Minority-ethnic MPs and the substantive representation of minority interests in the house of commons, 2005-2011

  • Saalfeld T
  • Bischof D
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Abstract

Black, Asian and minority-ethnic (BAME) citizens are under-represented in the House of Commons. Nevertheless, the Chamber’s ethnic composition has become more reflective of the general population as a result of the 2005 and 2010 parliamentary elections. The article seeks to map and explain variations in the extent to which BAME Members of Parliament (MPs) use the Chamber to ar- ticulate issues relevant to minority constituents. We compare the content of all parliamentary questions for written answer asked by BAME MPs between May 2005 and December 2011 to the questions asked by a matching sample of non-minority legislators. We find that BAME MPs ask more questions relating to the problems and rights of ethnic minorities in, and immigration to, the UK. However, we also find that all British MPs are responsive to the interests of minor- ity constituents where these are geographically concentrated. Building on theor- etical predictions derived from (1) models focusing on MPs’ political socialisation and (2) on the electoral incentives they are facing, we discover that the MPs in our sample respond systematically to electoral incentives, especially in the politically salient area of immigration policy. While these findings are in line with an ‘elect- oral-incentives model’, a ‘socialisation model’ is better suited to explain the larger number of questions on the interests of ethnic minorities asked by Labour MPs. The numerical underrepresentation ofMembers of Parliament (MPs) from Blac

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