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Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: Ethnic Minority Women 'Excluded From Power' in Britain by Jon Land


Ethnic minority women are being excluded from the corridors of power in this country, a campaign group claimed today.

The Fawcett Society said it was "shocking" that in the past 20 years only three black women have ever been elected to Parliament and there has never been an Asian woman MP.

At the current average of one additional ethnic minority woman MP every 10 years, it will be more than 300 years before Parliament reflects Britain's population of ethnic minority women, it was claimed.

The group published a report marking the 20th anniversary of the first black woman to be elected to Parliament - Labour's Diane Abbott.

Twenty years on, there are only two ethnic minority women MPs in Parliament out of 646 - Ms Abbott and Dawn Butler.

Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society, said: "Diane Abbott's 20th anniversary is an exciting opportunity to celebrate the contribution of ethnic minority women to politics and public life.

"But we also need a new national debate to ask why there's not been more progress - why are ethnic minority women still so excluded from power?

"Unless the political parties take their severe under-representation seriously, it will be 2327 before the House of Commons achieves fair representation of ethnic minority women. That's ridiculously long to wait."

Meanwhile, campaigners are today stepping up pressure to stop national politics being "pale, male and stale".

A campaign group says it is "shocking" that in the past 20 years only three black women have ever been elected to Parliament and there has never been an Asian woman MP.

The Fawcett Society has published a report marking the 20th anniversary of the first black woman to be elected to Parliament - Labour's Diane Abbott.

Two decades on, there are only two ethnic minority women MPs in Parliament out of 646 - Ms Abbott and Dawn Butler.

A third, Oona King, lost her seat of Bethnal Green and Bow to the anti-war Respect candidate, George Galloway, in the 2005 General Election.

At the current average of one additional ethnic minority woman MP every 10 years, it will be more than 300 years before Parliament reflects Britain's population of ethnic minority women, said the Society, which campaigns for equality between women and men.

Katherine Rake, the Society's director, said: "Diane Abbott's 20th anniversary is an exciting opportunity to celebrate the contribution of ethnic minority women to politics and public life.

"But we also need a new national debate to ask why there's not been more progress - why are ethnic minority women still so excluded from power?

"Unless the political parties take their severe under-representation seriously, it will be 2327 before the House of Commons achieves fair representation of ethnic minority women. That's ridiculously long to wait."

Asked why there should have been so few ethnic minority women MPs so far, said: "There's really a double whammy effect. We know women's representation is extremely low - and ethnic minority women face further discrimination.

"The fact that there have been only three ethnic minority women MPs so far is really not acceptable. We are missing out on such a great pool of ability."

But what can be done about it? "We are encouraging all the parties to adopt positive measures, all-women shortlists where possible, including ethnic minority women.

"At the moment they are not getting picked, because the 'selectorate' that chooses them tends to think, 'let's replace the person we are losing', and you end up with more of the same - pale, male and stale."

The Society says that under 20% of MPs are women, meaning the politicians who make decisions on people's behalf still do not reflect the population as a whole.

At the current rate of change, the Society says it will take Labour around 20 years to get to 50-50 women and men, the Liberal Democrats around 40 years and the Conservatives around 400.

Copyright Press Association 2007


Jon Land

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

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