At the last election, the Conservatives won six per cent of the African-origin vote, nine per cent of the Caribbean-origin vote, 13 per cent of the Pakistan-origin vote, 18 per cent of the Indian-origin vote…and 24 per cent of the Indian-origin vote.
David and Sam Cameron’s visit yesterday to the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara in Gravesend was a recognition of a particular concentration by Downing Street and CCHQ since the last election on ethnic and religious minority voters that the Party is more likely to win.
Among the findings in Lord Ashcroft’s Degrees of Separation was that Indian-origin Sikhs and Hindus who work in the private sector are “the least likely of any group in our poll, including white voters, to say they would never vote Conservative”.
This highlights the importance of income and occupation in determining how people vote: there is only so much that ethnicity and religion tells you. Over the years, the Party has made less of its opportunities with Indian-origin voters than it should have done – among the Ugandan Asians, for example.
But the Conservative leadership has been working hard since 2010 to do better. The Prime Minister’s visit to a big temple in what is a not especially safe Conservative seat is a sign of it: such Cabinet Ministers as Theresa May, Eric Pickles and Chris Grayling are also regularly out and about.
Cameron has unveiled a statue of Gandhi in Parliament Square, payed his respects at Amritsar (while stopping short of an apology)…and then there are all those trade visits to India, to which Priti Patel, the Treasury Minister and a former columnist on this site, is Prime Minister’s trade envoy.
CCCQ will have read Lord Ashcroft’s research and Andrew (now Lord) Cooper commissioned Downing Street’s own while Director of Strategy. This was a step up on Team Cameron’s opposition days, when no proper research was done at all.
On those days, the need to win Muslim votes was over-stressed (and attempts to win it were bungled) while the Sayeeda Warsi experiment ended badly for all concerned. There is a finer balance now – but whether the Party’s push among Indian-origin voters has worked remains to be seen.