A fascinating article in the Guardian today (not something that I’ve found myself saying much in the last few years…) – if primarily due to a statistic:
Of the European Parliament’s 785 MEPs – representing 492 million people from 27 countries – just 9 are not white.
To the UK’s credit, 5 of them are British (and one even has a blog) – but even that’s on the low side. Considering about 10% of the British population is non-white, there should be in the region of 8 non-white British MEPs (out of 78) to be representative of the population as a whole.
Now I’m not calling for affirmative action to artificially increase representation (that’d just be silly). Plus it should be noted that the new member states of Eastern Europe are generally speaking far more “white” in composition (while still being very ethnically diverse) than the former imperial powers of western Europe. On top of that, few aspiring politicians of whatever race would put the European Parliament at the top of their list of places to be elected to. Slightly above the local council, perhaps, but most politicians with ambition still aim for the national parliament (an EU issue to be discussed another day, perhaps…).
But even so – only 1.1% of MEPs being “non-white”? Though there may be no reliable figures on the racial composition of the EU (a bit of a taboo subject, it would seem), I’m pretty certain there must be more than 1% of Europeans who are “non-white”. The Guardian estimates 5% – in which case there should be 40 “non-white” MEPs (mostly, I’d guess, from Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands).
Then again, women are hardly doing much better in terms of representation, and no one has a clue about the true number of gay politicians thanks to the continued difficulty of coming out (cf. Simon Hughes). Plus this isn’t just a European Parliament issue: the representation of women and ethnic minority MPs in Westminster is still way below what it should be were the House of Commons to reflect the demographic makeup of the country as a whole.
Of course, whether or not you really need ethnic minority or female elected representatives in order to represent the views of female and ethnic minority constituents is another matter entirely. But still… Poor show.