Each of the main parties aims to become more diverse, at least in its selection of parliamentary candidates. But how diverse are our Town Halls? Which minorities engage most vigorously in contesting local elections?
Over the last 40 years some 750,000 candidates have contested English local government elections. That is a lot of people to ask to fill in a questionnaire even if you did know their current address. And of course many have died in the meantime. A huge, impossible task you might imagine.
In practice the question was answered in less than half a day’s working time.
It took the **University of Plymouth’**s elections centre just an hour to extract the names of the candidates on their local election database and OriginsInfo just a further two hours to infer the cultural background of each candidate, calculate the proportion of candidates from different backgrounds and compare this with the distribution of English adults.
Over the period as a whole just 8.7% of candidates had a non-white British name, just under half of the 18.7% of English adults. People with Scottish names were particularly likely to stand.
So which minorities were the most engaged? The answer - people with names that were either Jewish or Armenian. Northern Europeans were 50% more politically engaged than people from Mediterranean Europe. People from the Baltic States and from Romania, two groups only recently arrived in Britain, were the least engaged.
Outside Europe it is evident that with the exception of Turks and Iranians, people from predominantly Muslim countries are consistently more likely to stand that people of Sikh heritage and Sikhs more likely to stand that people with a Hindu heritage. The least engaged are the Mandarin Chinese and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa.
The reason for these differences leave plenty of room for thought. Our hypothesis is that minorities who live in close proximity to each other are the most likely to engage in local politics.