Political and civic participation, including political representation – UK Government assessment
Women, ethnic minorities and disabled people remain under-represented in politics and diversity data is inadequate, although the number of women MPs in the UK Parliament has continued to rise. Candidates sharing certain protected characteristics are disproportionately subject to abuse and intimidation, and long-term funding is needed to ensure disabled peoples’ equal participation. While there has been progress in increasing the proportion of women and ethnic minority public appointees, disabled people have not seen comparative progress. There are concerns that proposed new voter ID requirements will make it harder for some people to vote.
- While the main political parties are making some progress towards a more diverse group of candidates, lack of diversity in political representation remains a concern. Women, disabled people and people from ethnic minorities remain under-represented among parliamentary candidates, MPs and local councillors.
- There are gaps in the data on the diversity of MPs because it is not collected systematically. The UK Government has not implemented section 106 of the Equality Act 2010, which would require political parties to collect and publish candidate diversity data.
- Poor public perceptions of politics and the intimidation of parliamentarians are barriers to diversity in political representation. Women, ethnic and religious minority, and LGBT parliamentary candidates are disproportionately subjected to intimidation, and there is evidence that Black and Asian women MPs receive disproportionately more online abuse than White women MPs.
- The UK Government has not replaced the Access to Elected Office Fund for disabled people, which closed in 2015. The establishment of the interim EnAble Fund, which ran until 2020, was welcome, but long-term sustainable funding is required to ensure that disabled people are able to stand for elected office.
- People under the age of 18 are unable to vote in UK Parliamentary elections or local elections in England. The UK Government has no plans to lower the voting age.
- Despite general election turnout in England increasing from 66.0% in 2015 to 69.1% in 2017, it decreased to 67.5% in 2019. Younger people and ethnic minorities are less likely to vote. Disabled people are more likely to be on the electoral register, but experience barriers to voting.
- There are concerns that the planned introduction of voter ID requirements will make it harder for people to vote and will disproportionately affect ethnic minority, young and elderly voters.
- The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers accepted the UK Government’s proposal to allow prisoners on temporary licence to vote as being compliant with the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment in Hirst v United Kingdom. However, concerns remain about whether this limited approach meets the UK Government’s obligations to ensure the right to vote when taken alongside the need to ensure the rehabilitation of prisoners.
- In 2019‒20, the proportion of women public appointees exceeded 50% for the first time, and the overall proportion of public appointments to people from ethnic minorities continues to grow.
- There has not been comparative progress regarding public appointments of disabled people. A December 2020 follow up report to the Lord Holmes Review found that the UK Government had only fully completed two of the 25 commitments set out in its 2019 Diversity Action Plan.
- There are concerns about the lack of diversity in Government and meaningful consultation with groups sharing protected characteristics, including disabled people and under 18s, in decision-making related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on political and civic participation, including political representation.