UK

General Election Migrant Voters Could Be Way More Important To Politicians Than They Think

30/01/2015 08:12 GMT | Updated 30/01/2015 08:59 GMT

Politicians ignore migrant voters at their peril, with foreign-born residents having a "decisive" impact in a range of key marginal seats in the forthcoming general election, a new study has found.

The report warned that parties which concentrate on voter concerns about immigration could be alienating an important section of the electorate - potentially for years to come. It said that generations of migrants of had had their view of the Conservative Party shaped by the hostility of Enoch Powell and his supporters while Labour was seen as the party which protected minority interests.

Almost four million foreign-born voters in England and Wales will be eligible to cast a vote on May 7, according to a report by academics at the University of Manchester and the Migrants' Rights Network.

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The rush to please people like this chap could see politicians lose out elsewhere

Their findings suggest that for the first time in a general election, MPs could be returned from two constituencies - East Ham and Brent North - where the majority of the electorates is born overseas.

The co-author of the report Dr Rob Ford, an expert on Ukip and the far right, from the University of Manchester said the figures should be a "wake-up call to politicians of all parties".

"Ukip have made all the running with the immigration debate in the past few years and we have seen all of the parties looking to offer a harder line on migrant," he said.

"But there is another side to this debate - millions of hardworking British citizens who came to this country from abroad who find this kind of rhetoric profoundly alienating.

"These figures should serve as a wake-up call to politicians of all parties - Britain is more than ever an outward facing, globalised country with a huge, hardworking, mobile electorate born overseas, however the political debate fails to reflect that contemporary reality in any meaningful way.”

"Foreign-born residents of the UK could have an immediate impact in the May 2015 general election," the report said. "Not only could migrant voters comprise a significant number of overall potential voters on May 7, but they could turn out in substantial numbers within some key marginal constituencies."

The report said that migrants could constitute more than a third of the voters in around 25 seats in England and Wales and at least a quarter of the electorate in more than 50 seats, the report said. In at least 70 seats the migrant share of the electorate will be double the majority of the current MP, it added.

Most migrant voters come from established Commonwealth communities - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and South Africa - as well as the Irish Republic.

In contrast, the report said, European Union nationals living in the UK will be "heavily under-represented" as a large majority have not acquired British citizenship.

"Politicians who are keenly attuned to the concerns of voters worried by migration have often been rather less sensitive to the concerns of the migrants whose rights and security are threatened by reforms promising restrictions to freedom of movement, family reunion and access to welfare assistance," the report said.

"The risk for politicians today is that focusing primarily on the anxieties of those native voters with very negative views about immigration could alienate this new migrant electorate.

"Persistent hostility or indifference from sections of the political class could encourage the second wave of migrants to form a settled image of such parties as inherently opposed to their interests, just as the first did."

Ruth Grove-White, the report’s co-author from the Migrants Rights Network said it was a section of voters which was "largely overlooked".

"The risk facing the parties today is that their current fierce rhetoric over immigration will have a lasting impact on the political orientations of the new migrant electorate," she said. "While we know that migrant voters do not form a voting bloc, voting patterns suggest that migrant voters are likely to prefer parties that they view as positive about race equality and immigration issues.”