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 continues to rise. Candidates sharing certain protected characteristics are disproportionately subject to abuse and intimidation, and long-term funding is needed to ensure disabled people’s equal participation. There are also concerns that new voter ID requirements will make it harder for some people to vote.
- From 7 September 2022 to 25 October 2022, women and people from ethnic minorities were represented in the four Great Offices of State – the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretaryand Home Secretary – for the first time in the history of the UK Government.
- New voter ID requirements may increase barriers to voting. Research commissioned by the UK Government indicates that disabled people, people who are unemployed, those without qualifications and those who have not voted before are less likely to hold any form of photo ID.
- People under the age of 18 are unable to vote in UK Parliamentary elections or local elections in England.
- 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.
- While the main political parties increasingly include more diverse candidates, lack of diversity in political representation remains a concern overall, with women, disabled people and people from ethnic minorities remaining under-represented among parliamentary candidates, MPs and local councillors in England.
- Data on the diversity of MPs 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 lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (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 interim EnAble Fund ran until 2020. Long-term funding is required to ensure that disabled people can stand for elected office.
- In 2020/21, the proportion of women and those from ethnic minority backgrounds among public appointments and reappointments was the lowest for several years. In the previous year, 2019/20, the proportion of women public appointees had exceeded 50% for the first time.
- There has not been 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 Public Appointments Diversity Action Plan.
- Despite general election turnout in England increasing from 66% 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.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on political and civic participation, including political representation.