New UK Parliament is most diverse in nation’s history
LONDON — Britain’s new Parliament, sworn in this week at Westminster Palace, is the most diverse in the country’s history — and one that may see greater unity within the ruling party than has been on display in years.
The House of Commons is dominated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s thick slab of Conservatives, who won 364 of 650 seats.
The elected chamber also has record numbers of women, gays and minorities, including Conservative Imran Ahmad-Khan, Britain’s first gay Muslim lawmaker.
At least 45 lawmakers are gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to their public statements. One publication called it the “pinkest” Parliament in the world.
There are many new members, too, who attended public schools and universities — alongside the usual outsized number of graduates from posh Eton and Oxford, like Johnson.
Plus: a former dolphin trainer, a reality TV star, and a bodyguard.
New members this week wandered the confusing maze of corridors and winding stairs to nowhere.
There was the smell of roasts and beer in the hallways, as election wins were celebrated in the dozen restaurants and bars on the crumbling Westminster estate.
At a packed opening session Tuesday to confirm Lindsey Hoyle as the House of Commons speaker, the chamber looked different.
For one thing, it looked younger — and is. A lot of the old-timers retired, or were booted from the Conservative Party, or lost seats long held by the Labour Party.
With her win last week in Nottingham East, Nadia Whittome became the youngest lawmaker in Westminster. She’s 23 and a committed Labour activist who embraced outgoing leader Jeremy Corbyn. She made headlines when she promised to donate twothirds of her new $105,000 salary to charity.
In a short BBC clip, Whittome said that during the campaign, she was still sussing out temp Christmas jobs back home.
Coming into London, she told the broadcaster, “It feels a little bit like starting Hogwarts, but when the Death Eaters have all taken over.”
The Death Eaters in her “Harry Potter” metaphor being the Conservatives.
Among the new Conservative members are candidates who prevailed in the traditional Labour heartland in the north and Midlands of England, in struggling working-class, postindustrial towns.
Some of these new Tory lawmakers grew up in public housing, raised by single mothers, and came from families that for generations worked with their hands. Like schoolteacher and trade unionist Jonathan Gullis, from Stoke-onTrent North, whose victory unseated a Labour candidate in that constituency for the first time since World War II.
As the Telegraph noted,
“Mr. Gullis is as far from the archetypal Tory toff as you could possibly get.”
The working-class Tories from the north could reshape the party — or collide with party traditionalists, who embrace lower taxes and less government.
On Monday, Johnson hosted Conservative lawmakers for group photos and drinks.
On Tuesday, the prime minister was backed by rows of green benches so packed with new Tories that many were sitting on the floor.
Standing at the lectern, Johnson looked around the chamber and said, “I think this Parliament is a vast improvement on its predecessor.”
He asked the House: What are we going to do?
And his party behind him roared, “Get Brexit done!”
A total 220 female lawmakers were elected last Thursday, 12 more than the previous record in the 2017.
Of Labour’s 202 lawmakers, more than half, 104, are women. Among the Liberal Democrats’ 11 members, seven are women.
Johnson’s side is decidedly more male — less than a quarter of Conservative members are women: 87 of 364 Tories.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons during the new Parliament’s first sitting.