The Constitution Unit


VIDEO: Britain's New Political Class: All Change in the House?

14 December 2015


Speaker: Jennifer Hudson

Date: 30th November 2015

In the run up to the general election, Jeremy Paxman argued that the 2015 campaign was a choice 'between one man who was at primary school with Boris Johnson and one man who was at secondary school with him - both of whom did PPE at Oxford'. Paxman's quip reflects a long debate in British politics about the representativeness of the political class-do the people elected to represent us, bear any resemblance to the public they represent? Drawing on data from the Parliamentary Candidates UK project, we profile the socio-demographic characteristics of candidates/MPs standing in 2015, and compare them to cohorts since 1979. We find significant differences across the parties, both in terms of the selection of women and BME candidates and the extent to which these candidates were placed in winnable seats. We also show a narrowing of occupational backgrounds, with fewer candidates from manual occupations, and an increasing proportion from 'instrumental' or politics facilitating careers. Fewer MPs have been privately educated or attended Oxbridge, but the percentage of university educated MPs grows. Despite a record number of women and BME MPs elected, Parliament remains disproportionately white and male. 

Dr Jennifer vanHeerde-Hudson is Senior Lecturer in Political Behaviour, Department of Political Science, UCL. Jennifer is Principal Investigator of the 5 year, comparative study of attitudes towards overseas aid, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  She is co-investigator on the ESRC funded Representative Audit of Britain study, surveying 2015 parliamentary candidates, and Representative Style: A New Style of Representation, funded by Danish funder, Sapere Aude. Jennifer's research has been published in leading academic journals, and most recently she has published The Political Costs of the 2009 MPs' Expenses Scandal (Palgrave 2014). Jennifer is the Director of the UCL Q-Step Centre, one of 15 centres in the UK providing advanced training in quantitative data analysis for undergraduates in the social sciences.