POLITICS

Conservative Party Has Failed To Detoxify In Eyes Of Ethnic Minorities, Says MP

16/04/2014 14:56 BST | Updated 16/04/2014 14:59 BST
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British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) prepares to welcome Irish President Michael Higgins at Downing Street in central London on April 9, 2014. Higgins arrived in London on April 8 in the first state visit by a president of the republic since it gained independence from neighbouring Britain. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

The Conservative Party will not be able to completely detoxify its brand in the eyes of ethnic minority voters in time for next year's general election, the party's first black MP has said.

Adam Afriyie, once touted as a future Tory leader, admitted that even if David Cameron "does everything perfectly" in the run up to the 2015 General Election, the party's lack of support among minorities will persist.

But Afriyie said the party would be making a mistake if it changed its policies to suit individual groups in a "political gamble" for more popularity.

He told BBC Radio 4's The World At One: "I don't think it's right that we change policies on the basis of some political gamble that it may somehow make us more popular, I think that would be a mistake. And that our policy doesn't pick out individual groups for special treatment as though they are somehow hapless and helpless."

Asked if the Tory brand had been detoxified enough, Afriyie, who became the first black Conservative MP in 2005, replied: "No. But I think it's capable of being detoxified but it's not something that we're going to solve by the next general election even if the prime minister does everything perfectly, the problem is still going to be there at the next general election, it's just going to be reduced a bit."

In February an Asian Conservative parliamentary candidate warned the party was still viewed as a "racist" by a large number ethnic minority voters. Afzal Amin told The Huffington Post UK that securing the support of non-White Britons was "critical" to ensuring the party won a majority in 2015.

Conservative MP Gavin Barwell also told the BBC today that the party must change the mindsets of minority voters who look at the Tories' track record and think the party is not for them. Failure to do so would pose an existential threat to the party, he added.

Barwell told the programme: "If you look back in the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s, the Conservatives probably gave the impression that it didn't really welcome people coming to live in this country and people responded to that and have seen the Conservative Party as therefore not for them.

"The underlying values that the various minority communities in this countries have are often very strongly conservative. So there's huge potential there if it's something we devote some real effort to. If we don't crack this problem it poses an existential threat to the Conservative Party."