Harman to consider all-black shortlists

Equalities minister Harriet Harman is considering the case for all-black shortlists.

Supporters claim the move is necessary to increase the proportion of black and minority ethnic (BME) MPs in Westminster.

At present, fewer than three per cent of MPs come from BME backgrounds, below the seven per cent average across the population.

A report commissioned by Ms Harman warns under the current rate of progress it will take 75 years for parliament to become representative of modern Britain and calls for all-BME shortlists in at least eight constituencies.

Operation Black Vote, which conducted the research, recommends all-minority shortlists are used for four consecutive elections, in a bid to help BME candidates “get past go”.

Report author Simon Wolley said: “The change in the law is not a sledgehammer to crack a nut; it’s not forcing parties to use all-black shortlists.

“But unless we take positive action measures we are not going to have a representative democracy for more than 75 years. It’s not that we don’t have [Barack] Obamas, but we don’t have the mechanisms for them to see the light of day.”

Just 15 out of 656 MPs come from a BME background and only two of them are women. Since 1997 there have been just three black Cabinet members.

Labour MP Keith Vaz is reportedly among the MPs lobbying Ms Harman to endorse the report.

To satisfy its recommendation that two per cent of seats are contested solely by BMEs, the race discrimination laws would need to be amended.

All-female shortlists have already been used to boost the number of women in Westminster.