Britain general election: Is the minority vote, once Labour's, up for grabs?
In Britain's general election scheduled for May 6, minority voters are expected to have a greater impact than ever before. Conservatives are wooing black and Asian voters – once solidy pro-Labour – with policies they say are family- and business-friendly.
Fighting for every vote in a British general election campaign that threatens to shatter the age-old hold on power held by the Labour and the Conservative parties, British politicians are now facing another mold-breaking moment – the potentially decisive role of ethnic minority voters.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Amid a sea change in the makeup of Britain’s electorate, voter registration among British ethnic minorities is approaching the levels of white voters, while turnout in Asian communities, most immigrants from India and Pakistan, is expected to be well in excess of the national average.
It’s a factor that has already seen the Conservative Party launch a major bid – with parallels to the US Republican Party’s attempts under George W. Bush to woo Latinos – to win over traditionally Labour-supporting ethnic-minority voters. The Conservatives are emphasizing a commitment to family values that they hope will appeal to minority voters and are touting changes that will make it easier for minorities to start their own businesses.
“In terms of the traditional turnout [among nonwhites], it has been very high for Labour, but I think it is being chipped away at,” says Ashok Viswanathan of Operation Black Vote (OBV), a nonpartisan political campaign working to address the underrepresentation in politics of ethnic minorities. “This was always going to be a game-changing election but in many ways this is now a three-horse race and the black vote could quite conceivably go to the Tories or the Liberal Democrats.”
All three major party leaders have been invited on Wednesday to "Black Britain Decides," a London rally organized by OBV.
The Labour Party on Monday sought to underline its credentials as the political standard bearer for Britain's ethnic minorities when it launched a specific Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) manifesto, highlighting the government’s efforts to tackle racial prejudice and improve social mobility.
The British Obama?
Sitting alongside Chuka Umunna, a young black candidate frequently saddled in the press with the sobriquet of "Britain’s Obama," the presence of both Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman underlined the importance the ruling party attaches to ethnic minority votes.