Three disabled MPs were elected on June 9, bringing the total number of MPs with disabilities to five.
Marsha de Cordova, a Labour MP who is registered blind, defeated Conservative MP Jane Ellison in Battersea. The newly elected MP spoke about disabled rights in her victory speech. Jared O’Mara, who was elected in Sheffield Hallam for Labour, taking the seat from former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, has cerebral palsy. In Eastbourne, Liberal Democrat Stephen Lloyd, who is deaf, regained his seat after losing it in the 2015 general election.
As well as the three newly elected MPs, two disabled politicians held their seats. Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who has cerebral palsy and osteoarthritis, and Paul Maynard, who also has cerebral palsy, were re-elected on June 9.
Despite the increase in disabled MPs, charities and campaign groups have argued that five MPs, amounting to less than 1 per cent of parliament, is not enough representation. Jamie Szymkowiak, the founder of the One in Five campaign, told The Guardian: “One in five of us self-identify as being disabled, which includes mental health, learning disabilities and long-term health conditions. The biggest barrier is the cost of standing for election and getting through the selection process.”
With such a large disabled community in the UK, including those with mobility issues requiring mobility scooters, it is hoped more disabled people will be given the opportunity to stand for election in the future. Szymkowiak called on the government to start offering grants to disabled people to help cover the costs of standing for election.
In a column for the Huffington Post, Sophie Morgan, a disabled TV presenter, argued that there should be more proportional representation of disabled people in government. She said: “There are 13 million disabled people in the UK, and that means we should be aiming for 20% of the MPs sitting in the Commons identifying as disabled.
“However, it is a start and a small step in the right direction – our parliament will be stronger for the diversity of voices elected today.”