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Sunder Katwala: The Conservatives, ethnic minority voters, and the election. Next to no progress.

Sunder Katwala is the Director of British Future.

Not being white remains the number one demographic predictor of not voting Conservative. The party was once again only half as likely to secure the vote of an ethnic minority Briton as of their white British fellow citizens in this General Election. But while that ethnic vote gap was the difference between a hung parliament and a working majority in 2017, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives found another route to a majority in 2019, winning Leave-majority seats from Labour across the North, the Midlands and Wales.

Ipsos-Mori’s How Britain voted in the 2019 election overview estimates that Labour won 64 per cent of the ethnic minority vote, with the Conservatives on 20 per cent (+1) and the Liberal Democrats on 12 per cent (+6).

Labour’s share is nine per cent down on 2017, but level with the party’s performance with ethnic minority voters in 2015. The Conservative performance in 2019 and 2017 reflects a modest decline from securing almost one in four ethnic minority voters (24 per cent) in 2015 in the Ipsos-Mori series.

The Liberal Democrat share doubled in this election – rising from six per cent in 2017 and four per cent in 2015 – though the centre party had won 14 per cent of the ethnic minority vote in 2010 before entering the coalition.

These figures would translate into over two million ethnic minority votes for Labour and perhaps 750,000 for the Conservatives – though the Conservatives would have another three-quarters of a million votes if it were able to level up its performance among minority groups. Caution is advisable about these indicative numbers – there is less data about the ethnic minority vote than any other section of the electorate, with no full-scale academic study since 2010.

There are different patterns among different parts of the electorate: the Conservatives have made some modest progress with British Chinese and Indian voters, while slipping back from a low base since 2010-15 with black British, Pakistani and Bangladeshi voters.

The most diverse Cabinet in British history may have laid the ghosts of the era of Enoch Powell – but the Windrush scandal and the party’s record on anti-Muslim prejudice have created new barriers to expanding the party’s appeal. The Conservatives won 13 per cent of the British Pakistani-origin vote in 2010, but that had fallen back to five per cent by 2017 – and is unlikely to improved this time.

A governing party should certainly not be content with one in twenty voters from a significant minority vote – a share no better than the estimated six per cent of British Jewish voters who voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, mired in an anti-semitism crisis. The clarity and credibility of the party’s review into the handling of anti-Muslim prejudice may offer an opportunity to reset and rebuild.

The Conservatives paid particular attention to winning British Indian-origin voters – but with very patchy results. In Harrow East, where Bob Blackman is the only Conservative to represent a ‘minority-majority’ seat, he outperformed colleagues across London by winning an increased majority on a five per cent swing to the Conservatives. There was also a dramatic 15 per cent swing to the Conservatives in Leicester East – a constituency where six out of ten votes are Indian-origin – after Keith Vaz stood down in ignominy, replaced by Labour NEC member Claudia Webbe. Labour’s majority was reduced from 30,000 to 6,000, but Webbe still won over 50 per cent of the vote.

Analysis suggests these results reflected local dynamics, rather than a national pattern. Joe Twyman of DeltaPoll has shown that there was no correlation between the proportion of Indian-origin voters in a constituency and changes in either Labour or Conservative support.

That applies similarly if the exercise is repeated for Hindu voters. Any dramatic swing to the Conservatives among Indian or Hindu voters should show up in these seats. “If you want to play the politics of voting blocs, then let’s play the politics of voting blocs”, Trupti Patel of the Hindu Forum of Britain told the Times of India – but the claim to command a Hindu voting bloc finds no support in the date.

Nor do outdated gatekeeper claims of this kind become any more legitimate if pursued from the right or the left. Similarly, the Overseas Friends of the BJP generated headlines in both India and Britain, claiming it would campaign to remove anti-Indian MPs from parliament, identifying several Labour MPs with Indian heritage a key targets. This much underestimated the political pluralism of British Indian views. Labour won 18 of the 20 seats with the highest number of Indian voters – and there will be seven Conservatives, seven Labour MPs and one Liberal Democrat MP with Indian heritage among the 65 ethnic minority MPs in the Commons.

The record ethnic diversity of the new Commons reflects the growing realisation that few voters vote on the skin colour of their candidates – so that a large number of black and Asian Conservatives representing areas of low ethnic diversity. So a One Nation party should keep its distance from campaign like “Operation Dharmic Vote” in Leicester, which appeared to explicitly propose voting on the grounds of the faith or ethnicity of candidates. The argument should have been about relative merits of the candidates and parties.

In theory, Brexit was an opportunity for the Conservatives with ethnic minority voters – since the third of British Asians and quarter of black British voters who voted Leave are larger shares of the electorate than have ever voted Conservative. But it also proved a barrier among upwardly mobile graduate and young professionals voters who the party was targeting during the Cameron era. Corbyn-sceptic black and Asian voters were more likely to switch to the Liberal Democrats this time – but the Conservatives might hope to try again once the debate about Brexit moves on.

Overall, the 2019 changes in the ethnic minority vote appear to be broadly in line with those among the electorate overall. That pattern is reflected in actual votes in the 75 most ethnically diverse constituencies, where Labour won 58 per cent of the vote, a fall of seven per cent, with the Conservatives on 27 per cent, matching their 2017 share exactly, and the LibDems up by four per cent to nine per cent, according to Omar Khan’s analysis for a forthcoming Runnymede Trust briefing paper.

Those figures represent all votes cast – by white British and ethnic minority voters – in constituencies where ethnic minority voters make up over a third of the electorate, and a majority of voters in the 50 most diverse seats. Up to half of the ethnic minority population live in these 75 constituencies.

The Conservatives hold five of these seats, having lost several others since 2015, holding just Harrow East and Hendon among the 30 most diverse seats – holding off opposition challenges in Finchley and Golders Green, Cities of London and Westminster, and the Prime Minister’s constituency of Uxbridge.

London voted differently from the rest of England. Labour’s dominance in London is almost entirely attributable to the ethnic minority vote gap. A YouGov poll for the Mile End Institute showed the two major parties neck and neck among white Londoners – a Labour lead of one per cent, compared to a 52 per cent lead among ethnic minority voters, where Labour led the Conservatives by 68 per cent to 16 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats on 11per cent. It is the ethnic minority electorate which means that Labour won 49 seats to the Conservatives 21 and three for the LibDems – and London’s Conservatives will need to work out how to develop a distinct pitch to recover in the capital.

Shaun Bailey will lead the London Conservatives in next May’s Mayoral election, but all 21 London Conservative MPs are white British. Given that the first Asian Conservative MP in London was elected back in 1895, and the second from 1992-97, it is surprising that Mancherjee Bhownagree in the nineteenth century and Nirj Deva in the twentieth century still await a twenty-first century successor. There is growing ethnic diversity on the Conservative benches across Essex and Kent, Hampshire, Surrey and Yorkshire, but not in the capital city during the first two decades of this century.

The contenders for the Labour leadership need to grapple with how to broaden the party’s electoral coalition. Two million ethnic minority voters make up one-fifth of the party’s national vote. The new electoral map confirms Labour as the party of the cities, but the party now needs to construct a bridging cross-class, cross-ethnic coalition across the cities and towns if it is to govern again. That will be heard if the party’s inquest descends into an exchange of culture war caricatures – as some voices stereotype the voters that it has lost as neanderthal xenophobes while others insult those it has keep as out-of-touch metropolitans.

The Conservative Government may face choices between bridging and polarising too. It wants to ensure that this Christmas 2019 realignment was not just for Brexit. Will the government prioritise delivering for its new constituents on bridging issues – the NHS, schools and reviving the high streets – that have a broad cross-ethnic appeal, or will it seek advantage in feeding the culture war polarisations that increasingly fuel US politics in the Trump era? Do ethnic minority working-classes feature in the party’s account of rewarding contribution, or will approaches to meritocracy that can combines class and race barriers – like the pioneering race disparity audit – now get shelved?

The tone as well as the policy on post-Brexit immigration reforms will be one early indicator: a skills-based system that is nationality-blind could have broad appeal if ministers are heard to make the case for contribution and compassion alongside control.

The 2019 election shows that not yet solving the problem of how to appeal to ethnic minority voters is not yet an existential electoral issue. Yet it remains core test of any claim to govern for One Nation that the Government’s agenda should resonate and deliver for citizens of every faith and ethnicity.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Matthew Scott: Protecting young people in Kent from gangs

Matthew Scott is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent.

Francis’ life was transformed by gangs within just 18 months. Many of the hooks that he was drawn in by are familiar in many cases – cash and gifts, then rewards for tasks undertaken and escalation through more serious acts of crime and then violence.

And why did he turn to the gang? Isolation from his peers. A victim of racism. A need for greater belonging. But it led to a combined 16 years of prison sentences.

This is not a recent case – but one which started in London in 2002. Many of the aspects of gang behaviour have been the same for nearly two decades. However, the “county lines” element, where they run drugs operations out of major cities into counties represents a real threat to young people and local communities. Some of the criminality that these gangs have been involved with have been known to now include child sexual exploitation and modern-day slavery cases.

PCCs have their role to play in tackling serious violence. We are elected to make communities safer. We do this by supporting victims, setting priorities, securing funding and building partnerships.

The PCC role is needed now more than ever. Whilst policing looks to work better together regionally and nationally, it is important that the democratic oversight, accountability and transparency we offer is not lost and that victims and local projects do not miss out. We can provide the focus and attention that these issues deserve in its widest sense and across the public sector.

As many as 40 per cent of London county lines have a footprint in Kent. This represents a challenge for local policing, but one which has been well mapped by Kent Police in conjunction with other Forces and agencies.

That’s why I’m working with people like Francis to educate young people about the risks of being involved with a gang. It’s part of a massive investment in prevention, education, enforcement and diversion that has come from my Violence Reduction Challenge – the biggest study of Kent crime data and activity undertaken.

The results of the Challenge have seen the establishment of a Medway Taskforce, which is bringing agencies together to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour. Funding is in place so that schools in every district will have access to gangs awareness talks. Community Safety Partnerships have stepped up and are using nearly half of the funding I give them now for local violence reduction initiatives.

The Police Cadets programme will continue to grow too. I Fund this scheme locally, which engages young people from all backgrounds ages 13-17 and builds positive relationships with the Police, as well as skills, confidence and resilience. Crucially, over 40 per cent of cadets has been identified as needing support to avoid them getting caught up in crime.

These brilliant young people are supporting their local communities with social action projects, volunteering at events and fundraising for good causes. Some of them are now joining the Police as Officers and Staff, thanks to their brilliant volunteer leaders.

Kent Volunteer Police Cadets will be in every part of Kent by the end of this year – there were none when I was elected in 2016.

On top of this I have secured additional money from the Home Office. This year, I’ve won £1.7 million for extra Police enforcement which has seen hundreds of arrests and the expansion of the Police’s gangs team. I’ve also secured £1.1 million to set up a multi-agency violence reduction unit, and £700,000 to work with St Giles Trust and others to give young people like Francis a way out of gangs.

The reality is however that Government funding for these projects needs to be made more sustainable. All of this effort from local and central funding over the next three years is worth £6.8 million, but too much is at risk from short-termism from Home Office pots. This needs to end. We need Boris Johnson to deliver on his brilliant pledge for 20,000 more Police Officers so we can join up prevention and enforcement.

And if the Government wanted to be radical – it could commit to funding for emergency services’ cadet units across the country, in the same way they have encouraged the expansion of armed forces cadets in schools.

I’m not stopping here. I’m looking at ways I can work better with schools and youth groups to empower them and help provide new opportunities. I’m building a register of recommended actions for different agencies that have already been made so they can be held to account by the public and me. I’ll be investing more in crime prevention.

There’s going to be a “Mini Cadet” scheme for primary school pupils launched as a pilot soon, which will see engagement with year 5 and 6 pupils. And I’m bidding to the 10 year Youth Endowment Fund to help expand all of this work – an example of good longer-term thinking from Sajid Javid.

The vast majority of young people are good, hard working and responsible citizens. We need PCCs, as their voice in policing and criminal justice, to speak up for them, and help protect them from the risks of exploitation and criminalisation by heinous groups of gangs.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Local elections: An analysis of results in the south east

The overall results of the local elections were very bad for the Conservatives. But there was great variation between regions and within regions. So we are providing a series that will attempt to get a better grasp of what happened in different parts of the country. We will start with the south east. In terms of accepted bureaucratic definitions, this area covers the following local authorities which held elections.

First of all, these unitary authorities had all their seats up for election:

  • Bracknell Forest
  • Brighton and Hove
  • Medway
  • West Berkshire
  • Windsor and Maidenhead

These unitary councils had a third of their seats up:

  • Milton Keynes
  • Portsmouth
  • Reading
  • Slough
  • Southampton
  • Wokingham

The following district councils had all their seats up for election:

  • Arun
  • Ashford
  • Canterbury
  • Chichester
  • Crawley
  • Dartford
  • Dover
  • East Hampshire
  • Eastbourne
  • Epsom & Ewell
  • Gravesham
  • Guildford
  • Horsham
  • Lewes
  • Mid Sussex
  • New Forest
  • Reigate and Banstead
  • Rother
  • Runnymede
  • Sevenoaks
  • South Oxfordshire
  • Spelthorne
  • Surrey Heath
  • Swale
  • Test Valley
  • Thanet
  • Tonbridge and Malling
  • Vale of White Horse
  • Waverley
  • Windsor and Maidenhead

These districts had a third of their seats contested:

  • Basingstoke & Deane
  • Cherwell
  • Eastleigh
  • Elmbridge
  • Hart
  • Havant
  • Maidstone
  • Mole Valley
  • Tandridge
  • Tunbridge Wells
  • West Oxfordshire
  • Winchester
  • Woking
  • Worthing

How did the different political parties fare?


This is a strong part of the country for the Conservatives. We also started from a particularly impressive position in terms of previous election results.

In Surrey, the Conservatives lost control of Tandridge, Guildford, and Waverley. In other places – notably Surrey Heath – there were heavy losses but control of the council maintained.

Apart from Brexit, the challenge for Conservatives in this area is to meet the twin demands for more homes and protecting the greenbelt. The answer to the conundrum is for new housing to be beautiful and attractive – and to identify pieces of land for development that might be within the “greenbelt” but are decidedly brown and scuzzy. Another factor might be that Conservative district councillors are suffering due to the failings of their profligate county council colleagues. A couple of years ago Surrey County Council contemplated holding a referendum on 15 per cent Council tax increase.

The Guildford results were shocking. The Conservatives lost 25 seats to end up with just nine.

In Kent, the Conservatives lost control of Shepway (which has been renamed Folkestone & Hythe). The Conservatives there are seeking to negotiate a coalition. Swale was another defeat, where independents were the biggest winners. Tunbridge Wells saw seats lost to the Lib Dems and Labour but also to the Tunbridge Wells Alliance. Their pitch was anti-development (a particularly popular message when the new developments happen to include “shiny new Council offices”). But if proposed new developments are ugly, is it any surprise that they are unpopular? Ashford saw the Conservatives keep control of the Council, but lose 13 seats. Sevenoaks provided better results – as already reported here.

Chichester in West Sussex saw the Conservative hold onto control – but lose 13 seats.

Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats gained Mole Valley from no overall control. They picked up seats here and there. But the news from Guildford, while disastrous for the Conservatives was also salutary for the Lib Dems. True, they won 17 council seats. But “Residents for Guildford and Villages” won 15, while the Guildford Greenbelt Group won four. It is not for me to claim any inside knowledge regarding the relations between Residents for Guildford and Villages and the Guildford Greenbelt Group. Perhaps they don’t get on. But I note that, combined, they have more councillors than the Lib Dems. Guildford returned a Lib Dem MP in 2001. The Lib Dems used to run the Council. No longer does a Conservative defeat mean a victory for the Lib Dems.


The main victory for Labour was gaining Gravesham. But how much of this was due to Tory disarray? Several Conservative councillors – including the council leader – became Independent Conservatives. Several of them stood in the elections and a couple won seats. Perhaps the Corbynista message is always unlikely to resonate in this area. Yet the Green Party made progress not only in Brighton and Hove. They also gained three seats in Reigate and Banstead, where Labour didn’t win any. Why does Mid Sussex have three Green Party councillors but no Labour ones? The explanation might be that the Conservatives have failed to show people how extremist the Green Party is.


It is easy to conclude that the Conservatives were the biggest losers. The question of who won is more complicated. Nationally the focus may have been on Brexit. That has certainly been huge. It has prompted hitherto loyal Conservatives to look around for alternatives. But it is also significant that often the alternative has proved to be anti-development independents protesting about the arrogance of planners who impose unpopular schemes on their communities. The Conservatives cannot afford to be anti-development. Sharply increasing the housing supply is an imperative. But nor can the Conservatives, of all people, be indifferent to those seeking to defend the fabric of the communities they love. The answer is for the new homes to blend in, to be sympathetic. They should be an enhancement rather than a blight. It really should not be that hard to go back to building to the standards we managed to achieve in previous centuries.

So certainly there is a message to get on and deliver a proper Brexit. But also for the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission to produce some tangible results. There is a difference though. While councillors can’t do much about Brexit, they can ensure development is popular by requiring it to be attractive, or at least to cease the routine requirement for it to be ugly. There has been a lot of talk about “hard-working” councillors losing seats. How many are sufficiently hard-working to write their own planning policies? How many adopt the lazy (and disastrous) option of leaving it up to the planning officers?


Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com