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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May, 2005, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Record number of new minority MPs
Adam Afriyie, Conservative MP for Windsor
Adam Afriyie is the Conservative Party's first black MP
A record five new ethnic minority MPs are taking their seats in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

They are among 15 black and Asian MPs in the next parliament - an overall increase of two.

Twelve represent Labour and two are Conservatives - only the second time in recent history the Tories have had any ethnic minority MPs.

Two minority MPs lost their seats at the general election; a third, former minister Paul Boateng, resigned.

Mr Boateng is to take up the post of the UK's ambassador to South Africa.

The new ethnic minority MPs are Dawn Butler, Sadiq Khan and Shahid Malik for Labour and Conservatives Shailesh Vara and Adam Afriyie.

The previous record for new black and Asian MPs gaining seats in a general election was set in 1987 when the first four ethnic minority MPs of modern times were elected.

'Positive signal'

Campaign group Operation Black Vote (OBV) - which aims to increase the political representation and participation of ethnic minorities - said it welcomed the arrival of five new minority MPs, but the loss of two others was "bitterly disappointing".

"Losing Oona King is a great loss for Black representation but the strong anti-war agenda in a large Muslim community had a huge impact.

Minority MPs
Diane Abbott, Labour
Adam Afriyie, Conservative
Dawn Butler, Labour
Parmjit Dhanda, Labour
Mark Hendrick, Labour
Piara Khabra, Labour
Sadiq Khan, Labour
Ashok Kumar, Labour
David Lammy, Labour
Khalid Mahmood, Labour
Shahid Malik, Labour
Mohamed Sarwar, Labour
Marsha Singh, Labour
Shailesh Vara, Conservative
Keith Vaz, Labour

"It shows black people now refuse to vote just on the colour of skin, policies such as the war and education also have a big impact," OBV director Simon Woolley said.

Oona King was beaten by former colleague George Galloway, thrown out of the Labour party over his opposition to the Iraq war and his attitude to the role of British troops.

Mr Galloway's Respect Party anti-war campaign captured thousands of Muslim votes in the east London constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow where 40% of the electorate is Muslim.

Parmjit Singh Gill's defeat in Leicester South means the Lib Dems have no ethnic minority MPs in the new parliament.

The arrival of two ethnic minority Conservative MPs is particularly significant according to Rushanara Ali of research organisation the Young Foundation and co-author of a 2001 report on race and political representation.

"The fact the Tories actually have two [ethnic minority] candidates who've become MPs is really good.

"That involved a lot of discussion and thinking internally for them and that sends a really good positive signal," Ms Ali said.

With the election of Shailesh Vara and Adam Afriyie the Tories had broken away from the John Taylor experience of 1992 [when a black Tory candidate lost in the safe seat of Cheltenham], Ms Ali added.

Muslim MPs

More than two thirds more ethnic minority candidates stood in the 2005 election than in 2001. Of the 110 candidates 41 were Conservatives, 40 Lib Dems and 29 Labour.

More than a third of the ethnic minority candidates standing for the three main parties - 48 - were Muslim. However, only four Muslim MPs will sit in the next parliament.

This reflects the lack of commitment by the three political parties to select Muslims in winnable seats
Ahmed Versi, Muslim News editor

Labour NEC member Shahid Malik and lawyer Sadiq Khan will join returning Labour MPs Mohammad Sarwar and Khalid Mahmood.

Shahid Malik beat Tory challenger and fellow Muslim Sayeeda Warsi by more than 4,600 votes in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire while lawyer Sadiq Khan saw off a challenge by a Respect candidate with a reduced majority of 5,500 in Tooting, south London.

The defeat of Sayeeda Warsi and that of Labour's Yasmin Qureshi in the north-west London constituency of Brent East mean Muslim women have yet to gain a foothold in the House of Commons.

The editor of the Muslim News paper, Ahmed Versi, believes the small number of Muslims elected mirrors the attitude of parties.

"Whilst welcoming the election of two more Muslim MPs, this reflects the lack of commitment by the three political parties to select Muslims in winnable seats," Mr Versi said.

If elected in numbers in proportion to their presence in society, there should be 20 Muslim MPs, Mr Versi added.


SEE ALSO:
Diverse candidates bid for Westminster
29 Apr 05 |  Election 2005
More minorities contest election
19 Apr 05 |  Election 2005
Muslim vote shifts against Labour
06 May 05 |  Election 2005


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