Ethnic minorities could be decisive in over 160 seats in 2020 general election. Votes of BAME communities cannot be assumed by Labour party – they have to be earned. Labour is haemorrhaging support among ethnic minority voters in the marginal constituencies it needs to win…writes Dr Kailash Chand.
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Mr Chukka Umanna and Keith Vaz are absolutely right to warn that, Labour is haemorrhaging support among ethnic minority voters in the marginal constituencies it needs to win, if it is to have any chance of challenging, the Conservatives at the next general election.
I personally raised these concerns with former leader Ed Milliband during the last general election. He agreed upfront but didn’t take any specific measures to reassure ethnic minorities of any plans to address their concerns.
Since Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech on the consequences of immigration, the majority ethnic voters are reluctant to vote Conservative because they fear, to put it bluntly, that the party is racist. The Tory party’s anti-immigration rhetoric was so repulsive. Even after decades, the Conservative party has not managed to detoxify the brand. Their attempt to win back disillusioned UKIP voters will undermine their bids to win Black and Minority Ethnic voters (BAME).
The Labour should have been the natural beneficiary, but this is not happening. No party can take for guarantee the second /third generation ethnic vote, this has to be earned. Keith Vaz and Chukka Umana, are absolutely right in warning that the Labour leadership in last general election failed to face “electoral reality” by ignoring non-white voters. Where as Prime Minister David Cameron by his high profile visits to numerous ethnic institutions helped his party to secure many more votes.
Currently 8 million people (14% of the UK population) belong to an ethnic minority, with the biggest groups being Indian, Pakistani, black African, black Caribbean and Bangladeshi. The Runnymede Trust, a race equality thinktank, has estimated that by 2051 the non-white population will be 20 million, making up 29.7% of the total. The Tory vote among the five largest ethnic minority groups at the 2010 general election was 16% compared with 68% for Labour. By the last election Conservative support had jumped to 33 per cent – equivalent to an extra million votes.
There are now 38 BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) MPs in the Commons, up on last time. Still the number does lag behind the 84 seats needed for Parliament to be truly representative of its people’s ethnic make-up. Labour retains its lead in the House of Commons overall, with 23 non-white MPs to the Conservatives’ 17, though the 2015 intake captures an increasingly competitive ‘race for representation’ between the two major parties.
If Parliament reflected the population, there would be around 84 BAME MPs. A study last year by the cross-party group Operation Black Vote found the number of seats where black and Asian voters could decide the outcome had risen by 70% compared with the 2010 election. It suggested that in 168 marginal seats, the ethnic minority vote is bigger than the majority of the sitting MP. Labour should not take the support of BAMEs for granted, there are two possible scenarios as the ethnic minorities move outwards into the suburbs and become more prosperous, they could either continue to vote Labour and provide an electoral advantage to Labour or switch allegiance to the Tories or abstain from voting.
In more diverse communities, Labour gets 60% of the BME vote compared with 48% in white areas.
Labour has the best record of any UK political party in terms of Black and Asian representation. In the present Parliament, Labour have more Black and Asian MPs compared to the Conservative party and Liberal Democrats. The first black MP, first Muslim MP, the first Black Cabinet Minister, first black Attorney General; first Asian and Muslim Minister to attend Cabinet and first black female Minister in the Commons were all Labour.
Labour was responsible for setting up the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Government Office of Equalities and introduced the Equality Act which has modernised and strengthened the Britain’s anti-discrimination laws. I think that when you scrutinize other parties’ past behaviour and their current offers and compare them with Labour’s record , it is clear. Labour is the only party which genuinely offers a future fair for all.
One can’t deny a fact that ethnic minorities are grossly under-represented in Parliament as a proportion of the public. Ethnic minorities could be decisive in over 160 seats in 2020 general election. Votes of BAME communities cannot be assumed by Labour party – they have to be earned. Jeremy Corbyn‘s vision and track record about diversity has been startlingly succinct in articulating both the challenge and opportunity before us. This message of unity and inclusion appeals across barriers of race and class.
The Labour movement has some laudable achievements in recent years, we sought equality with the minimum wage, civil partnerships, sure start and greater maternity rights. We now need to seek this for our ETHNIC communities – and this will only be done by ensuring Asian and Black members have a voice within the party.
Cobyrn’s has the right to feel smug about gender representation within the Labour party, at least when compared to the others, he has to do the same for the ethnic representation. It is high time for the party to up its game if we want to win an outright victory at the next general election. Minority ethnic issues need to be mainstream issues.
The message for Labour is that the ‘BAME vote’, whilst not homogenous, can be as decisive for Jeremy as it was for Obama in US election. Involving more people from ethnic minorities could convert many Tory marginals into Labour strongholds. The price of failure there could cost the party agian the keys to 10 Downing Street.