Final slate of candidates for the General Election announced - see who is standing in our region
- Credit: PA
Nominations have closed for the May 7 General Election, with the largest ever slate of candidates expected to produce record numbers of female and ethnic minority MPs.
Would-be candidates had until 4pm on Thursday to hand in their nomination papers, and the total number standing across the UK is expected to outstrip the record 4,150 competing in 2010.
The three major parties said they were expecting to be represented in all 632 races in England, Scotland and Wales - apart from the Speaker's Buckingham constituency - and the Conservatives are also running in 16 of the 18 seats in Northern Ireland.
Ukip said it was aiming to stand in at least 620 seats - up from 572 in 2010 - while the Greens said that they would have their largest-ever slate contesting 90-95% of English and Welsh seats and the Scottish Greens have their best-ever showing, standing in 31 out of 59 constituencies north of the border.
The British National Party said it was putting forward only 'a handful' of candidates, and certainly many fewer than the 338 who stood in 2010. But spokesman Simon Darby denied this was because the troubled far-right party was unable to find people willing to stand under its banner, saying: 'We are keeping our powder dry. We feel there are a totally peculiar set of circumstances around this election and we are more than likely to be doing the same thing again shortly.'
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The Insight Consulting Group conducted an analysis of the likely make-up of the 2015 Parliament based on the identity of candidates known to be fighting winnable seats.
If found that around three out of 10 MPs in the new House of Commons are likely to be women, with the number of female MPs increasing from 148 (22.76%) to between 190 (29.2%) and 205 (31.5%).
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Labour was predicted to meet its target of women making up more than 40% of the parliamentary party, with up to 132 female MPs, while one in five Tories (around 55-59) were forecast to be women.
Using data from electoralcalculus.co.uk as the basis for calculating seats, ICG estimated that there could be between 40-44 MPs from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds elected in May, up from 27 in 2010. Of these, some 16 are likely to be Conservatives and 23-27 Labour
ICG managing director John Lehal said: 'The next House of Commons will be more representative of the country it serves.'
But he added: 'Whilst the Conservatives have made progress in selecting more women candidates, the party will need to decide what further action it can take in future as they will still lag behind Labour with just one in five female MPs.
'The Conservatives are to be applauded for selecting several BAME candidates in safe seats where the sitting MPs is retiring, often in constituencies with a very small BAME population. Labour has not been as successful as expected, only selecting two BAME candidates in seats where the sitting MP has retired.'
According to the analysis, if poor recent polling scores are borne out on May 7, Liberal Democrats are likely to have no MPs from an ethnic minority background and may have only a single surviving female MP.
ICG found that the proportion of MPs with Oxbridge degrees would be higher if Labour do well, when they are likely to make up about 25.5% of the new Parliament, than if Tories have a successful night (20.9%).
Now the deadline has passed, no further candidates can put themselves forward for the 2015 election. If a candidate representing a party dies before the results are announced on the night of May 7-8, then the election is stopped and re-run with the party putting forward a new nominee. This happened in the North Yorkshire seat of Thirsk & Malton in 2010, when the poll finally took place three weeks after the rest of the country voted.
Complete lists of candidates are unlikely to be available until Friday afternoon, as councils have 24 hours to make them public in cases where they are challenged.