I’ll start this article by saying that this website has not become a cheerleader for the Conservative Party, nor have I suddenly become a Tory. But I believe in trying to speak the truth, particularly when talking about politics, an area overcrowded with polemics as is. So when I speak of things like “20 years of Tory hegemony ahead”, I do not do so because it makes me feel good. I’m just calling it like I see it.
There was an article in the Guardian yesterday that blew my mind. It was about a piece of work undertaken by British Future, a migration focused think tank run by the estimable Sunder Katwala, which looked into BME voting patterns in the general election just gone. The findings should make those working at Labour HQ despair: overall 52% voted Labour, 33% put a cross for the Tories, 5% each for the Lib Dems and Greens, 2% UKIP. Some of you might look at those numbers and think, “seems fair enough, although the Lib Dems might be concerned that ethic minority voters went for them in even lower numbers than the general populace.” If you’re thinking this way, it’s probably because you remain unaware of the comparable figures for the 2010 election. In which Labour got 68% of the BME vote, the Tories 16%. In other words, the Conservative Party more than doubled their ethic minority support during a single parliament, taking them above 1 million BME votes for the first time in British electoral history.
It gets worse. The percentage of the ethnic minority vote the Tories got in 2005? Ten. I haven’t found reliable data to tell me further back than that with confidence, but I’d be very surprised if it was higher in 2001 and 1997. In other words, across a decade, the Conservatives have managed to treble their support with minority voters. That’s genuinely staggering and points to a further advantage the Tories will have in years to come that, on top of new boundaries and the Labour Party seemingly determined to commit suicide, I hadn’t even factored in.
This is another problem for Labour at a time when they didn’t need a further headache. For the last fifty years the party has been a large tent coming together of the following disparate tribes: Scots alienated from the Tories by Thatcherism; London based liberals; working class northerners; ethnic minority communities. They have lost the first; as the British Future work shows, they’re losing the last; UKIP are threatening the penultimate group on the list. This leaves the Big Smoke hipsters, who can’t be taken for granted forever, particularly if the sort of red-UKIP agenda rolls forward further during this parliament – and given it’s almost certainly Burnham or Cooper taking over next, that’s all but guaranteed.
I may sound like I’m dancing on Labour’s grave with all of this, but I’m really, really not. My main concern is actually the immediate future of British democracy. Forget about anyone but the Tories being able to win an election anytime soon, I’m worried that we might be left with no effective opposition to them either.
Edward Wynn says
The last sentence in this article is the most important. In fact it is hardly surprising that BME voting patterns have changed. An entrepreneurship culture, better levels of and performance in education, reduced discrimination contribute to an increase in the BME middle class population. As they become more prosperous they move away from the Labour tent. What really concerns me now is that the current government and in fact any government needs to have an aggressive, thinking opposition to ensure policy and statute are properly debated and challenged.
Majority of ethnic voters are self employed with Tory Policies attractive for them to that if labour and with the mess Tony Blair left labour in they will never pick themselves up unless they get rid of him from the party. Tories policies will hit everyone not only Ethnic voters where the true support will be seen with the cuts etc in the pipelines. This will not be maintained for long term but labour need to bring back people like David Miliband and rebrand the party with more attractive policies.