October 2, 2020

How do perceptions of race equality differ among UK MPs?

Author:
Cameron Stocker, Parliamentary Panels Coodinator
The majority of Labour MPs believe statues of those involved in the slave trade or colonialisation should be removed, whereas the majority of Conservative MPs disagree.

This year has seen a lot of turbulence in the UK, and while Brexit and the global pandemic have been key talking points, so too has race equality.

Spurred on by the death of George Floyd, an African American man who was killed while being detained by Minneapolis police, protests were held throughout the UK to which people attended in droves. From Edinburgh to the streets of Westminster, thousands turned out to take a stand against racism.


MPs are split on whether people from BAME backgrounds have just as much opportunity to succeed in the UK.

Half (48%) of MPs believe that people from a BAME background have just as much opportunity to succeed professionally in the UK as their White counterparts. Similarly, half (53%) of MPs believe that BAME people have just as much opportunity to be elected as a Member of Parliament as white people.

Looking more deeply, we see that results differ significantly by party affiliation. Three quarters (72%) of Conservative MPs agree that BAME people have just as much opportunity to succeed professionally in the UK as white people, compared to just over one in eight (13%) Labour MPs. This result is aligned with whether BAME people have the same opportunity to become an MP as white people – four fifths (78%) of Conservative MPs agree they do, whilst only one fifth (18%) of Labour MPs would say the same.

The majority of Labour MPs believe statues of those involved in the slave trade or colonialisation should be removed, whereas the majority of Conservative MPs disagree.

The UK’s colonial history (and how it should be remembered) has also been an issue raised in recent months, brought to the forefront when the Colston statue was toppled in Bristol and thrown in to the harbour during the summer. One fifth (21%) of all MPs believe that statues of those involved in the slave trade or colonalisation should be removed in the UK, with over half (55%) of Labour MPs agreeing that they should be. Party affiliation has once again divided opinion, however, as no Conservative MP questioned agreed that the statues should be removed. In fact, nine in ten (91%) disagreed that they should be, including three fifths (62%) that strongly disagreed.

We also asked MPs whether more should be taught in schools about the UK’s colonial history, which three fifths (59%) agreed it should be. When split by party, the results are not as jarring as those previously outlined, but they do still show a substantial difference in opinion. Two fifths (37%) of Conservative MPs agreed more should be taught on the subject within schools, whereas nine in ten (90%) Labour MPs agreed with the statement.

The vast majority of Labour MPs believe more should have been done by the UK Government to safeguard BAME people from the impacts of COVID-19.

News reports have declared that those from BAME backgrounds are at higher risk from COVID-19, so we asked MPs whether the UK Government should have done more to safeguard people in these communities. Half (46%) of MPs agreed that more should have been done by the Government. When split by party we can see that nearly all (96%) Labour MPs believe the UK Government should have done more, whereas only one sixth (14%) of Conservative MPs agreed.

We also asked MPs whether the UK Government should do more to combat racism in the UK. Three fifths (60%) of MPs agree that more should be done to combat racism, with nine in ten (92%) Labour MPs agreeing the government should do more. One third (36%) of Conservative MPs agreed that the UK Government should do more to combat racism, whereas a quarter (25%) disagreed.

When asked whether the recent Black Lives Matter protests in the UK were justified, as long as social distancing rules were followed, two fifths (42%) of MPs agreed they were. Looking more closely into the party splits, four fifths (78%) of Labour MPs agreed the BLM protests were justified, however only one sixth (16%) of Conservative MPs agreed. On the other footing, two thirds (66%) of Conservative MPs disagreed they were justified, whereas only one in ten (8%) of Labour MPs disagreed with this statement.

Savanta ComRes runs an industry-leading suite of parliamentary panels, helping clients to understand parliamentarians’ perceptions of their organisation, sector, communications and policy positions.


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