Albie Amankona is Head of Operations and Growth at his family’s business, CreateBeautiful Ltd, and works freelance at Thread, a leading high-growth fashion-tech and machine learning startup based in London.
Windrush has been one of the biggest political scandals in recent memory. Scores of British citizens have been treated like criminals. Law abiding, tax paying citizens inadvertently became collateral damage from the implementation of the government’s “hostile environment” policy. Many BAME voters might see this as a reason to turn their backs on the Conservatives, but the scandal, and appointment of Sajid Javid as Home Secretary, has had the opposite impact on me. It highlights why now, more than ever, more BAME Britons need to vote blue.
Every government in British history has implemented policies that have disproportionately adversely affected BAME people. This includes: colonialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, joining the European Economic Community in the 1970s, and the hostile environment implemented in the 2010s. Policies like these have consistently harmed the rights of BAME people, globally. We need more than the reductive arguments of “left” vs “right” — a unifying purpose that we can all rally behind. That must be: the consistent and continued progression of BAME rights in this country, to ensure that scandals like Windrush remain confined to history.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that 64 per cent of the white electorate, compared with 53 per cent of the BAME electorate, voted at the 2017 snap election. When we consider that 87.7 per cent of UK residents are white, the reason why every government in British history has been able to disregard us becomes obvious. There aren’t many of us and too few vote, so is it surprising that successive governments haven’t made an effort for BAME Britons? Of the BAME Britons who do vote, 73 per cent vote Labour, 6 per cent Lib Dem, and 19 per cent vote Conservative (according to Ipsos Mori in 2017). Thus, BAME Britons shouldn’t be surprised that Labour have had a marginally less bad BAME offering than the Conservatives over the past few decades. We don’t vote, and when we do, we vote Labour and get rewarded by having Diane Abbott appointed as Shadow Home Secretary.
We deserve more than slightly less bad when Labour is in power. As BAME voters we need to engage with politicians of all creeds. It is possible for minority politics to become mainstream — look at the passing of the same-sex marriage bill in 2013, or the consultation of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act that will lead to the streamlining of legal gender change. This is despite the fact that ONS figures reveal that just 6.6 per cent of the UK population identifies as sexually diverse, and the Gender Identity Research & Education Society prediction that just 1 per cent of the population is gender non-conforming. Conservative support has made LGBTQ+ rights mainstream; this proves the same can be true for BAME rights. If we want what the LGBTQ+ community has, we are going to have engage with politics as they did, and that means supporting, voting for, and even joining the Conservative Party.
Looking back at the Conservative Party and LGBTQ+ rights, few would have predicted our current situation. In 1988, Thatcher’s government introduced Section 28, essentially erasing the LGBTQ+ community from public life. Decades later, in 2011, Ruth Davidson became the first openly gay leader of a major political party — the Scottish Conservatives. In 2013, the same-sex marriage bill was passed under Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron. In 2015, polling by LGBTQ+ media outlet, Pink News, put Labour and Conservative at 30 and 27 per cent of the LGBTQ+ vote, respectively. And in 2017, the consultation on the 2004 Gender Recognition Act began. As the LGBTQ+ community became supportive of the Conservative Party, the party became supportive of the community. When minorities fully engage with politics, we see political change on all sides; this is the only way we can achieve the consistent and continued progression of BAME rights in this country.
People wonder why the gay son of a Northern English mother and Ghanian father supports the Conservative Party; similar people will have wondered why the Islamic son of a Pakistani bus driver did, too. I see that the only way things will always get better is if at least as many of us are Tory as we are Labour. The Conservatives aren’t perfect but if, like our immigrant ancestors, BAME voters have the individual agency and aspiration to seek to change their circumstances; if they believe that hard work, employment, and enterprise leads to prosperity; and if they reject the notion of narrow identity politics that keeps people confined to stereotype and expectation — then any BAME voter can confidently support the Conservative Party.
BAME Britons must begin seeing our ruling party as a tameable beast, and the appointment of Javid proves that engagement yields results. The LGBTQ+ community has shown us that the progression of minority rights in this country does not have to be party political. If it is consistent and continued BAME progression that we want, one party cannot have a monopoly on BAME voters. Competition breeds excellence, and if we want excellent BAME policies, we need politicians competing for our votes. That means more of us will have to vote Conservative and stand as Conservatives. That way we can be sure, that whatever the colour of the government, others like us will always be there to fight our corner.