The Tories are still only for “rich, white people, not the poor” according to black and ethnic minority voters in a special HuffPost UK/Edelman focus group.
People from across London agreed that Conservatives did not represent them or their concerns, and they were fearful of what will happen to the NHS if Theresa May returns to power.
However, the Tories won praise for putting forward a “united front”, compared to Labour’s “in-house bickering”.
The focus group – carried out in conjunction with the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London – was part of HuffPost UK’s Beyond Brexit series and saw a range of issues being discussed.
Surprisingly, Donald Trump was commended for being clear with his policies, whereas London Mayor Sadiq Khan was seemingly less popular than the US president - branded as a “puppet” by one young voter.
Despite the group’s misgivings about Labour, six of the eight said they would be backing Jeremy Corbyn’s party on June 8, with two undecided about how to vote.
Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London, said: “What really stands out - and it goes all the way back to the Tories in the sixties and seventies being tough on immigration but lukewarm on anti-discrimination - is that the Conservatives, even when Labour’s seen as a shambles, still can’t pass the sniff test with so many ethnic minority voters.”
Views on…the Conservatives
The Tories were praised for their togetherness and unity – which was contrasted to the “chaos” of the Labour Party.
However, none of the group believed the Tories spoke for them as they were not white and rich.
Michael, self-employed surveyor: “The Conservative Party is there to conserve the status quo, as it existed when the party was formed, so even if you think you want to vote Conservative as a non-white person it’s sometimes very challenging because you remember historically this party wanted to conserve the status quo, which was a society for whites.”
Josette, a tutor: “The Conservatives is for rich, white people, not the poor.”
Ellis, admin worker: “To me the Conservative Party camouflage what they believe and what they think better than the Labour party.”
Sabina, a clerical worker: “When the Conservative’s win the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer – they’ve been attacked. Like with the Universal Credit it’s really having an effect and you can see it’s having an effect on families and it’s really not fair.”
The Tory leader received a mixed response from the group. While she was praised as being “strong”, some felt she was out of her depth.
Michael: “She reminds me of a steady captain on a steady ship...Going forward into the negotiations with Europe we need a strong leader so from a tactical point for view if she wins then it will be smooth sailing. But the NHS for me overrides that.”
Patricia, an administrator: “I think it’s a façade. I think she’s confused and she’s put on this brave front that she knows what she’s doing.”
Josette: “She knows what she has to do to appear to be in control...They are a united front even though they are talking rubbish everybody’s singing from the same hymn sheet with the same tune and they are all happy together. When you look at it you think they seem to know what they’re doing because in public there’s none of this in-house bickering and you get a united front.”
Patricia: “I’m a woman, but after Maggie I wouldn’t trust a woman.”
Labour’s disunity was a recurring theme throughout the discussion, and while there was no great love for Jeremy Corbyn, some seemed to think the party’s current woes were as much due to rank-and-file MPs as the current leadership.
Sophia, admin worker with two children: “I don’t feel confident anymore, not like years ago, I would say 10-15 years ago. I really don’t know what to believe to be honest. It’s just question marks for me.
Sabina: “I think when Tony Blair went to war with Iraq and clearly it wasn’t the right thing to do and now they are all admitting it was wrong and blah blah blah but everybody knew it was wrong but no one was listening.”
Josette: “You have infighting. How can you have infighting amongst your own members on your own team? That’s really disrespectful for the media, for the world to see, and this can’t be very good...You get people being really disrespectful to Jeremy Corbyn, really rude. You can’t have a leader and be disrespectful and expect people to follow that leader.”
Michael: “Have you seen Jeremy Corbyn speak? [Laughter]”
Despite misgivings over the state of the Labour Party, six of the eight said they would be backing them in the election on June 8 - with two saying they would abstain.
The US President’s name was brought up unprompted, and while no one made a defence of his policies, some in the group felt that his style was refreshing.
Patricia: “Donald Trump – for better or for worse, madman or not, he’s the only politician that I’ve come across who’s said: ‘If I get in I will do A, B, C.’ He’s got in and he’s doing A, B, C. Everybody else promise you all sorts but when they get in – nothing.”
Michael: “He’s an honest politician.”
Arron, a concierge: “Fake. He doesn’t make any of decisions, it’s a team of people. I’ve met him and he doesn’t make no decisions it’s a team of people and he’s the face and he smiles and because he’s an Asian man that’s appealing to the multicultural diversity, and now everyone’s replaced Jeremy Corbyn’s pictures today with pictures of him. They are using him over Jeremy.”
Patricia: “Really he’s like a little puppet, he’s got no say in anything.”
Sabina: “I don’t see him as a fake to be honest. I feel he’s wanting to do his job but obviously he needs his support.”
HuffPost UK is looking at voters’ priorities outside the hubbub of the election campaign trail and what they want beyond March 29, 2019, not just June 8, 2017. Beyond Brexit leaves the bubble of Westminster and London talk to Britons left out of the conversation on the subjects they really care about, like housing, integration, social care, school funding and air quality.
NOTE: This focus group was made up of ethnic minority voters, living in London, aged 20-60, in social grades C1 or C2, from families that have not habitually been Conservative or UKIP voters. The focus group were conducted on Thursday 11 May.