A feature of Lord Ashcroft’s research study, Degrees of Separation, was that higher incomes don’t turn people into Conservative voters – less so, at any rate, if they are members of ethnic minorities. He wrote that for them “the Conservatives’ brand problem exists in a more intense form. For many of our participants – by no means all, it is important to state – there was an extra barrier between them and the Conservative Party directly related to their ethnic background.” The report cited as part of it Enoch Powell’s 1968 speech, Smethwick’s 1964 election leaflets (“not distributed by the Conservatives, but remembered as such”) and David Cameron’s Munich speech.
However, a new study from Demos reported in today’s Daily Telegraph, under the headline “middle-class ethnic minority voters could help Tories win election”, finds that ” ‘upwardly mobile’ ethnic minority voters are more likely to turn Tory. The report states: ‘There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that any emerging volatility amongst the UK’s 5million ethnic electors may turn out to be at least as significant as the 3 million who tell pollsters they might support Ukip in the forthcoming election.’ ”
At first glance, this suggests that those obstacles to voting Tory among ethic minority voters are breaking down as incomes rise – but that is to presume that what counts most electorally, as they move into better-off areas, is their incomes rather their neighbours (who become more likely to be white). Demos doesn’t seem to do so, referring instead to the “cluster effect”. It also suggests that ethnic minority support for Labour (68 per cent in 2010, according to the Runnymede Trust) may break down among second and third generation immigrants.
The report also echoes Lord Ashcroft’s finding that Indian-origin voters are relatively likely to vote Conservative: “The analysis suggests that large numbers of Indian voters are particularly likely to stop voting Labour as they move to predominantly white areas…Pakistani, Muslim and Black African voters remain loyal wherever they live. But Indian-heritage Hindu voters desert Mr Miliband, with the Labour vote plummeting from around 39 per in cluster areas to 13 per in mixed areas – a drop of two thirds,” the Demos authors write.
These turn out to be Richard Webber and our old friend Trevor “Multiculturalism has failed” Philips, the former Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Certainly, better-off areas with larger concentrations of white voters are more likely to have a Conservative presence, whether that comes in the form of more activists or local councillors or both. Their presence is the most reliable means of persuading voters of all kinds to support the Party. Those who live in inner urban seats won’t back a party with no local face: without it, any political party might as well be on another planet. This is a long-term challenge for CCHQ as membership continues to decline.