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Why the Tory leadership thinks it can push gay marriage and boost its support among ethnic minority voters

20 January 2013

4:39 PM

20 January 2013

4:39 PM

If the Tory party doesn’t improve its performance with ethnic minority voters, it’ll be nigh-on-impossible for it to win a general election in a generation’s time. The single biggest driver of not voting Tory is not being white and more than one in four under fives in Britain are non-white.

This is the background to the Tories’ big push to increase their support among ethnic minority voters and David Cameron’s decision to devote Wednesday’s political Cabinet to the subject. Now, I’m always wary of parties talking about appealing to specific groups rather than individuals. But there is something complex going on here in that even those ethnic minority voters who tend to place themselves in the same place on the political spectrum as the Tories tend not to vote for the party.

As I say in the Mail on Sunday, Cameron is resolved on a big outreach effort. He’s going to hold Cameron Direct events in Hindu temples, Sikh Gudwaras, Mosques and evangelical churches this year and has asked all the Tory members of the Cabinet to do the same.

There’s a lot of chatter in Tory circles that if Cameron is really serious about winning over these ethnic minority voters, then he shouldn’t be pushing gay marriage. The argument goes that they tend to be more socially conservative and thus unimpressed by Cameron’s emphasis on the issue.

But I understand that Tory strategists have seen a poll with a 28,000 sample which shows that ethnic minority attitudes to gay marriage are more complex than this. In the polls, a majority of three groups oppose gay marriage: over 65s, Muslims and blacks. However, Hindus, Sikhs and those of mixed race are more in favour of gay marriage than the population as a whole.

This has reassured them as the Tories believe that Hindus and Sikhs are the two ethnic minority groups with whom they have most chance of making progress before 2015. Indeed, British Indians—on average—place themselves in the same place on the political spectrum as they do the Tories. I understand that appealing to them will be a major feature of Cameron’s coming trip to India, his second since becoming Prime Minister.

At the next election, the Tories intend to try and use the new Conservative Friends of India group to help it campaign in various target seats which have a large Indian population such as Harrow West. The success, or otherwise, of this strategy will be key to the party’s electoral performance.

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