… the migrants who came to Britain in big numbers in recent decades are moving to the suburbs. This is not surprising. The last census showed white Britons to be a minority in London, and one-third of the capital’s population foreign born. As incoming communities make money and start families, many move out to the suburbs in search of bigger homes, better schools and safer environs, like generations before them.
… these migrant families may share suburban values, but they do not share their politics. Research last year revealed only one in six ethnic minority voters supported the Tories at the last election. As Lord Ashcroft, the Tory grandee who funded the study, said: not being white was the best predictor that a person would not vote Conservative.
And why is his? Well, because they prefer to listen to the chips on their shoulders, it seems.
When pollsters drill down, non-white voters are deterred by the party’s past even when – as is often the case – they share their values and views. The Conservatives are seen as historically hostile: the party of Enoch Powell and Norman Tebbit, that passed laws dividing migrant families and failed to stand up to apartheid in South Africa. This brand contamination is so strong that even when candidates from ethnic minorities are selected, they are seen as betraying their background.
Even when that background is socially conservative with a small ‘c’…
The last presidential election in the United States demonstrated the dangers of ignoring non-white votes.
And, also, the terrible consequences of what such partisan voting can mean. Remember ObamaPhone?
Yet neighbouring Canada showed attitudes can change – and change fast. In under a decade the Conservatives overturned an accepted wisdom that racial minorities always voted Liberal – more than tripling their vote from “new Canadians” with a sustained campaign of engagement backed by visa reform and a public apology for past misdeeds.
That’s your suggestion to win votes? Apologise for past ‘misdeeds’ while glossing over uncomfortable facts that the people demanding the apology were often no better themselves?
The Conservative party here has begun making similar moves, setting up a new unit to improve links with ethnic-minority communities. They have pushed national issues that play well with particular groups – such as the abolition of mixed hospital wards with Muslim women – and identified other targeted ideas, such as relaxing health and safety rules on headgear for Sikhs.
The Conservatives face a fundamental choice: do they want to chase the votes of pessimists who preferred Britain as it was in the past, or those people living in the real world as it is today? Especially when the danger is driving away their supporters of the future – whether young voters who are much more comfortable with immigration, or ethnic minorities who are an increasing political force.
Will the last Englishman to leave please turn out the lights..?