THE BLOG

Why the Ethnic Minority Vote Is Central to This Week's General Election

06/05/2015 14:17 BST | Updated 04/05/2016 10:12 BST

The relationship between the Conservative party and Britain's ethnic minority community has always been strained. Following the coalition between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, David Cameron promised to modernise the party and build better relations with ethnic minority communities. But 4 years on there is still a strong disconnect, with many ethnic minorities still feeling disengaged with the party. With 14 per cent of the UK population coming from ethnic minorities David Cameron will need to make it a priority to connect with ethnic minority voters if he wants to win this week's general election.

Coming from a traditional afro-Caribbean background my family and I have always voted for Labour, a party which has always enjoyed the comfort of the ethnic minority vote. But despite this long tradition during the last election I began to feel disillusioned with the Labour Party and decided to vote for the Lib Dems. Retrospectively looking back I can now see that my voting Lib Dems represented a wider cultural shift that was turning many once loyal ethnic minority voters away from the Labour Party. In 1997, 77 per cent of Black Caribbean voters identified with Labour but in 2014 that dropped to 65 per cent. The biggest drop however has been with Indian voters. According to recent statistics the percentage of Pakistani voters identifying with Labour has fallen from 79 to 54 per cent.

Having taken the country out of recession and supported the creation of faith school's the Tories have managed to woo once loyal Pakistani Labour supporters to their party. However the sticky issues of the Conservatives stance on immigration still remains. 47 per cent of Indian voters believe immigration has enriched British culture, compared to 28 per cent of whites. If the Conservative party do not play their cards right on this sensitive issue they could risk alienating Indian voters, lowering their chances of winning the general election.

In the last election the Conservative Party won with just 16% of the BME vote compared with Labour's 68%. Many speculated that they could have won a majority if black and Asian voters had supported them on the same scale as white English voters.

The results of the last election highlighted just how important the 'ethnic' vote is and the power they now hold in determining who will be the next prime minister.

This power however has not been exercised to its fullest extent. In 2010 it was reported that ethnic minorities were three times less likely to be registered to vote than white Britons. But having been affected the most by the sharp cuts made by the Tories BME communities might feel that this year it is especially important to cast their vote.

Under the Conservative government ethnic minority groups suffered a rise in the unemployment rate from 13% to 14% over the previous year. This has been attributed to jobs in the NHS, administration and social work where ethnic minorities are over represented being cut. And the results have been devastating. Many claimed that the 2011 riots was a result of youth clubs and services that keep young vulnerable youth off the streets being cut.

The inadequate attempt of the Government's to address these growing issues demonstrates the complacency with which they treat Britain's ethnic minorities. Although the same could be said for the Labour party who do have a more impressive track record on supporting equal opportunities and anti-racial discrimination legislation but in recent years have took their ethnic minority supporters for granted leaving many feeling invisible and ignored.

With the Conservative and Labour party neck and neck in the polls no one can afford to be complacent, times have changed and people want solutions to the issues that are directly affecting their communities.