Political Recruitment: Gender, Race and Class in the British Parliament

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Conservative recruitment 4. Labour recruitment 5. Minor party recruitment Part II. Who Gets Selected and Why? Supply and demand explanations 7. Gatekeeper attitudes 8. Candidate resources 9. Candidate motivation Comparative candidate recruitment Part III. Does the Social Bias Matter? This is not to suggest that supply-side factors aren't still important in explaining women's political under-representation, but rather to highlight, first, that party demand shapes supply.

And, second, even if there are gender imbalances in the eligibility pool for public office, there are generally sufficient numbers of women candidates to be selected for winnable seats if parties chose to do so. Indeed, when parties are required to select women — through measures such as gender quotas — they usually manage to find that they had women who'd been willing to stand all along.

Both Wales and Scotland, for example, managed to find women to stand for election to the new devolved institutions, achieving record levels of women's representation in and Problems of supply are, therefore, easier to overcome when party demand increases. With regards to the General Election, all three of the largest political parties in the new House of Commons — the Conservatives, Labour, and the SNP — saw increases in the number and proportion of women MPs elected.

Labour continues to lead on women's representation at Westminster, with 99 women elected in 43 per cent of the parliamentary party , due in large part to the continuing use of all-women shortlists. For gender quotas to work effectively, they must not only stipulate that more women be selected, but must also ensure that parties are running them in seats that they actually have a chance of winning. In the case of Labour, only 34 per cent of its candidates overall were women, but the party ran the majority of these candidates 53 per cent in winnable seats.

This meant that the party was able to increase its number of female MPs despite a poor performance at the polls. In contrast, the Conservatives only ran 26 per cent women candidates UK-wide, and were much less likely to run these women in winnable seats than Labour. While the Tories saw more women elected to their benches than in — rising from 49 to 68 — these women are still only 21 per cent of their parliamentary party.

Women are also 20 of the strong SNP group in the House of Commons 36 per cent , a significant increase from when the party had only one woman MP. This increase is largely the result of the SNP electoral surge — the party selected 21 women out of 59 candidates in 36 per cent , and all but one of these women were elected SNP candidate Emma Harper lost to the lone Scottish Conservative MP David Mundell. The Experience of Applicants Most previous work has relied upon aggregate trends in the composition of the elite over time, for example their age or education, since this information is easily available from public records.

Studies have too frequently counted what can be counted, without a broader theoretical framework. Individual-level survey evidence needs to be considered to understand how applicants experience the process, their perceptions of the selectorate, and their strategy in securing seats. What do they see to be the main obstacles in running for parliament?

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What are the most rewarding aspects? If elected, what are their primary goals? Unless we understand micro-level data - lifetime career patterns of individuals to see how some politicians move into elite positions while others fail - we will be limited to describing rather than explaining this phenomenon. We need to understand who are members of the legislative elite, but, more importantly, why and how they got there.

Just as studies of party organisation tended to neglect the outcome, so studies of the outcome have tended to neglect the process. The elite literature describes the social background of MPs, and sometimes parliamentary candidates, but studies are usually silent about those in the wider pool who aspire to a political career but fail. As a result, it is well known that parliament contains many public school and Oxbridge trained barristers, journalists and company directors.

Many assume this pattern must reflect the preferences of selectors. But the outcome might reflect the characteristics of those who pursue a political career.

Political Recruitment: Gender, Race and Class in the British Parliament by Pippa Norris

Studies have compared the social background of MPs with parliamentary candidates, the next strata down. But again this tells us little about the reasons for the social bias. We would expect significant differences in social background and political experience because MPs represent an older generation than candidates. The only research which has looked at the 'losers' who never get past the interview stage are Martin Holland's study of candidates in the first, direct elections for the European parliament,46 and Jenny Chapman's work on elections for Scottish local government.

Political Recruitment Gender Race And Class In The British Parliament

Legislative behaviour: does the social bias matter? Despite all the studies of trends in occupational class and education, previous research has not clearly established that the social background of politicians has a significant influence on their attitudes, values and behaviour. Does the social bias matter? There are reasons to be sceptical since we can identify MPs from an impeccably patrician background who are radical left wingers on the Labour benches, just as there are workingclass Conservatives who are among the most enthusiastic 'hangers and floggers'.

Some women members, such as Margaret Thatcher, acknowledged no sympathy with feminist concerns while others were ardent defenders of abortion rights, child care provision and equal opportunities policy. Anecdotal evidence suggests a complex relationship between background and attitudes.

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In the s pioneering work on legislative behaviour in the British parliament, by Finer, Berrington and Bartholomew, sought to replicate roll call analysis in the United States. Unfortunately this approach was limited by the strength of Puzzles in political recruitment 13 party discipline in voting for all major legislation in Britain, and this avenue was not developed further by other authors. Since then the most detailed work on parliamentary votes, by Philip Norton, concentrated on other concerns, namely backbench dissent, party cohesion and the growth of more independent MPs.

Further, there are significant differences in the roles MPs adopt, and the priorities they give to different sorts of activities, such as individual casework, committee work, and attending debates. Studies have tried to explain these differences by party affiliation, type of constituency, and political generation. There are a range of plausible hypotheses to be tested, for example do 'local' MPs who grew up in their constituency spend more time on constituency surgeries than 'carpet-baggers'? Do women members give a higher priority to social policy than men?


  1. On the Border of Opportunity: Education, Community, and Language at the U.s.-mexico Line (Sociocultural, Political, and Historical Studies in Education).
  2. Political Recruitment.
  3. Joni Lovenduski — Department of Politics, Birkbeck, University of London!
  4. Weimar Germany: Germany 1918-33 (Longman Twentieth Century History Series)?

Does the social class of members relate to their political values? We do not know.

In the absence of good evidence, as a thorough review of the literature by Czudnowski suggests, a connection between the social background and attitudes of elites is frequently assumed, but rarely demonstrated. The research literature has yet to answer that question These scattered and inconclusive research results certainly do not add up to a finding that the social, economic or gender biases in legislative recruitment results in a consistent policy bias of legislative institutions. Research design, data and methods Recruitment studies draw on many other subfields in political science, incorporated at later stages in this book, including theories of representative government which shape the underlying premises for this study, theories of socialisation which help explain political activism, theories of progressive ambition which provide insights into legislative careers, and theories of voting behaviour which help model the relationship between elected 14 Political recruitment representatives and their constituents.

But the main intellectual foundations for this study lies in the work on party organisations and political elites as outlined. The primary aim of this book is to reintegrate this work, to bring together an understanding of the process and outcome in legislative recruitment. To achieve these aims the research design reconceptualises the candidate recruitment process. Based on a 'supply and demand' model, the study distinguishes between the factors influencing the 'supply' of candidates willing to come forward and the factors influencing the 'demand' of party selectors in making their decisions.


  • Political Recruitment. Gender, Race and Class i – Politique et Sociétés – Érudit.
  • About this Fellow.
  • Shouldve Told Her No (Beowolffs Handpicked Strange War Tales)!
  • The supply and demand model Demand The supply and demand model, discussed in detail in chapter 6, provides an analytical framework to understand factors influencing the selection process. The most common explanations of the outcome usually assume demand by selectors is critical. On the demand-side the model assumes selectors choose candidates depending upon their perceptions of the applicants' abilities, qualifications, and experience.

    Since candidates are rarely well known to most selectors, these perceptions may be coloured by direct and imputed discrimination towards certain types of applicant. The term 'discrimination' is used here in a neutral sense.

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    Discrimination can be for or against certain groups, whether lawyers, farmers, trade unionists, southerners, women or Asians. Direct discrimination means the positive or negative judgement of people on the basis of characteristics seen as common to their group, rather than as individuals. Party selectors, faced with non-local candidates, often have minimal information on which to make their decisions. The curriculum vitae gives the bare bones. There may be hundreds of application forms. The interview process is relatively short and formal.

    Members may therefore rely upon background characteristics as a proxy measure of abilities and character; prejudice functions as an information short-cut. As a result, individuals are judged by their group characteristics. Imputed discrimination is different. Here party members may personally favour a certain category of candidate 'I'd like to vote for a woman', 'We need more blacks in parliament' or an individual applicant 'The Asian was the best-prepared speaker'.

    But members may be unwilling to choose such a candidate because they expect they would lose votes among the electorate 'But she'd never get in', 'There aren't enough black voters in Cheltenham'.