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Conservatives and ethnic minority voters: how the Immigration Bill might not help

6 May 2014

2:25 PM

6 May 2014

2:25 PM

Policy Exchange’s report on the face of modern Britain this morning is fascinating reading for anyone interested in the way this country has changed and will change in years to come. But it is especially fascinating reading for those wondering how on earth the Conservative party can appeal to ethnic minority voters. This is partly because it makes quite clear that the party is currently not appealing to those voters: indeed, while politicians have a bad habit of lumping ‘ethnic minority’ voters together without good cause, the one thing that does lump these groups together is a reluctance to vote Conservative. The killer facts in the report on political engagement are as follows:

  • All minority groups overwhelmingly identify with and vote for the Labour party, with 68 per cent of minorities voting Labour in 2010, and just 16 per cent and 14 per cent backing the Conservatives and the Lib Dems respectively.
  • Indian voters are most likely to back the Conservatives, at 24 per cent, which is four times the proportion of Black African people likely to vote for the Tories at just 6 per cent.
  • The aversion to the Conservatives among ethnic minority voters is the same regardless of class, natural conservative convictions or whether those voters have recently arrived in this country.

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Why are so many ethnic minority voters switched off the Conservatives? Paul Goodman offers some thoughts here, while Sajid Javid told James earlier this year that ‘the damage that was done to the party’s image in the 1970s, particularly by Enoch Powell, is something we still haven’t been able to shake off’, and called for the Prime Minister to make clear in a speech that Powell ‘doesn’t represent what the Conservative party is today in any way and to set out what the Conservative party actually is when it comes to race relations, multiculturalism and so forth’.

But perhaps the government still isn’t helping itself here. The Immigration Bill is set to return to the Commons shortly after it passes its third reading in the Lords. The government looks set to try to overturn an amendment passed by peers which boots the controversial proposals to render foreign-born terror suspects ‘stateless’ into a committee, which effectively neuters the policy. Conservative MPs who were unsettled by this last-minute proposal when it was snuck into the legislation during the fuss about Dominic Raab’s troublemaking amendment are still trying to work out how they will vote.

But when I spoke to Jacob Rees-Mogg, who expressed concern at the time, about the proposals today, he explained that his concern was that the government should not create two classes of British citizen: the first being those born here who cannot be rendered stateless, and the second one being those who were not born here who could, if the government gets its way, be rendered stateless. For the first group, citizenship would be permanent, for the second, it would come under threat. Rees-Mogg said:

‘We would be creating a second class of citizenship. People who were born here can’t have their citizenship taken away. There is in my view a fundamental equality in British citizenship. You are either a British citizen or you are not. My concern is we could be creating two tiers for British citizenship.’

As Alex argues in his post on the Policy Exchange report, Britain is such an attractive place that people want to come here, and want to settle here, and when they do, they feel more British than the British, to adapt an old saying. The report found that ethnic minorities are three times more likely than the white population to see ‘being British’ as a part of their identity. Those who want to settle here want to be absolutely British citizens, not semi-British citizens who could lose that right. This is the crux of Rees-Mogg’s argument and one that should concern those mulling their party’s long-term appeal to the voters who currently feel the Tories have nothing to say to or for them. It won’t solve the problem by any means, but giving it a bit more thought might prevent the problem from getting worse.

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