Substantive Furthermore, the legitimacy of parliament would

Substantive
representation would be the tendency to vote, through an informed process, by
someone who represents the thoughts, ideals and principles that you as a
citizen want to see safeguarded.1 Taking
this and the democratic system which the UK operates in, I intend to argue that
there needs to be an adequate improvement of both descriptive and substantive
representation for it to be enough for women and ethnic minorities. The UK is a
representative democracy hence, the state should strive to incorporate all
ethnic groups and genders into the political landscape. Furthermore, the
legitimacy of parliament would be brought into question if ethnic minority and
female interests were not focused upon enough within the House of Commons in
particular. I intend to use an article by Karen
Bird which details research about the presence of substantive
representation in a representative democracy. This will be used to argue that
“better representation of members of historically marginalized groups will
improve the process of representative democracy.”2 In
addition to this, I intend to use an article by Zingher and Farrer that argues that descriptive representation is
an important tool for political parties to appeal to ethnic minority groups. Finally,
I will refer to an article by Erzeel and
Celis which gives the substantive representation of women an ideological
arc. By using this source, I intend to argue that the moderation of ideologies
has improved substantive representation for women as parties strive to
articulate women’s interests.

If there
was an influx of minority MPs in parliament, then substantive representation
would inevitably rise. Historically, the lack of visible minorities has caused
disillusionment among ethnic groups. They can potentially have doubts of the
quality of substantive representation which is being delivered to them. As of
the recent 2017 election, the current parliament is the most diverse since it
was founded. There is “Currently around 8% of Members of both Houses are from
an ethnic minority background. This compares with 13.6% of UK population.”3 In
addition to this, “The number of ethnic minority female MPs in the House of
Commons increased from 3.0% in 2015 (20 of 650) to 4% in 2017 (26 of 650).
Currently non-white female MPs make up 12.5% of all women MPs (208).”4 Even
with this parliament being the most diverse, ethnic minorities are still
significantly under-represented. Leading on from this, because of the lack of
proportional representation of ethnicities within parliament, the UK’s
representative democracy, in England particularly, is inherently flawed. Mansbridge inadvertently supports my argument by proposing that more diverse representation
will provide access to more information, and will promote trust among distinct
groups, ultimately enhancing policy outcomes.5 Therefore,
this diverse representation could’ve avoided disastrous policies which mainly
affected working class areas with high ethnic populations. There would be a stronger
interconnectedness between minority groups and parliament. An example of this
is the Poll Tax of 1989 which led to the infamous Poll Tax riots. It could be
argued that because of the lack of diversity within the parliament at that
time, there were grave miscalculations from Thatcher and her cabinet when
constructing this policy. There was a lack of embodied culture capital which
seemingly hindered the policy making process. Embodied culture capital “comprises
the knowledge that is consciously acquired and the passively inherited, by
socialization to culture and tradition. Unlike property, cultural capital is
not transmissible, but is acquired over time, as it is impressed upon the
person’s habitus (character and way of thinking), which, in turn, becomes more
receptive to similar cultural influences.”6 There
were only 4 minority MPs at the time, who were all members of the opposition
party.

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With
this in mind, it is possible that the Tories only held their agenda in mind and
did not consider the burden this tax would impose on the working-class minority
groups. If, for example, there was a minority MP within the Tory cabinet at
that time, the process might have been handled differently due to the MP being
able to bring in his culture capital to drastically change the policy. However,
the cabinet was exclusively white and mostly middle class, therefore they were
more than likely concerned with their agenda and did not take into account the
concerns of the politically marginalized. Historically, laws and acts, which
affected marginalized groups in general, have had widespread opposition to
them, such as Local Government Act 19887 and the
Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994)8. The
substantive representation for groups that were affected, homosexuals and young
people, was relatively non-existent. Due to the marginal increases in
representatives of different groups, this has been somewhat improved but not to
a level where marginalized groups are truly represented. Hence, to fix the
current flawed democratic system within the UK, the improvement of substantive
representation for politically marginalized groups is a necessity.

Similarly,
women argue “that their gender has a more consultative approach to politics than
men, and that parity and the inclusion of more women in politics will improve
the quality of representative democracy.”9 I concur
with this statement for the most part since there is evidence where countries
with higher proportions of women in government, have higher levels of
government effectiveness. On the other hand, it is difficult to conclude
whether it is just women which make government effectiveness high or other
omitted variables.10 Tootell research results have found that
governments with increased female representation “pass bills that increase
funding for social services and alter the nature of the government, including
decreasing corruption. Tootell’s
findings are inline with her theoretical hypothesis which is that “these
changes make government more effective with more females are, in fact, more
effective, better serving their people.”11 I agree
partially with Tootell’s theory as
the government would be more effective at serving their people with women who
are more directly involved with government practice. This is because the UK’s
current state of representative democracy would be improved (along with the
substantive representation of women) with the increase of female MPs in the
House of Commons. Albeit this evidence is not conclusive, it is beneficial,
overall, to include more representatives of politically marginalized groups
within government as it will inevitably increase the quality of substantive representation
for not only the groups I have mentioned, but the population as a whole.

Descriptive
representation constitutes a segment of politicians who represent the larger
population from which they come. These are representatives that advocate in the
name of a specific group, or groups, that are homogenous to the background of
the politician.12
Although the importance of substantive representation is evident, nominating
descriptively representative candidates can be a tool which political parties
are able to use to show that they are capable of showing commitment to certain
group interests.13
Some of the electorate do not necessarily vote based on the candidate’s
thoughts on current issues. Minority groups in particular tend to vote for
members of their ethnic group, if applicable, since there is a perception that they
share a common background and life experiences with “their representative is
important for assuring quality representation.”14
However, the question of whether the nomination of ethnic candidates would be
more beneficial to party or more damaging. At the end of the day, parties are
primarily looking to secure the largest number of votes which sometimes leads
to there not being a more inclusive field of candidates because they want to
sustain their larger, core voter base. This is why political parties have varying
levels of success when they do have a significant amount of minority MPs. In
the article, studies have provided evidence that “suggests that the nomination
of ethnic minority candidates is associated with an increase in ethnic minority
turnout and support for the co-ethnic candidate.”15 When
looking at the 2010 election, research found that those of Pakistani and
Bangladeshi heritage were likely to support co-ethnic candidates.16 This is
evidence that certain groups of the electorate are focused more on the
characteristics of candidates rather than their opinions on issues that affect
them. As aforementioned, this is possibly due to having the belief that they
will be the most effective candidate in addressing the particular issues which
concern their ethnic group.

The
effectiveness of having minority candidates differentiates in terms of what
political party fields them. For example, parties on the left have had a “head
start”, so to speak, due to there long-standing affliction with the politically
marginalized which encompasses minorities. Therefore, there has been a
historical perception that the Labour party is a more effective in representing
the interests of ethnic minorities.17 From
this, we can conclude that there is a correlation between party’s ideologue and
the effectiveness of descriptive representation. Traditionally left-wing
parties are more capable of offering quality representation for these groups
but they have lacked the reputation. This can be due to the lack of majority
governments they have had, compared to the Conservatives, which makes it
difficult for parties like Labour to bring ethnic interests to the forefront.
This makes descriptive representation, in practice, very impractical and
difficult to achieve because of how varied the levels of success would be
spanning from parliament to parliament. In addition to this, there is a serious
lack of minority MPs as it is so to even make it a legitimate model of
representation. Therefore, it would not be enough, in a representative
democracy like the UK, to implement descriptive representation.

Keeping
on the theme of political parties and ideology, these factors also impact on
the substantive representation of women. I argue that the position on the post-materialist
scale, left or right wing, plays a role in the quality of substantive
representation that is delivered to women. In terms of traditional ideology,
they do not accommodate societal structures18 so they
are not a good indicator of whether or not women’s interests are represented
significantly. Firstly, we need to define what post-materialism is. Post-materialism
is value orientation that emphasizes self-expression and quality of life over
economic and physical security.19 Parties
that lean on the ‘post-materialist left’ promote the expansion of individual
freedoms on post-materialist issues which, in theory, and would be the most
suitable to engage with women’s substantive representation.20 This is
because of the post-materialist agenda in the 1970s which led to a decline in
class politics and embraced new social movements which were closely linked with
egalitarianism, women’s rights and feminism.21

There is
a valid probability to why substantive representation for women has not been at
a level it should have been. Left-wing parties, which were developed in line
with the post-materialist’s agenda, such as the Green party, have focused more
attention to women’s concerns than traditional socialist parties.22 It can
be argued that the reason there hasn’t been a continuous improvement historically
in women’s substantive representation because the two-party system has not
allowed more egalitarian parties to be the majority party within parliament. Ideally,
within a democracy like the UK, there would be a major improvement in
substantive representation for the groups in question, if parties like the
Liberal Democrats and the Green party had more of a presence within parliament.
In reality, the two-party system looks like it will not be derailed in the
foreseeable future and first past the post makes it near impossible for these
parties to even make a minute dent in seats to Labour or the Conservatives.
However, the presence of intra-party women’s organizations does force the issue
on women’s issues. They typically have “feminist/gender expertise” and “offer
useful, accurate and first-hand policy information on women’s issues.”23 In
addition to this, this is not to say that less egalitarian left-wing parties,
such as Labour, do not offer a relatively high level of substantive
representation (not only due to the intra-party organizations). It is found in
many studies that higher levels of left-wing activity on behalf of women is in
part due to female MPs, especially for Labour, being the most active defenders
of women’s case.24
It should also be noted that efforts to increase the number of female MPs in
right-wing parties as well. Across the board, the increased presence of women
in parliament has created a “favourable condition for the expression of women’s
interests” in both right-wing and left-wing contexts.25 In
summary, the quality of substantive representation for women is not at the
highest it could be in a democracy like the UK, but it is adequate enough to
where there is definitely a focus on women’s issues but not to a degree where they
are the predominant focus of political parties. This is mainly because of the
lack of egalitarian values within these parties.

Is it
enough to improve substantive representation for these groups? Of course, but
the ability to do so is incredibly difficult considering the very rigid
democratic system which the UK has. The improvement on the substantive
representation hinges on the two-party system being disrupted and an
alternative voting system being introduced. This would allow egalitarian
parties to have more political power which in turn could bring a narrower focus
on minority and gender issues and interests.