THREATS of physical violence and personal abuse are putting women, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities off entering the world of politics, claims a Wearside MP.
Sharon Hodgson, who represents Washington and Sunderland West and is also Shadow Equalities Minister, says that attempts to make councils and Parliament more representative of modern society are being hampered by fears that certain candidates could face abuse.
The Labour MP was speaking as the House of Commons debated the results of an inquiry which found that those standing for office need to be better protected from racist, Islamophobic and anti-semitic attempts to discredit them.
The inquiry highlighted several recent cases, including that of former Labour MP Parmjit Dhanda, whose children found a severed pig’s head outside his house after he was defeated in the 2010 General Election. Ms Hodgson said: “I am sure that for many candidates, the threat of their skin colour, background or faith – not to mention their children’s or relatives’ – being turned into smears or innuendo or leading to harassment or abuse such as we have heard about today is a real consideration.
“I worry that the fear I have described will mean that many excellent candidates never seek their local party’s nomination or get the chance to be elected.”
The number of MPs with an ethnic minority background increased at the last General Election, with 27 MPs elected, 12 more than in the previous Parliament.
It means that a total 4.2 per cent of MPs are from an ethnic background, compared with 17.9 per cent of the UK population as a whole.