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Solving the problem of social background in the UK ‘political class’: do parties do things differently in Westminster, devolved, and European elections?

Citation
Cairney P, Keating M & Wilson A (2016) Solving the problem of social background in the UK ‘political class’: do parties do things differently in Westminster, devolved, and European elections?, British Politics, 11 (2), pp. 142-163.

Abstract
It is now commonplace to criticise the failings of Westminster’s ‘political class’. One part of this criticism regards the limited extent to which Westminster politicians reflect the social background of the voting population. Each party has addressed the problem in different ways, with Labour more likely to focus on the representation of women and the Conservatives on people with ‘proper jobs’ before election.1Devolved and European elections have provided new opportunities for parties: Labour’s push for more elected women has been relatively effective in the Scottish, Welsh and European elections; and, before UKIP made significant gains in European Parliament elections in 2014, it promised candidates who were ‘not career politicians’. Yet, overall, new levels of elected representation have not produced a distinctive ‘political class’. There is still a common pattern of professionalisation across devolved, Westminster and European parliaments, in which elected politicians have often similar kinds of education and employment background, and generally struggle to mirror the social background of their populations.

Keywords
political class; Westminster; devolution; gender; MP background

StatusPublished
AuthorsCairney Paul, Keating Michael, Wilson Alex
Publication date06/2016
Publication date online10/08/2015
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISSN 1746-918X
LanguageEnglish

Journal
British Politics: Volume 11, Issue 2

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