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“The number-one driver of not voting Conservative is not being white”

By Tim Montgomerie
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The title of this blog was an observation reportedly made by Andrew Cooper - the PM's polling and strategy adviser - at a recent meeting of Tory MPs.

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A major survey by the TNS-BMRB polling organisation for the Runnymede Trust (PDF) found that just 16% of Britain's ethnic minority population were Conservative voters at the last election. That compared to 37% among white Britons. Members of the Indian community were most likely to back the Tories (at about 25%). The least likely were black Britons. Under one-in-ten Caribbean and African Britons are Tory voters. The Lib Dems didn't do much better than the Conservatives and worse among Indian voters. Labour is the dominant political party among Black and Minority Ethnic communities - winning 68% of all of its votes.

The table in the Runnymede survey that most caught my eye was the one below. In terms of potent issues there aren't huge differences between the concerns of white and non-white Britons on most issues. That is not, however, true when it comes to the issue of jobs:

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In both of the surveys used by Runnymede, minority communities were at least three times as likely to be worried about jobs.

Runnymede points about that the Conservatives made little progress among minority communities at the last election despite a record number of ethnic minority candidates in winnable seats and despite Conservatives like Sayeeda Warsi playing a prominent role in the Tory campaign. The party is currently talking to a wide range of experts to try and put together a strategy that will appeal to voters who now make up 8% of the total UK population. That work is being coordinated by Andrew Cooper, Stephen Gilbert (the PM's Political Secretary) and among others Sam Gyimah MP.


The emphasis that the party is giving to the issue surfaced in the newspapers today. The Mail reported that "Tory Cabinet ministers [have been] ordered to attend Eid and Diwali festivals to appeal to Asian voters". The Independent carried an almost identical story - "Ministers may be told to focus on minorities in key seats" and repeated the figure of thirty urban seats where the BME vote might be crucial to determining whether the Conservative Party wins its overall target of gaining fifty extra seats. Sayeeda Warsi told the newspaper:

"We need to learn from centre-right parties in other countries how to attract votes who share our values but haven't traditionally voted Conservative. And we need to go out and persuade those voters that a Conservative government is the best way of fulfilling their aspirations for themselves, their families and their communities."

Stephen Gilbert is travelling to meet Jason Kenney, the Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism in Stephen Harper's Canadian government, to learn from what Canadian Conservatives have done. I first met Jason in 2007 when former ConHome colleague Sam Coates and I visited Canada. I follow Jason on Twitter and read constantly of the tireless outreach work of this white man (something I deliberately emphasise to those who think it's essential to have BME people in the lead in this vital work). Much of what Mr Kenney has done is what Christina Dykes, former BME adviser to Britain's Conservatives, has always recommended - show courtesy and respect and put in a lot of hard work. It's also vital to understand that minority communities are as different from one another in key respects as they are different from the white population but also understand that they will ultimately be attracted to Conservatism for the same reasons as everyone else (our policies on tax, crime, family etc) as long as we've gone and proved we value them.

> Read Paul Goodman's recent blog on this topic: It's time to end the Tory war on multiculturalism


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