English MPs able to play the “born and bred” card to woo potential voters are a relatively rare breed, with new statistics revealing that less than half of them are born in the regions they represent.
Data released by Democratic Audit at the London School of Economics and Political Science shows that only 43 per cent of English MPs can legitimately claim local roots, although Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland fare much better, with a 76 per cent average.
The finding is not a worrying sign for democracy, says LSE policy analyst Richard Berry, because it shows a variety of past experience.
“However, the fact that significant numbers of MPs have spent their careers in London and the South East should be cause for some concern,” he says.
LSE data reveals that despite London having just 63 of 577 parliamentary seats in the country, the capital has dominated the work histories of a vast number of UK politicians prior to election.
“Across the UK as a whole, just 16 per cent of jobs are based in London. What this data shows, however, is that large numbers of MPs have worked in professions centred in London, including finance, law, publishing and journalism prior to entering politics,” Mr Berry says.
The east and south east regions also dominate in MP's educations, reflecting the high proportion of politicians who have attended Oxbridge universities.
Only 1.4 per cent of the country’s undergraduate students attend Oxford or Cambridge, compared to 27 per cent of MPs who took their first degrees at one of the two universities.
When the data is broken down by party, it reveals a trend in which MPs appear to migrate from peripheral regions to their parties’ stronghold regions.
Labour has far more MPs representing seats in the north than it has politicians born in the north – and the reverse is true for the Conservatives.
More than 90 per cent of Northern Ireland politicians can use the “born and bred” claim with complete confidence, compared to 77 per cent in Scotland and 67 per cent in the north east.
“MPs are much less local that they would have us believe,” Mr Berry says. “All the research tells us that voters prefer to elect local candidates but the ‘born and bred’ card is being played in England without constituents having all the facts.”
Notes for editors
Richard Berry is a policy analyst at the London School of Economics and Political Science and runs a Democratic Audit blog hosted by LSE’s Public Policy Group in the Department of Government. The blog pays particular attention to issues around elections, political parties, parliament, government, human rights, civil liberties and freedoms.
Mr Berry can be contacted for interviews on 020 7852 3762 or R.Berry@lse.ac.uk.
For more information about the geographical data relating to UK politicians go to:
http://www.democraticaudit.com/?p=1049 and http://www.democraticaudit.com/?p=1230
14 November 2013