Can Tories win over ethnic minority voters before 2015?
Black and ethnic minority voters could decide who wins the next election, according to new research
POLITICAL parties have been warned they will have to “raise their game” as new research shows that black and ethnic minority voters could be decisive in the next general election.
A study by Operation Black Vote shows that the number of constituencies in England and Wales where ethnic minority voters have the potential to decide who wins the seat will increase by 70 per cent, from 99 in 2010 to 168 in 2015.
The organisation’s director, Simon Woolley, describes the findings as “great news” for ethnic minority communities and for democracy.
“Many individuals feel powerless, particularly in the face of rising racial tension and the apparent inability by political parties to acknowledge persistent race inequalities, much less have a plan to deal with it,” he says.
Writing in The Guardian, Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting, says he welcomes an “arms race” for ethnic minority voters but says parties will need to “raise their game” to woo them.
But Khan warns that “the bad news for lazy politicians” is that “simply visiting a temple at Diwali, sharing a samosa at Eid or attending a community event in Black History Month won't be enough”.
Nor will relying on community elders or gatekeepers to deliver the vote. “Minority ethnic issues need to be mainstream issues,” he says.
The Tories will be particularly worried, says Politics.co.uk. Cameron’s party took just 16 per cent of the ethnic minority vote at the last general election, compared to Labour’s 68 per cent. In a study on the subject, Lord Ashcroft subsequently noted that "not being white was the single best predictor that somebody would not vote Conservative".
The ethnic minority vote is “going to be important”, says Nadhim Zahawi, Tory MP for Stratford-on-Avon, who David Cameron has tasked with improving the party's performance with ethnic voters.
“The party is in the midst of a debate and it is an issue which is now being taken seriously," he told The Observer.
But in the New Statesman, George Eaton wonders when Cameron will ever make the key speech on race that was promised by his strategists back in January.
The speech reportedly intended to distance the party from Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech – a politically explosive attack on anti-discrimination laws. But Eaton says, seven months on, we have heard nothing.
“Instead, the party has further damaged its reputation with ethnic minorities through a series of demagogic stunts (most notably the ‘go home’ vans) on immigration.”
The more astute Tory MPs such as Zahawi recognise the need for a “detoxifying moment”, says Eaton. “But does Cameron, who... has abandoned modernisation and retreated to the core territory of immigration, welfare and Europe, still have the imagination to respond?”