs ever.
There are now more black or minority ethnic (BME) MPs, women MPs, self-declared disabled MPs, and openly LGBT MPs than ever before, reports suggest, prompting campaigners to cheer the fact that "representation underpins our democracy".
Overall there are 10 newly elected MPs from BME backgrounds, bringing the total in the Commons from 41 to 51 – a record high.
Simon Woolley, cofounder and director of Operation Black Vote, told BuzzFeed News it has been a fantastic election in terms of race equality. "I think that is a massive step forward in the right direction," he said.
There are also more women MPs than ever before, with 207 elected at the time of writing, far more than the 191 in the last parliament.
Four black women are joining the new parliament: Kemi Badenoch, the Conservative MP for Saffron Walden, Fiona Onasanya, the Labour MP for Peterborough, Labour's Eleanor Smith for Wolverhampton South West, and Marsha de Cordova, the Labour MP for Battersea.
Other new BME MPs include Labour's Faisal Rashid for Warrington South, Bambos Charalambous for Enfield Southgate, and Mohammad Yasin for Bedford. In the Conservative party, Bim Afolami was elected to represent Hitchin and Harpenden.
Woolley from Operation Black Vote also suggested that, according to anecdotal reports, there may have been a larger turnout from the BME electorate in marginal seats, particularly in London, compared with 2015.
"I think that we should all be pleased for Diane Abbott, who has been under horrific pressure from the media, and some of it really nasty and worse – and yet the people of Hackney have re-elected her with an even larger majority," he added, referencing what many people have seen as racist comments about the former shadow home secretary, who is unwell.
The Lib Dems have gained their first ever BME woman MP. Layla Moran for Oxford West and Abingdon will also be the first Palestinian woman to enter parliament.
Moran, who is a physics teacher, was also one of a number of women with backgrounds in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to be elected, along with the SNP's Carol Monaghan, also a physics teacher, who was re-elected in Glasgow North West, and Labour's Chi Onwurah, a spokesperson on industrial strategy, science, and innovation, who was re-elected in Newcastle Central.
The country has also elected its first turbaned Sikh MP. Labour's Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi was elected in Slough. He paid respects at a gurdwara in the town shortly after winning his seat.
And the UK parliament also has its first Sikh woman. Labour's Preet Gill was elected by the constituency of Birmingham Edgbaston.
The Labour party has gained two disabled MPs, taking the total number of self-declared disabled MPs to six. As well as Marsha de Cordova's victory in Battersea, Sheffield Hallam elected Jared O’Mara, who beat Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg.
Alice Kirby, a 25-year-old disability rights activist, told BuzzFeed News that she was over the moon at the news of two new disabled MPs.
"It’s so important that we have better representation of disabled people in the Commons because representation underpins our democracy," she said.
"Politicians should reflect what society looks like, and with 13 million disabled people in the UK it’s about time we had more disabled MPs."
Kirby, who lives in Sheffield, said that it was essential that all minority groups are represented in parliament, and was particularly grateful that De Cordova – who is both a black woman and disabled – could fight against inequality and oppression using her lived experience.
"We can see in these two landmark gains just what disabled candidates can bring to elections," she said.
"Moving forward I hope all parties look into having all-disabled shortlists and job sharing, which would make holding office accessible to more disabled people. We are still massively underrepresented in politics but today has given me hope that things are starting to change."
Mark Atkinson, chief executive of disability charity Scope, told BuzzFeed News that it is encouraging to see an increase in the number of disabled politicians elected.
“The impact of seeing disabled people in important positions in society cannot be underestimated – on public attitudes, and on the aspirations of young disabled people," he said.
"It is important that whoever is next in power is held to account on their manifesto commitments to disability and to achieving everyday equality."
There were 32 openly LGBT MPs elected in 2015, but data collected by John Peart, the lead for LGBT policy at the government's Equalities Office, suggests that this figure has now increased.
Many felt that history has been made as there will now be more women MPs in parliament than ever before.
But Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, told BuzzFeed News that while she welcomed the boost in female MPs as progress, "the fact remains that just 32% of our MPs are women, up from 30% before the election.
"We are moving forward at a snail's pace and this is embarrassingly slow. It is time for a radical new approach. We have to legislate to require the parties to select at least 45% women candidates."
Woolley, from Operation Black Vote, told BuzzFeed News: "Democracy works best when all of society feel they have a stake within it... If you don't have diversity within parliament you cannot begin to effectively speak for the multicultural society that we are.
"It inspires many more people to engage in politics, and to believe that their voices are listened to."
Four new black women MPs have been elected to parliament. An earlier version of this post said there were three.