New UK Par­lia­ment is most di­verse in na­tion’s his­tory

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD - By Wil­liam Booth

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.

JES­SICA TAY­LOR/BRI­TISH PAR­LIA­MENT

Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son speaks in the House of Com­mons dur­ing the new Par­lia­ment’s first sit­ting.

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