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Ethnic minority vote may hold key to 2015 UK elections

Ethnic minority vote may hold key to 2015 UK elections
The voting power of ethnic minority groups has more than doubled in the UK, a report has found. The massive change in the electoral demographic could tip the balance in the next general elections amid rising racial tensions in the UK.

A study carried out by cross-party organization Operation Black Vote (OBV) showed that the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) voters had grown by 70 percent since the last election. Using the 2011 census the organization calculated that in England and Wales there are currently a total of 168 seats were the black and ethnic minority population hold greater sway than the majority.

The organization also notes the 168 constituencies are relatively evenly spread across urban and rural areas in England and Wales.

“This is great news for BME communities and democracy. Many individuals feel powerless, particularly in the face of rising racial tension and the apparent inability by political parties to acknowledge persistent race inequalities,” said OBV Director Simon Woolley in a statement accompanying the study’s release.

He also noted that “the black vote had never been so powerful.”

Politicians have hailed the study as highly significant and groundbreaking. Moreover, it could have serious ramifications for the ruling conservatives who only obtained 16 percent of the black and ethnic minority vote in the last elections.

“The analysis … speaks for itself in highlighting seats with larger numbers of voters with an ethnic minority background and their potential electoral impact,"
said conservative MP for the southern city of Reading. 

Holloway Lester who led the OBV study believes that the black and ethnic minority vote is as important as the grey vote and that political parties ignore it at their peril.

“There’s an assumption that older people vote more than anybody else, and so in these austerity cuts they haven’t cut pensions. That’s for a particular reason. What we are now saying is that you now need to consider the policies that you need to be putting in place to appeal to ethnic minority communities, just as you are appealing to older people,” he told RT.

He continued that the voting patterns of ethnic minorities are changing dramatically and that the different political parties need to take this on board.

“What this particular study is trying to highlight is that ethnic minority voters have either been ignored by the conservatives or taken for granted to a certain extent by the Labour Party. Ethnic minority voters are deciding for themselves, they’re moving away from the voting patterns of their parents and that vote is up for grabs,” Lester said.

Minority uproar

The new findings could herald problems for the conservatives in the next election in the wake of their ‘Go home!’ van campaign that has caused uproar in minority communities. As part of a crackdown on illegal immigration in the UK the British government sent vans emblazoned with the slogan “Go home or face arrest” into London boroughs with high immigrant populations. The government styled the initiative as an “alternative to arrest” but enraged opposition has branded it as “stupid and intimidatory.”

In response to widespread uproar the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority confirmed on Tuesday that it would open an investigation into the Home Office’s campaign.

“The Home Office is bound by a positive duty under the Equality Act 2010 to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations…this campaign will generate hostility and intolerance in our communities,” said Amnesty International in a letter published in The Guardian last Thursday.

Britain’s minority population is on the rise. In the 2001 census the minority population was 7 percent, which grew to 11 percent in the 2011 census.