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The unrepresentative house: The inconvenient truth about members of parliament

Daniel Ozarow (Department of Leadership, Work and Organisation, Middlesex University Business School, London, United Kingdom.)

Human Resource Management International Digest

ISSN: 0967-0734

Article publication date: 13 July 2015




Argues that the British House of Commons is acutely unrepresentative of the population that it serves. A range of party leadership interventions that have sought to increase the possibilities for women and those from minority groups to become MPs are evaluated, but regulating in this way is found to have largely failed. Alternative policy solutions are proposed that seek to increase the “supply” of candidates from such backgrounds.


Conducts document analysis of political parties’ equality and diversity policies and assesses their impact upon their proportion of MPs or parliamentary candidates from minority backgrounds.


Argues that the real problem lies in the lack of engagement in the political process and a shortage of candidates from such backgrounds putting themselves forward for nomination in the first place. Thus, authentic parliamentary diversity cannot be created through enforcement but needs to be fostered organically through supportive longer-term measures alongside electoral reform.

Practical implications

Advances the view that greater diversity is required for parliamentary legitimacy but top-down interventions have been counterproductive; barely improving the proportion of MPs from minority backgrounds and actually presenting threats to party autonomy and quality of democracy.

Social implications

Shows how structural problems complicate the ease with which women and those from working-class, ethnic minority and disability backgrounds can engage with the political process and then successfully become parliamentary candidates. Reforming the political culture and targeted policies aimed at reversing the barriers to entry may create a more level playing field by encouraging them to stand.


Offers a timely case study of the neglected and longstanding lack of representation in Parliament that is uniquely interrogated from an HRM perspective.



Ozarow, D. (2015), "The unrepresentative house: The inconvenient truth about members of parliament", Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 23 No. 5, pp. 12-15.



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