All three main parties must understand and acknowledge the importance of the ethnic vote in the 2015 general election. Traditionally, Labour has been the party that has secured the Black and Minority Ethnic vote, with 2/3 of the BME population voting Labour in the last general election. However, with party membership decreasing and parties such as RESPECT taking the BME vote from Labour, what are the parties actually doing to secure the support of minorities?
Well, let’s start off with Labour. Ed Miliband unashamedly discusses his immigrant background and the importance of diversity within modern Britain. The party, when in government, put in place legislation that significantly benefited the BME community, such as EMA, the Future Jobs Funds etc. As well as this, Labour are the most socially representative in Parliament, and the recent peerage of Doreen Lawrence exhibits the pro-multiculturalism attitude of the party.
However, I sometimes worry that the Labour party take advantage of the BME vote and do not work actively within the community. The party seems to be addressing old issues within the BME community rather than recognising that there is a new generation of ethnic minorities who need representing. For example, high unemployment rates within the BME community continue to rise, but who is addressing this? Research by the Bow group found that black students were not given the same opportunities as white students, and 60% of BME graduates did not expect to be working in six months. It is issues such as these that the Labour Party needs to address.
Higher hurdles must be tackled by the Tories however, making their job much more difficult than Labour’s. One being trust; the BME community feels a certain way towards the Conservative Party. The image of the party has always leaned to anti-diversity and anti-opportunity. This has put many BME voters off the party as they are viewed as snobby and out of touch with the community. The BME community are conservative in their lifestyle in the sense that emphasis is placed on family, religion, education etc. However, this does not equate to ethnic minorities voting for the Conservatives. Another issue is that certain factions of the party are sometimes incompatible with the concept of diversity and openness. With much of the party having UKIP tendencies, many ethnic minorities feel that the party is not for them. Cameron understands the gravity of the BME vote, but he does not seem to be making an effort to reach out to voters.
Even the Liberal Democrats understand the gravity of the BME vote. Though they have no MP’s who are of BME heritage (which is shocking) they are attempting to reach out to the BME community. They have created a leadership programme which has candidates of BME heritage. However, though this is progress, the party in itself has an extremely long way to go.
It is all well and good asking the parties to appeal more to the BME vote, but we need to see action. The BME community need to demand more of the parties and they need to deliver. Many issues are not spoken about and this is what is really affecting the ethnic minority community. With high unemployment rates, high crime rates and drug abuse being a problem in the BME community, much more needs to be done.
By Mems Ayinla