Sunday, 10 August 2014

Conservatives and ethnic minorities

I have intended to start blogging about being a Black British Conservative for awhile. However, recent events have given me the push I needed to actually do so. I intend to use my blog to explain why I am a Conservative, rather than tackle current events, but I will use this post to discuss Lady Warsi´s decision to leave the Government. Reason being, her resignation has got commentators asking if the Conservatives can win over ethnic minorities. Given the theme of this blog it seems a sensible place to start.

I respect Lady Warsi´s decision to leave the Government, but I am unsure how much of an impact it will have on how ethnic minority Britons vote. One in four voters cannot recognise Ed Miliband from a photograph[i]. If so many still cannot recognise Miliband, who has been campaigning to succeed David Cameron since 2010, I wonder how many people know Lady Warsi or that she was a foreign office minister until last week? In Populus´ polling of the most recognised news stories for 6 and 7 August 2014 Lady Warsi´s resignation went unrecognised.[ii] It is possible the marginal impact on particular communities may have been greater than Populus recorded. However, I wonder whether this is yet another case of Westminster being self-referential? I have yet to speak to anyone who mentioned the resignation, and I am unsure how much of a wave it is making outside of the Westminster village.

The reporting of Lady Warsi´s resignation also provides an interesting window into the way the Westminster village sees ethnic minorities. Some media outlets covered her resignation in a way that almost implied tokenism could help the Conservatives: as if Conservatives could win over ethnic minority voters simply by having more dark faces to sell our message. Were I inclined to be mean spirited, I would suggest it is, at best, naive to think ethnic minority voters care more about a politician´s colour than what they stand for.

The Conservatives need to build more trust among ethnic minority voters and, in my opinion, who is and is not a minister will not effect that too much. In fact, I feel analysis that suggests otherwise is a distraction from the serious business of looking at what the Conservatives need to do to win over ethnic minority voters.

The key, which I think the Conservatives understand, is that we need to engage with ethnic minorities more. All ethnic minorities are different, and the views of one group may differ radically from the views of another, but that is something I think is common to all. As Conservatives we believe in creating a better, brighter and more secure future for everyone in Britain. However, to convince ethnic minorities of that, we need to be more present and active in their communities.

Conservatives need greater visibility and presence in areas where ethnic minority populations are concentrated. It is a sad fact that in many areas of our country people will never see a person with a blue rosette on. They never get the chance to talk to a Conservative, or have an opportunity to ask how we are going to deliver on our promises, and hear about our long-term economic plan to secure a brighter future for them and their families.

To some extent this is a question about the health of the voluntary Conservative party, to some extent this is a question of practical constraints like resources. However, I feel, it has very little to do with who holds what position in Whitehall. Like all citizens of our country, ethnic minority voters want to know people care about what they think and what they have to say. The easiest way for Conservatives to demonstrate that is to go and talk to them, regularly. To show we are here, we want to take part in their communities, and we are not going to disappear after the election, because we genuinely care about building a better and more secure future for them.

[i] YouGov, Not so famous faces, 10 May 2013, link
[ii] Populus, Something for the Weekend, 8 August 2014, link