The world of politics for most conjures up images of white, well-to-do men in suits – probably shouting and waving papers across from each other in the debating chamber of the House of Commons. In many respects, that’s still fairly accurate. White men from higher income backgrounds are overrepresented in our core democratic institution. But within this space constructed for wealthy white men, there are also people who don’t fit this mould.
Out of the 220 women elected in the last election, 12 of them were black. This is juxtaposed against the recent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement that has jet-propelled issues of anti-blackness into British consciousness and generated more nuanced conversations about the black experience in Britain. So what is it like to not only exist, but work in an incredibly demanding role, in a space where in terms of your gender and race, most people simply don’t look like you and have not had the same experiences?
Helen Grant is a Conservative Party MP for the constituency of Maidstone and The Weald in Kent. Having worked as a solicitor for twenty years, she was elected in 2010, becoming the first black female Conservative member of Parliament. When speaking to her she maintains that although she’s immensely enjoyed her role, there’s still a lot of work to do.
“I’ve seen a lot of positive changes in terms of gender balance and diversity since I’ve been here,” Helen says. “In 2010 when I was elected, 25% of MPs in Parliament were female and 4% were BAME. Now it’s 34% and 10% BAME. The figures are getting better, however in terms of challenges going forward the House of Commons is still a white-male-dominated place.”