A quick Google shows that Andrew Cooper has presented this ‘new’ polling on the Tories’ problems with ethnic minority voters a few times already. We all know the figures, as expertly laid out by Rachel Sylvester in today’s Times – the most striking of which is that while 37 per cent of voters overall supported the Tories in 2010, only 16 per cent of non-white voters did. The single biggest factor in not voting Conservative is the colour of your skin.
Setting aside just how depressing that fact is, it’s interesting how some of the other findings mirror the original rationale for modernising. This is the key paragraph:
Nor can the “ethnicity effect” be explained by hostility to particular policies. An academic analysis of voting at the last election carried out by Essex University asked people to place themselves and the parties on a spectrum for two issues — tax and spend, and liberal or authoritarian. In both cases black and Asian voters placed themselves closer to the Tory position than to Labour. “This is nothing to do with class or ideology,” one strategist says. “It’s to do with history and brand, perceived motives and values.”
That question of tone and brand and values is the essential one. Ages ago, I had a conversation on Twitter with @idlehands12, prompted by something Phillip Blond had said about the US Presidential election:
Ideas like asking companies to look at and publish the ethnic as well as the gender balance of their staff, MPs and activists “being quietly told that they need to ‘show their faces’ regularly at ethnic minority and religious festivals over the next three years, rather than simply turning up at election time”, and explaining better how we share values are all useful contributions (if in some cases sounding a bit mechanical and slightly begrudging). But perhaps the most important thing is, as I suggested in the above conversation, that we must stop approaching this as an issue of otherness.
If we are serious about our One Nation credentials and about our national identity as Britons, we must stop perpetuating the impression that we see voters who are of a ‘different’ colour or religion to ‘us’ as something separate (this is expressed in an ugly way but I hope what I mean is clear). We are all citizens of the UK. We vote for the things that matter to us. Even when our values chime, if we feel that the person asking for our vote doesn’t want to understand or like us, whoever we are, then it’s obviously less likely that we will vote for them. This isn’t just about winning elections. It is about what kind of country we all want to live in.