The new class of British MPs and the new world they live in

The Commons has a Mormon, a karate bleck belt, a female football coach and plenty of new trouble makers, says Stephen Canning..

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The good old days
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Stephen Canning
On 30 May 2011 12:55

In what was a highly unusual election which saw David Cameron and Nick Clegg form a coalition government a whole new breed of politicians has entered parliamentary politics. We are now seeing the birth of a new political class in Britain, and it is affecting the way politics is conducted.

There’s at least one Mormon, plus a black-belt karate expert, a female football coach and a man who set a world record for trekking into the Arctic with his mum.

The middle class still dominates, with financiers, lawyers and consultants occupying centre stage. But a number of new trends can be discovered from the 233 new MPs trying to find their way around the 650-seat House of Commons.

For one thing, they are younger than in 1997 when 256 new MPs were elected. Some 34 percent of the new MPs are aged 30-39, compared with 29 percent in 1997. 41 percent are aged 40-49.

They are overwhelmingly male, especially the Conservatives. Overall the Commons has 139 female MPs, 21 percent of the total, with 48 Tories, 78 Labour and seven Liberal Democrats.

Of the 233 new arrivals, 72 are women - just one more than in 1997 - including 36 Tories, 31 Labour and one Lib Dem.

35 percent of MPs in the new parliament went to private schools, even though such schools educate just seven percent of all pupils. More than half of Tory MPs were privately educated and 20 out of the party's 306 MPs come from one institution - Eton. Roughly 40 percent of Conservative MPs, 30 percent of Liberal Democrats and 20 percent of Labour MPs are Oxbridge graduates.

While there were just three openly gay Tory MPs in 2005, six new gay candidates stood in the last election. The icon for the new generation of gay Tories is Margot James, the MP for Stourbridge in the West Midlands and a millionaire entrepreneur.

But it is not just the profile of the new MPs, it’s the world they live in. Many among the new crop of MPs are sinking under the weight of new ideas, practices, instructions and the initial wave of constituency work. That, of course, has always been the case. However, at a time of personal change they are also looking for new tools and ways of reaching the electorate. This means a rise in the number of blogs, parliamentary Twitter users and some dabbling on Facebook.

Also, with the arrival of so many new hands on deck, mutiny is already in the air. Since the election, 70 percent of new Lib Dem MPs have voted against the party line, compared with 40 percent of veteran Lib Dems. (In the Tory camp, a quarter of MPs, new or old, have rebelled.)

The mood of insurrection is spreading. The newbies are already calling for an overhaul of the way parliament itself works. Furthermore a recent survey by the website Mumsnet showed that 28 per cent of MPs had thought about leaving Westminster due to the long and unpredictable working hours.

So what does this new intake of MPs mean and is it a good thing for Britain? Certainly on one hand you could make the argument that the loss of so many long term, highly experienced and knowledgeable parliamentarians will have a fundamentally detrimental effect on parliament.

But in the light of the expenses scandal, the cash for honours exposé and countless other events which have rocked the public’s belief in the parliamentary system perhaps a fresh start was what was needed.

Stephen Canning is the Chairman of the Braintree Conservative Future and is actively involved in local, regional and national politics. Join him on http://twitter.com/StephenCanning for regular political news, updates and gossip.and at http://twitter.com/cllrcanning.

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