8 Apr 2014

Tories and the ethnic community vote

I asked one member of the government how he thought the Tories were doing in the project to win ethnic minority voters. “We’ve done crap all,” he said. He has a sizeable ethnic minority population in his constituency and says without better offers from the top of the party the party is looking at a demographic time bomb not unlike the one that the Republicans in the US have been staring at.

I spoke to some senior Conservatives who’ve taken a great interest in wooing the ethnic minority vote. One said: “Over the last two years everything has been put on the back burner.” Another said things had “stalled.”
On camera, that’s just what Samuel Kasumu, social entrepreneur and Conservative activist said too.

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Two years into coalition, they all say David Cameron’s been distracted by the UKIP challenge, the need to lure back traditional right-wingers and the longer term existential challenge to get a decent share of the ethnic minority vote has been sidelined.

Lynton Crosby doesn’t hold with specialised appeals to ethnic minority voters. That’s reckless and short-term to some who think it flies in the face of a wall of evidence – Lord Ashcroft and the Runnymede Trust, British Future, Oxford dons.

Work still goes on at grassroots level. Tory MPs have been told how to engage with different communities in their constituencies. There are visits, photo opportunities … David Cameron even whisked some Tory MPs off on a trip that included Amritsar, the centre of the Sikh religion.

In Wolverhampton, I visited one of the MPs who was on that earlier trip, Paul Uppal. He’s a Sikh now holding Enoch Powell’s old seat for the Tories. He says it’s a “delicious irony” and one that Enoch Powell’s widow, Pamela, has told him she thinks her late husband would’ve enjoyed.

At his own temple, you find worshippers who think Enoch Powell was right to try to stop immigration. On the streets, you find many more from ethnic minorities who rail against Eastern European immigration. All the more amazing that Tories can’t appeal to these voters whose value sets are often an overlap for mainstream conservatism.

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