This Insight looks at the names of MPs in the ‘Members’ Names Information Database’ by gender and party since 1979.
Using wordclouds, we’ve set out the forenames and surnames and found that for all parties, John has been the most popular forename name, followed by Smith and Jones as a surname.
Some MPs prefer to use a middle name. Where a forename is available, we have used that instead of using their middle (or other) preferred name. This should only be used as a guide. Different spellings, shortened versions and specific naming requests from MPs will affect the analysis.
The two word clouds below show the most common first names for men and women MPs in the Commons since 1979.
John, David and James
At first glance, it looks as though there are fewer names for men than women. This is because the frequency of the most popular men’s names is more, making the less used names appear smaller.
The seven most popular men’s names account for over 30% of all the forenames of Commons MPs in the database. The most common name has been John with 148 Johns. This is followed by 105 Davids and 77 named James. 158 names have only one record in the database, such as Keir, Dale and Zac.
Margaret, Helen, Angela and Sarah
The most popular name for women MPs is Margaret, with 13 MPs in the database (not all of them use their given name of Margaret as their preferred first name). This is followed by Helen (11) and Angela and Sarah (10). 173 women’s names have only one record in the database, such as Peggy, Rosena and Hannah.
The database shows 253 different names belonging to women and 334 belonging to men.
In both cases, the analysis works on names being exact. So, if an MP has a shortened version of their name, the name in question can be spelt in different ways, or it includes their middle name in a first name, this will show up as a separate name. For example, Heidi Allen has a given a first name in the database of Heidi-Suzanne.
Forenames by party
The word clouds below show the most used forenames by party. In a clockwise direction there is Conservatives, Labour, SNP and Lib Dems. As there have been more men than women MPs, the party charts are dominated by male names. The party for each MP is their current or latest party: they are not included if they have become an independent/crossbencher or Speaker in either House.
The most popular name for all four parties was John. The next most frequent names for the Conservatives were David, Robert and Michael. There are 315 different Conservative forenames in the database. The most common women’s names are Angela and Caroline.
David and Michael are also prominent in the Labour party, as is James. The most common woman’s name is Helen. There are 363 different Labour forenames in the database.
Conservative and Labour
Paul and Robert are common in the Liberal Democrats, along with John and David. Sarah is the most common women’s name. There are 87 unique Liberal Democrat forenames in the database. There are fewer names to analyse for the SNP but of the 64 different forenames in the database, John, George and Richard appear the most, whilst the most common women’s name is Margaret.
Liberal Democrat and SNP
The following word cloud looks at surnames of previous and current MPs since approximately 1979.
The most common surnames, Jones and Smith, both have 25 records each. These are followed by Davies (17), Williams (13) and Clark (12).
In total, there are 1,645 different surnames in the period analysed: of these, 1,316 have made only one appearance (80%).
There have not been many dominant surnames, with only 11 out of the 1,645 names appearing 10 or more times in the database.
This is part of a series on House of Commons trends to mark Parliament Week 2020. You can find more analysis and data in our full briefing.
Read the rest of the series.
Notes: Wordclouds made using wordclouds.com.
About the author: Chris Watson is a researcher at the House of Commons Library, specialising in parliamentary data.
Image: ©UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor under CC BY 2.0, cropped
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