Political representation in the UK continues to be dominated by white, middle-aged, middle-class men, but several equalities groups now have an established presence in national political institutions. This article draws on research with stakeholder organisations, lobby groups for under-represented groups within political parties, former, current and unsuccessful candidates and sitting and former elected politicians conducted prior to the 2010 General Election. It finds that where aspiring candidates from under-represented groups have been selected, it was because they were 'acceptably different' conforming to aspects of the 'archetypal candidate'. We argue that increasingly dominant professionalised 'pathways' into national politics have allowed greater diversity, but remain narrow and exclusionary. Progress is less a reflection of a more open political system, instead representing accommodation of still under-represented groups to, and by, the existing system. Copyright © The Author .