9 Apr 2015

Is Labour’s ethnic minority vote holding up?

The focus on ethnic minority voting trends is often on the Tories and their failure to connect with BME voters – we reported on it last year in Wolverhampton. But there are signs that all is not stable in every part of Labour’s ethnic minority vote.

Look at the graphs for voter identification and you see voters of Afro-Caribbean and African background still pretty staunchly Labour – in these communities the problem for Labour is voter registration levels.

In the Pakistani community you see a drop off in identification with Labour after the Iraq war and then a stabilsing or levelling off.

But look at the Indian community and you see a very different graph. Identification with labour drops off after 1997 and in an almost equal decline does the same again from 2010 to 2014.

This is the sort of graph you would expect to see if a core vote was showing signs of crumbling.


Talking to voters at Sikh and Hindu temples around Harrow and Brent in west London and you get a strong sense of communities that are loosening some longstanding bonds.

The older voters in the Hindu temple I visited, men and women, raise their hands in unison when I ask if they are going to vote Labour. Speaking Gujerati, older women and men voters are clear: Labour is for them, the Tories for the rich. Though one woman insisted the Tories were “always for the Muslims.”

Talk to the younger generation and you get a very different picture. One elder said his son had been badgering him at dinner the night before to leave the Labour mothership and support the Tories. Other younger members of the congregation speak of respecting their elders’ advice on how to vote but then (politely) ignoring it.

Is Labour ethnic minority vote holding up? Tweet your answers to @Channel4News #minorityverdict

Professor Maria Sobalewski of Manchester University thinks it won’t reach a decisive tipping point at this election, though she forecasts some slippage in Labour’s ethnic minority vote and some staying at home.

But for 2020 (or whenever the next election is) she believes Labour could be in for big losses in ethnic minority support and, for its own good, needs to work out how to head this off.

One of the problems Professor Sobalewski found was strikingly low rates of voter contact amongst the ethnic minorities.

White voters recorded 54 per cent voter contact – written or personal contact with a political parties; amongst ethnic minorities the number was 29 per cent.

The causes appear to be a mixture of not venturing into areas where the population might live and engaging only through elders rather than contacting the voters direct.

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2 reader comments

  1. Clevan Johnson says:

    This is exactly the reasons why I left the Labour Party (former Labour Youth Officer for Croydon North) : Bme issues neglected. I feel all parties have neglected the issues that many bme’s face but Labour the party
    who gets majority of the bme votes, have failed us.

    Unemployment > 50% increase (since 2001 to 2010) Labour have failed to deal with this
    this increasing issue with employment amongst bme people especially young bme men.
    Labour for me have failed to address many of the issues the bme community face and I can no longer stay with a party who ignores &
    takes our votes for granted

    Also, youth issues I feel are neglected. I am glad there is a party reducing fees but tbh £6k isn’t good enough & it’s still a £3k increase
    from when it previously used to be £3k.

    Labour I feel should be trying, if they win in may to introduce many of the youth services that was scrapped by the coalition
    such as EMA, Connections, etc to help young people who are struggling.

    Also, no mention policy mention about unpaid internships. All these issues (including bme issues) mentioned are never put on the political
    agenda. It’s time that it is. Bme and young people issues are just as important as many other political issues. I feel both sections of society are being neglected from Labour.

    I’m not saying never vote sure will, nor am I saying that I will never think about rejoining Labour again but for now, I cannot be affiliated with a party who neglects these issues.

    I also feel that the current black labour MPs aren’t doing enough to raise awareness of these issues or ding enough to help, a part from maybe Diane Abbott.

    There are many people who are becoming disillusioned with Labour, I feel this will hinder Labour.

    It’s a major issue they need to deal with, especially with Bme’s and young people.

    Yes, I know many would say the way to resolve these issues is within the party
    However, I’ve been involved with london young labour & many groups within the party
    And I feel it’s just more of a popularity contest amongst members for positions and having some sort of political power.

    There is a lack of bme members involved in these Labour groups and issues that I mentioned above are never addressed.

    I’ve spoken to several Labour MPs and officials about these issues & I feel many of them will listen but do not care or do not care enough to do anything about it.

    How can I be expected to remain in a party with such people, who neglect & ignore these issues. I really had to leave.

  2. Peter Grimes says:

    We might better understand why voters from the sub-continent vote for Labour in droves, particularly elderly female voters, if they were able to tell us themselves in English rather than have their views articulated by a senior male as happened in the first part of your clip. If these ladies have been here for many years they ought to be able to express themselves clearly in English and explain why Labour is for them. If, however, they have been passported in under Labour’s Neather plan one can understand why they vote Labour.

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