‘More must be done to increase number of ethnic minority MPs’
(Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has called for greater diversity in Parliament as he celebrated three Black political trailblazers.
Speaking at a Black History Month reception at Speaker’s House to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the election of Parliament’s first Black MPs in the modern era, Sir Lindsay said: “Our membership needs to be reflective of the wider community.”
Diane Abbott, Paul – now Lord – Boateng and the late Bernie Grant were elected to Parliament at the 1987 general election.
It is thought the first ever Black MP was James Townsend, the Whig representative for Calne from 1782 to 1787. However, when Labour MPs Abbott, Boateng and Grant were elected in Margaret Thatcher’s third Conservative landslide, they became the first Black MPs elected in more than a century.
Abbott, 69, representing Hackney North and Stoke Newington, is the only one of the three to remain in Parliament and served as shadow home secretary between 2016 and 2020. Boateng, 71, represented Brent South until 2005, serving as chief secretary to the Treasury from 2002, before being appointed High Commissioner to South Africa. He was appointed to the Lords in 2010.
Grant was MP for Tottenham until his sudden death from a heart attack in 2000 at the age of 56.
Sir Lindsay said that when he was first elected as an MP in 1997, only nine Members belonged to Black and ethnic minority backgrounds. Since then, the number has risen to 66. Rishi Sunak has now become the first British Asian Prime Minister.
The Speaker’s reception was attended by around 140 people, included leading figures from business, health professionals and celebrities from Black backgrounds. TV chef Ainsley Harriott and Olympian Imani-Lara Lansiquot were among those who watched as new portraits of Abbott, Boateng, and Grant were unveiled.
Lansiquot said: “We must employ continuous action, year after year, to change our industries, governing bodies and infrastructures to better reflect, serve and most importantly, protect everybody. Black History Month is an opportunity to have those hard discussions.”
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