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Election Roundup: Week 4 - The most ethnically diverse UK Parliament ever

Welcome to Navigate Politics’ new weekly election roundup, bringing you all the new policy pledges, stats, polls, insights, and candidates to watch – right up until polling day. If you know somebody who would find this briefing useful, please do forward it on so they can subscribe and get it direct to their inbox each Friday.

This Week's Pledges 📜

The SNP manifesto launch attempted to reverse the party’s ailing fortunes, with leader John Swinney coming good on his (unsurprising) promise to put independence front and centre. The manifesto (yet again) declared that a pro-independence majority at the next Scottish Parliament election would provide a mandate for talks to begin. Aside from this, it focused on increasing funding for public services, opposing a return to austerity and re-joining the EU – all proposals designed to emphasise the chasm of difference in its offerings vis-à-vis Labour.

Reform published its contract (don’t call it a manifesto!) with voters, which pledged to freeze all 'non-essential' immigration (with exceptions for healthcare workers) and simply ‘pick up illegal migrants out of boats and take them back to France’ (why didn’t anyone else think of that!). Other interesting proposals included sentencing drug dealers to mandatory life imprisonment, rejecting the ‘influence’ of the World Economic Forum, leaving the World Health Organisation and launching an inquiry into excess vaccine deaths during the pandemic.

Sinn Fein’s manifesto stated it would establish a citizen's assembly on a united Ireland and continue to urge the UK and Irish governments to ‘set a date’ for a referendum on the issue. We were also treated to George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain manifesto, which pledged to hold a ‘referendum on membership of NATO with a view to a national debate on all our collective security arrangements’;

PPC Insights - The most ethnically diverse UK Parliament ever ✒️

A record number of ethnic minority MPs are set to win at the General Election, making up at least 13% of the House of Commons. With around 18% of the UK’s population being from an ethnic minority background (according to the latest census), this would make the incoming Parliament not only the most ethnically diverse, but also the most representative.

It was not too long ago that the UK parliament had little to no ethnic minority representation. Although it remains unclear, the first ethnic minority MP is believed to have been James Townshend, a Whig politician of English, Dutch and African heritage who was elected in 1767. However, it is largely considered that the first ethnic representation of ‘modern times’ came in 1987, with the election of three black MPs and one ethnically Asian MP. This of course included Diane Abbott, who is running again this year and will become the Mother of the House if she retains her seat, as is extremely likely.

The last General Election in 2019 saw 65 ethnic minority MPs elected (up to 66 by the end of the parliamentary term), constituting 10% of the Commons. With all the major polls predicting that Labour will win a majority, this figure is set to increase notably, irrespective of the size of Labour’s majority – in fact, the larger their majority, the greater the proportion of ethnic minority representatives there will be. With Labour needing a swing of 12.7% in order to win an overall majority in the Commons, this scenario would see over 65 ethnic minority Labour candidates winning a seat, alongside 19 Conservatives and 3 Lib Dems. So, in the scenario that Labour just about form a very small majority Government, the House of Commons will constitute over 85 ethnic minority MPs, guaranteeing ethnic minority representation of more than 13%. In the more likely case of a large Labour majority, this representation only increases. Looking at the scenario of a 16% swing to Labour, this would see around 95 ethnic minority MPs elected, with the number of Labour MPs increasing to 75, Conservative representation dropping to 17 and the Lib Dems reaching 4. This would mean that over 14.5% of members of the House of Commons are from an ethnic minority background.

It makes sense that in a Parliament of majority Labour MPs, the majority of ethnic minority representatives would be also be Labour. However, it is also the case that Labour have selected substantially more candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds, and most notably in seats that are actually winnable. Out of 650 candidate selections for the two main parties, 19.8% of Labour’s were from an ethnic minority background – 125 candidates – whilst the Conservatives only selected 86 candidates, 13.7% of its total selections. To take this 16% swing scenario, this means that less than 20% of ethnic minority candidates selected by the Conservatives are in winnable seats, compared to 60% for Labour.

It is also worth noting that a simple swing calculation does not take into account constitutional specificities. For example, this figure includes Labour’s candidate for Islington North, Praful Nargul, who is standing against the former Labour leader, turned independent candidate, Jeremy Corbyn – which at the moment, looks to be a very close call. The figures also include the constituency of Chingford and Woodford Green, where Labour candidate Shamla Tatler and independent candidate Faiza Shaheen (both ethnic minorities) could potentially end up splitting the vote and enabling the Conservative candidate to win. But whatever the case, what is sure is that ethnic minority representation in Westminster is only going up.

Candidate Deep Dive - Ethnic Minority Representation 🔍

Dr Zubir Ahmed (Labour, Glasgow South West) – Is a practicing transplant and vascular surgeon in Glasgow and regularly travels to Pakistan to undertake and assist with living donor kidney and liver transplants, as well as vascular access procedures in children. Ran to be the Labour MSP for Glasgow Pollock in the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary elections, but lost out to former First Minister Humza Yousaf.

Uma Kumaran (Labour, Stratford and Bow) – Worked for the NHS in recruitment and worked with the UN on tackling climate change. Was the former Director of Diplomatic and International Relations at C40 Cities. Also acted as a senior adviser to London Mayor Sadiq Khan and is an advisory member of the Labour Climate and Environment Forum.

Ben Obese-Jecty (Conservative, Huntingdon) – Former British Army Infantry Officer and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. Worked in financial services after leaving the army and volunteers as a member of the Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee. Stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative candidate in the 2019 General Election, losing out to Diane Abbott.

Kanishka Narayan (Labour, Vale of Glamorgan) – Studied at both Oxford and Stanford universities before becoming a civil servant. Co-founded Attain Wales, a non-profit programme focused on social mobility and education in South Wales, and founded Help Your High Street during the Covid lockdown. Worked as an advisor on economic policy and public service reform, advising a number of the Labour frontbench since 2016. He is on course to become the first ethnic minority MP in Wales.

Heather Iqbal (Labour, Dewsbury and Batley) – Served on Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign in 2020 and was Rachel Reeves’ Head of Communications. Worked at anti-corruption and human rights NGO, Global Witness, and also ran a mentorship scheme to get young ethnic minority people into the creative sector.

Khalil Yousuf (Lib Dem, Farnham and Bordon) – A solicitor specialising in Commercial and Energy law, who has advised on offshore wind farm developments, the environmental impacts of offshore decommissioning and large-scale solar power plants. Provided nearly 700 hours of free legal advice during the pandemic, and serves as the Chairman of Lawyers for Humanity.

Natasha Irons (Labour, Croydon East) – Has worked for Channel 4 for sixteen years as a media planner, and later media manager. Was elected as a Councillor for the London Borough of Merton in 2018, where she serves as the Cabinet Member for local environment, green spaces and climate change.

Callum Anderson (Labour, Buckingham and Bletchley) – Worked as a research intern for the think tanks Demos and Reform, before joining the City of London Corporation and later, the London Stock Exchange Group. Has been a member of Labour’s National Policy Forum since 2022 and is also a member of Progressive Britain and the Fabian Society.

Hajira Piranie (Labour, Harborough, Oadby and Wigston) – Spent three months shadowing former Conservative MP Sir Edward Garnier in 2013, before attending the University of Leicester. Is a Jo Cox Women in Leadership and Future Candidates graduate. Currently works as a local organiser at UNISON East Midlands.

Josh Babarinde (Lib Dem, Eastbourne) – Born and raised in Eastbourne, before winning a place at LSE to study. After university, became a youth and gangs worker before launching a business training and employing ex-offenders in tech sector roles. In 2020, he was awarded an OBE by the Queen for services to criminal justice, social enterprise and the economy. 

Jas Athwal (Labour, Ilford South) – Moved from India to Ilford aged seven, where he still lives with his four children. Worked in the computer security industry after graduating from LSE. Was elected as a councillor in Redbridge in 2010, serving as the Council Leader from 2014 to 2022.

On the Campaign Trail 👟

Party leaders were put on the spot in a special edition of BBC’s Question Time, which saw: Keir Starmer pushed on his previous support for Jeremy Corbyn, claiming he would have been a better Prime Minister than Boris Johnson; Rishi Sunak receiving shouts of “shame” after refusing to say he would keep Britain in the European Convention on Human Rights; Ed Davey confessing he was “not proud” of some of the things the Lib Dems did during its time in coalition; and the SNP’s John Swinney admitting he may have contributed to a politics of polarisation but will keep pursuing independence. Also during the debate, Sunak indicated that 18-year-olds who refused to do national service would face “sanctions” including restrictions on driving licenses and access to finance, with Labour’s TikTok account sharing Cilla Black’s Surprise Surprise meme in response.

The betting scandal was high on the agenda as four people linked to Rishi Sunak are being investigated over alleged bets on the timing of the General Election, including the Conservative Party’s director of campaigning Tony Lee and two election candidates – Lee’s wife, Laura Saunders and Craig Williams. When asked about the cases, Sunak said he was “incredibly angry” and promised to “boot out” anyone found to have broken gambling laws. The scandal also largely overshadowed the launch of the Welsh Conservatives manifesto today, as he was quizzed on whether more candidates will be named, with both Labour and the Lib Dems calling for Saunders and Williams to be suspended. Sunak acknowledged that voters are frustrated with him and the party but warned “do not let Labour waltz into office without scrutinising them”, repeating the claim that Labour will raise taxes by £2,000.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves reiterated Labour’s plan to “push power out of Westminster” at the launch of Welsh Labour’s manifesto, saying it was “fully costed and funded” and aims to create a “stronger Wales within a fairer United Kingdom”. She described Labour as the “party of devolution” and argued that Keir Starmer had overseen a changed party that was “back in the service of the working people”. Over in Scotland, Starmer focused on promoting Labour’s industrial strategy, which he said would create 69,000 jobs north of the border by investing in clean energy, engineering and research.

And the BBC’s Panorama interview with Reform leader Nigel Farage airs at 7pm tonight if you’re looking for something to watch before the Netherlands vs. France Euros match.

This Week's Election Stats 📈

604 – the number of constituencies that contain a Greggs.

3-7% – the percentage of private school pupils that are expected to shift to the state sector due to Labour’s plans to implement VAT for private schools.

71 – the Conservative-Labour crossover age among intended voters (in 2019, the crossover age was 40) 

32 – the number of times the words ‘independent’ and ‘independence’ was mentioned in the SNP’s 32-page manifesto.

Half – the number of landlords who own house-in-multiple-occupation property reporting it to be their sole source of income.

13 – days until the General Election!

This Week’s Polls 📊

The Tories are on the verge of a near-total wipeout… if Savanta’s latest poll/projection for the Telegraph is to be believed, which has the Conservative Party on 53 seats, battling for second place ahead of the Lib Dems on 50. The poll also puts Labour on a dictatorship-level 516 seats – almost 80% of the Commons – and the SNP on just 8. The poll has been widely derided across the political spectrum, raising the question of how reliable the polls will be this election and whether we’re about to see another 2017-style polling company reputation-crushing misfire.

In contrast – yet still disturbing reading for anyone in Tory HQ – is YouGov’s latest projection for Sky News, which still gives Labour a 200 seat majority, at 425 seats, over the Tories 108 – which would see the Conservative Party lose more than two thirds of their seats. If the projection proves correct, the Lib Dems are set to gain a whopping 59 seats, taking their number to 67 in Parliament, and would give Nigel Farage four other colleagues from Reform UK to sit with on the green benches.

Campaign Gaffes 😂

With all the gambling-related controversy going around, you’d think the Conservatives would steer clear of a gambling-related campaign ad, wouldn’t you? Well, that wasn’t the case, as on Wednesday Morning they released (and then quickly deleted) a campaign video featuring a roulette wheel and a warning to voters to not ‘bet’ on Labour at the General Election…  we wonder if the Director of Campaigning Tony Lee was involved in the creation of this ad…

In other gambling news, Lee Anderson will win Ashfield for Reform UK, according to a user-defined poll he created on Electoral Calculus, and then shared with the comment ‘Hmmmmm, this is interesting ’. He also confirmed he had bet on himself to win the seat…


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