Today’s columnist, Katie Pruszynski: People in need of a voice

editorial image
Have your say

We are a diverse and complex population, so why does our Parliament fail to reflect that? At the General Election of 2015, 650 MPs were elected to represent each of us.

Out of that, only 29 per cent are women; an extraordinarily low 6 per cent are minority ethnic; and the average age of the new Parliament is 51, a year older than at the previous election. Couple that with the fact that the national voter turnout was 66 per cent (and significantly lower across South Yorkshire), and you have a Parliament that looks very little like its public.

Why should this trouble us? Because such a grossly distorted representation of the people leaves whole groups badly in need of a voice at the heart of Government. It is no coincidence that these groups face generational challenges; ethnic minorities suffer two and three times higher rates of unemployment than white British people.

Women face an almost 20 per cent hourly wage gap between them and their male counterparts, and young people will be required to pay for the pensions of an ageing population.

We all bear responsibility for addressing this imbalance. Young people need engaging in politics while still at school (we know that if they have failed to become politically active by the age of 20, it becomes more unlikely that they will ever engage); political parties must do more to reach women and ethnic minorities, not simply to gain votes, but to ensure that more of our population is invested in those who govern it and the decisions they make.

Ultimately, though, we must all do better at communicating our needs and concerns to our peers, our children and our representatives. Spending over four years as a senior aide to an MP, I answered thousands of emails and letters. The overwhelming majority were from those who had written before. The same voices, the same concerns.

Most MPs welcome a robust, honest conversation with their constituents. Most would like to hear from a more varied sample of them. In an area as diverse as South Yorkshire with needs that are equally complex, it is crucial for each of us to participate in such conversations. Without them, our representatives at local and national level will turn their attention elsewhere.

Write an email. Send a Tweet. Discuss the issues that matter at the kitchen table. Our leaders won’t look much like us until we do.