By Paul Goodman
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"I would love our Prime Minister, who has done so much to transform perceptions of the Conservative Party for the better, to give a speech doing to Norman Tebbit’s cricket test what he did to the Margaret Thatcher’s “There’s no such thing as society” quote. Yes, it is important to have loyalty to this country but your roots are important too."
I have put it a different way: it's time to end the Tory war on multiculturalism:
"First, because the word…means so many things to so many people, as now to be almost meaningless. Second, because it isn't helping the Party win votes…Third, because the M-word has become a dissipation of energies better focused "like a laser beam" on the struggle against extremism and the ideology that underpins it."
"Migrants and their descendants are on the whole less likely to vote Conservative than the rest of the population. In 2010, the Tories…won only 16 per cent of the ethnic minority vote. The proportion of such voters was under one in ten in 2001. By 2050 ethnic minorities will make up a fifth of the population."
Bagehot has taken up the theme in the Economist (£), reporting Barwell's comments. He also notes that:
- Most seats with a large proportion of ethnic minority voters don't return Conservatives. That although there are now 11 black or Asian Tories in the House of Commons "many occupy safe, largely white seats. Nationally, perhaps half a dozen Conservative MPs represent seats with sizeable ethnic-minority votes. Mr Uppal stands out as a non-white Tory MP with lots of non-white voters".
- Labour enjoys a crushing dominance among ethnic-minority voters. "Even among British blacks and Asians whose affluence, or robust views on crime and public spending, might make them natural Conservative voters. Or even their views on immigration: in Tory-sponsored focus groups, researchers find minority voters frankly ferocious towards asylum seekers on benefits or eastern Europeans “stealing British jobs”."
- Downing Street is alarmed at the electoral implications. "Aides have lists of urban or semi-urban seats that they think must be won to secure a majority. In many, the ethnic-minority vote is increasing. Yet “the number-one driver of not voting Conservative is not being white,” says a senior figure. It is an “existential” problem…Mr Cameron’s party did best among voters with Indian roots, of whom one in four voted Tory."
- Conservative strategists are looking to the Republicans for solutions. "They have studied…their wooing of devout, family-minded, hard-working Hispanics (who are Republicans but “just don’t know it”, in the words of Ronald Reagan). In the 2004 presidential election some 40% of Hispanics voted for George Bush junior, a man with rather liberal views on immigration."
So what politically correct solution to the problem are those dastardly modernisers pushing? The shocking suggestion is…that we should simply work harder. Bagehot reports: "There is a striking consensus that the party could do better simply by appearing interested."
I made the same point in the David Davis-edited book The Future of Conservatism published just before the last Conservative conference. Ethnic minority voters are one of our big three strategic weaknesses, and they're growing faster than the other two – Scots and public sector workers.
Appearing – no, being – interested isn't much to ask for. It shouldn't be beyond our capabilities. Until or unless we are Labour will carry on eating us alive.