Cllr Alex Stafford is an Ealing councillor and former adviser to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
A group of hardworking, family-oriented capitalists with a desire to do well and see their country prosper recently gathered to launch a support group for Zac Goldsmith in his bid to become London mayor. What could be more Conservative?
But this group was mainly comprised of Somalis, a group not usually known for supporting the Conservative Party.
Over the past five years the Conservative Party has made huge leaps in winning support from ethnic minority communities, appealing to a far wider base than ever before. This is borne out in the results last May when around a third of all BAME voters in the UK voted for the Conservatives – the highest ever percentage.
In the South, the Conservatives took 40 per cent of the ethnic minority vote, with Labour only three per cent ahead. Amongst certain minority groups the Conservatives are even out-polling Labour, particularly amongst Sikhs and Hindus.
However, more needs to be done. We are, after all, a One Nation Party. and all peoples are part of this one nation, regardless of race, colour or creed.
No background need be alien to our British way of life or values. However real Conservative support still does not yet reach across all of our communities.
Two of the ethnic minority groups in which the Conservatives poll badly are the Black and Muslim communities. Therefore it is great to see any and all initiatives that are being used to reach out to these communities.
One such initiative was on Wednesday evening with the launch of Conservative Friends of Somalia and the ‘Somalis back Zac’ group.
Organised by Julian Gallant, Chairman of Ealing Conservatives, and Matthew Offord, MP for Hendon, along with the Somali Conservatives headed by Mohammed Ali and Abbas Buralle, the aim was to reach out to the Somali community, to listen to their views, and give them a voice within the Conservative Party.
Somalia is an often misunderstood part of the world. Those who have studied or travelled to the beautiful country will find that in parts it is a thriving and forward-looking place. Whilst there are undoubtedly still serious security problems, there are signs that the country is emerging from a hellish few decades.
Many members of the diaspora are returning to start businesses, and for many life is immeasurably better than even only a few years ago. The country comprises both Somaliland in the north and Somalia proper and is making huge strides in shaking off its dated image as a land of pirates and warlords.
The first Somali student in Harvard’s history has just started studying there, and multinational investment from companies such as Coca-Cola has started to return.
Somalis and Somalilanders are a large community in the UK, accounting for up to 150,000 people – or, to put it another way, more than two full parliamentary constituencies.
Since 2010 the Conservative government has addressed several of the Somali community issues head on, including a ban on Khat, and promoting the anti-tribalism movement, steps pushed for by many in the Somali community. The Conservatives listened to the needs of the Somali community and acted.
This is a practical way for the Government to reach out to address specific issues, but there needs to further action to reach the hearts of this community.
Somalis are very much a conservative people, with a small c. There is an emphasis on family, community, self-reliance, charity, hard work, religion and business – all true Conservative values. They should and could be the most enthusiastic supporters of the Conservatives.
It is our duty to engage with this community, and all communities who often feel marginalised from the political system, to show them that their values are also Conservative values.
So the launch of the Conservative Friends of Somalia is a great step in enfranchising a whole community whilst encouraging people to vote for Zac as mayor. We should never be too scared or unwilling to engage any community, as what binds us together is far stronger than what divides us.