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Changes in the law and attitudes of political parties are needed to address the under-representation of ethnic mino...
Changes in the law and attitudes of political parties are needed to address the under-representation of ethnic minorities in government, according to research.

Centre-left think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research published the report Our house? Race and representation in British politics in the lead-up to the local elections.

The report, by IPPR research fellow Rushanara Ali and law lecturer Colm O'Cinneide, highlighted the fact that there are only 12 black or Asian MPs - 1.8% of the total - and 530 councillors - 2.5% of the total. It was also critical of the under-representation of women in government.

The authors interviewed 34 candidates who have sought selection for one of the three main political parties, as well as officials and politicians from across the spectrum. Ms Ali said: 'This IPPR research shows from the experiences of prospective candidates that a change in the law is now vital to give parties the right to use limited positive discrimination. It is now down to all parties to challenge the inaccurate perception that ethnic minority candidates can only succeed in areas with large ethnic minority populations.'

The recommendations included:

-- Provide state funding to support a cross-party leadership programme to encourage more ethnic minority candidates

-- Overhaul selection procedures in line with the Race Relations Act 2000, which imposes strong obligations on organisations to eliminate discriminatory practices

-- Amend S37 and S38 of the Act to allow positive discrimination by parties in favour of under-represented minorities

-- Implement specific goals for the

representation of ethnic minorities and women

-- Place ethnic minority candidates further up party lists at proportional representation elections

-- Establish units to give ethnic minority candidates support

-- Give greater recognition in selection procedures to activities that ethnic minority candidates take part in outside the obvious mainstream party structures

-- Increase the number of ethnic minority staff working within central and regional headquarters.

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