Resham Kotecha is a strategy consultant. She contested Coventry North West in last year’s General Election. She currently serves as the Head of Engagement for Women2Win, and is a Policy Ambassador for the Conservative Policy Forum, reaching out to BAME communities.
Historically, our party has struggled to appeal to black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community groups. This has changed gradually over time, with their support for the Conservatives peaking during the David Cameron era, when 23 per cent of BAME voters voted for us at the 2015 General Election.
Yet despite improvements in both educational attainment and unemployment rates, BAME support for the Conservatives tumbled last summer, with only 19 per cent voting Conservative. This decrease has partly been attributed to concern over immigration (as the right wing of the party takes an increasingly hard stance on the issue); partly due to concerns over the NHS; and partly due to the fact that a lot of the BAME community voted to remain in the EU.
In politics, as with most things, perception matters – in some cases, more than reality. Regardless of what we say, or even what we do as a Party, if BAME communities believe that we don’t represent their best interests, they will continue to vote for an alternative. I believe that with the implementation of policies spanning a range of areas, we can demonstrate our commitment to diversity, social mobility, and a bright future for the BAME community.
The Conservative Party should consider a series of policy recommendations that would help build trust in BAME communities, address racial inequalities, and increase the Conservatives’ appeal.
For years, BAME communities have felt discriminated against by the UK’s immigration system. Despite sharing centuries of history, despite having ancestors who fought and died for the British, despite having family members who continue to serve in our military, and despite often having a shared language, BAME voters’ families and friends find it much harder to come to the UK than citizens of the EU.
This has been a source of deep frustration and has made it difficult for many in the community to feel fully welcome and integrated. Over the course of the next year or so, we will see the Government’s immigration blueprint for the UK after Brexit. It is not yet clear if this will be an Australian-style points system or another alternative, but there is a chance that the UK’s trade deal with the EU will require favourable immigration status for EU citizens. If this is the case, Commonwealth citizens should receive the same favourable status for entry to the UK.
The first official figures for 2018 show that demand for UK university places has risen, with the number of EU applicants increasing by 3.4 per cent and the number of international students increasing by 11 per cent – positive news for universities and local economies. However, some believe that this trend is temporary as EU students apply now so as not to have to pay full international fees, and as non-EU students take advantage of a weaker pound.
As well as adapting our immigration policy to welcome skilled members of the Commonwealth at least on par with EU citizens, we should remove students from immigration numbers and offer them a two-year working visa after they graduate. This would allow us to continue to attract the brightest and the best students from around the world, and to foster relationships with future leaders. This would truly embody ‘Global Britain’.
Since 2010, the employment rates for the BAME community has risen to 64.8 per cent – almost the highest on record. However, the unemployment rate for BAME adults in the UK is almost double the unemployment rate among white British adults — 7.8 per cent compared to 4 per cent – and ethnic minorities are under-represented at senior levels across the public sector despite academic success.
According to a Government report, if BAME talent was fully utilised, the economy could be boosted by up to £24 billion. The report found that reasons for under-employment and lack of success included a lack of the ‘right’ connections, discrimination, a lack of role models and qualification issues. While 14 per cent of the working age population were from a BAME background, they only made up ten per cent of the workforce and held six per cent of top management positions.
Other reports have also found that black university graduates are paid 23.1 per cent less than the average white graduate and BAME workers with degrees are 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed than white workers with a university education.
Mentoring schemes such as SEO (Sponsors for Educational Opportunity), SMF (Social Mobility Foundation) and The Housing Diversity Network have helped thousands of people from BAME and low-income backgrounds to access opportunities at universities and in the workplace.
More mentoring schemes and traineeships in high BAME areas would help young people from BAME communities to have role models and guidance on education, apprenticeship and career applications. Outreach programmes by public sector organisations to schools and universities in high diversity areas would help to inspire students and encourage a broader range of people in public sector positions. And, as recommended by the McGregor-Smith report, we should introduce a race pay report in order to encourage a quicker transition to racial pay equality.
According to House of Commons research, 48 per cent of black households live in social housing, the majority of children living above the fourth floor in blocks of flats are black or Asian, and BAME people are much more likely to live in overcrowded homes and unsafe conditions.
Most ethnic minorities live in cities in the UK – with over half of the people who identified as Black/African/Caribbean/Black British in the 2011 census living in London, where house prices are becoming increasingly expensive and social housing lists are growing longer. One in six BAME families have a home with a category one hazard under the housing, health and safety rating system, and too many homes lack safety features such as fire alarms.
BAME renters still face discrimination in the housing market, with developers and estate agents accused of “white-washing” hoardings and only showing premium properties to white viewers.
Theresa May committed an extra £2 billion towards social housing at the 2017 Conservative Party Conference. A portion of this money should be allocated to the BAME housing sector to provide social housing in the most deprived neighbourhoods in London, the Midlands and the north to enable BAME communities to control more housing assets and boost social mobility.
The Conservative Party should increase penalties for estate agents whose practices are discriminatory against BAME communities. We should also further incentivise saving for lower income households to enable people from poorer diverse communities to aspire to buy homes and, in turn, improve social mobility. Finally, we should provide fire alarms for the poorest communities and carry out fire safety awareness campaigns.
The Lammy Review was commissioned in January 2016 and attempted to disentangle the broader effects of discrimination from the procedures of police, courts, prisons and the probation service. The review found that whilst systemic racism was falling, problems of covert and unconscious or implicit bias were becoming clear.
In 2016, black people made up three per cent of the population in England and Wales and 12 per cent of the prison population. The average sentence for white offenders was 18 months, while Black and Asian offenders received the longest, at 24 and 25 months respectively.
An EHRC review found that race was the most commonly recorded motivation for hate crimes in England and Wales, and that hate crimes had increase in recent years.
There should be moderation of court cases annually to identify and address systemic prejudice and ensure people of all backgrounds are treated equally. The Government should also introduce stronger punishment for hate crimes to address racism and prevent BAME communities from feeling unsafe.
As with housing advertisements, BAME communities are often under-represented in general campaigns, such as health or educational campaigns. People from different ethnic backgrounds are statistically more likely to suffer from certain health issues, and therefore need tailored health campaigns. For example, the South Asian population is twice as likely to get diabetes than the general population, demonstrating the need for diabetes awareness campaigns in areas with large Asian communities.
Research has shown that BAME groups have worse mental health outcomes and treatment than their white counterparts, are more likely to be sectioned, and less likely to receive the appropriate treatment.
Studies have found that many universities lack diversity, with very few students from BAME backgrounds applying or attending. Certain subjects have huge problems with their ethnic diversity. For example, black Caribbean students accounted for just 0.3 per cent of all new medical and dentistry students in the UK – just 25 students nationally.
In public service, BAME MPs make up 7.8 per cent of the new Parliament, despite making up 14 per cent of the population as a whole, roughly six per cent of court judges, and just four per cent of local councillors, with only slight improvements in these areas in the last decade.
BAME communities need to be acknowledged, recognised and inspired.
Universities ought to publish outreach programmes and diversity statistics to demonstrate their efforts more diverse people shown on programmes. Information programmes at schools and GP surgeries on mental health would help to address inequalities and issues. We need better health and awareness campaigns, with diverse people shown in campaigns – particularly around smoking and diabetes due to higher rates in BAME populations. Public sector organisations should publish plans to address BAME inequalities, including outreach programmes and apprenticeships.
However the Government chooses to proceed, we need to demonstrate our commitment to BAME communities through thoughtful policies and careful modelling of the impact of new policies on BAME groups.
By addressing racial inequalities in sectors such as education, health, housing and employment, we can help BAME communities to realise their full potential, remove racial disparities and ensure the UK continues to benefit from its diverse communities.
Inaction is only likely to make integration harder, constrain BAME individuals in their pursuit of success, and further entrench racial inequalities in the UK. The Government can, and should, implement policies to tackle these issues and benefit society as a whole.
This chapter forms part of a series contained in the New Blue Book: Emerging Leaders Edition. It provides a platform for new ideas and policy proposals from rising stars and emerging leaders across the centre-right.