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How can the Conservatives win over more ethnic minority voters?

By Harry Phibbs
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The Times splashes (£) this morning with a report that the Conservatives are proposing that companies should publish data on the number of their workforce from different ethnic groups and the numberrs recruited over the past year. This would be controversial as most Conservatives reject any suggestion of positive discrimination - our instinct is for a "colour blind" approach based on meritocracy.

However Alok Sharma, the Tory vice-chairman and MP for Reading West, who has come up with the proposal, says it would be voluntary. He says that it would not conflict with the principle of merit as it would not be a quota system.

Mr Sharma added:

“I’m not talking about quotas, it’s about information. All the companies I’ve talked to are incredibly keen on having diversity in the workforce, making sure that they are representative of communities so long as people get the job on merit. This could be an interesting way of shining a light and saying to people, maybe you should be doing a bit more mentoring with these communities. Something like that is a statement of values.”

Elsewhere in The Times is a piece by Rachel Sylvestor which notes that 37 per cent of white voters supported the Tories in 2010 but only 16 per cent of non-white voters did. Wealth didn't make a difference to the non-white voters:

While wealthier white voters are more likely to support the Conservatives (44 per cent of ABC1s voted Tory at the last election, compared with 32 per cent of C2DEs) there is no similar gap between different socio-economic groups for non-white voters (15 per cent compared with 13 per cent).

Nor did policy and ideology:

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.

Mitt Romney had similar problems in the US Presidential election. Large number of black Americans with Conservative views, voting Democrat.

Interviewed in The Spectator (£) this week the Treasury Minister Sajid Javid is asked about it:

To explain, Javid again refers to his father, who told him that when he went out, friends would congratulate him on his son becoming an MP, but would all assume that he was Labour. ‘I said to him, “Dad, why do you think that’s the case?” He said, “I’ll sum it up for you in two words — Enoch Powell.” ’ In Javid’s opinion, ‘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.’ Dealing with this will ‘require the Prime Minister, someone of that standing’, to make a big speech saying Enoch 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’. It is testament to Javid’s closeness to the party leadership that it is thinking about having Cameron do precisely that.

I don't believe that shutting up about immigration would help. When canvassing I find ethnic minority voters are just as likely to be concerned about this as white voters. But we should be careful that language is not misinterpreted - this includes avoiding attacking "multiculturalism." (See Lord Ashcroft's polling on this.)

In terms of policy the free schools programme should be accelerated. There is particularly strong demand for them among the Sikh community. The priority stressed by the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to ensure everyone can speak English will also help in preventing people being stuck in ghettos.


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