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30 January 2015

For the Conservatives, London offers a terrifying vision of the UK’s new demographics

The migrant vote is driving the Conservatives' poor performance in London.

By Tim Wigmore

This post also appeared on May 2015

The Conservative Party’s problem with ethnic minorities is why David Cameron needed Nick Clegg. Had ethnic minorities been as likely to vote for the Tories as the white British population, the Tories would have won 500,000 more votes in 2010 – and gained 24 more seats from Labour, enough to secure a majority.

Just 16 per cent of ethnic minorities plumped for the Conservatives in 2010. The bad news for CCHQ is that, in 2015, the ethnic minority vote will be even more important. Ethnic minorities make up 18 per cent of 2015 first-time voters, compared to 12 per cent of current voters. There will be 250,000 new ethnic minority voters in May.

A new report from the Migrants’ Right Network puts the threat to the Conservatives into fresh perspective. It predicts that four million voters in the 2015 general election will be foreign-born, an increase of 500,000 from 2010. There are 70 seats in which the migrant share of the electorate in 2015 is twice as large as the current majority share of the incumbent party. After four years of tub-thumping on immigration, including the notorious “Go Home or Face Arrest” vans, the Conservatives have hardly given the impression of reaching out to migrant voters. And migrants were hardly well disposed towards them before.

India and Pakistan are the two countries that provide the most migrant voters. In 2010, just 24 per cent of the Indian migrant population, and 13 per cent of the Pakistani migrant population, plumped for the Conservatives. These communities are growing rapidly; over one million people who will be able to vote in May were born in India or Pakistan. Although Labour’s hold over these voters is declining, the Tories are not benefiting.

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It is a microcosm of the Conservatives’ wider difficulty reaching out beyond its traditional core vote. Look at London to see what a threat this constitutes. The capital’s wealth should make it a bastion of the party. Yet it won just 34 per cent of the vote in the 2010 general election here, on a national swing half that it enjoyed elsewhere in the UK. It did even worse in last year’s European elections, winning only 22 per cent of the vote. The problem seems simple: 37 per cent of the capital is foreign born, and white Britons are in a minority. This is not demography conducive to Tory triumph.

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So it will be proved this year. A YouGov poll this week found Labour with a ten-point lead in London, and the Conservatives down to just 32 per cent of the vote here. On these results they would lose a net five seats. The migrant vote is driving this lack of appeal for the Conservatives. Nineteen of the 20 seats with the largest migrant voter shares are in Greater London, including two – Brent North and East Ham – which are expected to have a majority migrant electorate this year. A total of 15 Conservatives represent constituencies in London in which migrants make up at least 20 per cent of the electorate, including eight with a majority of less than 15 per cent. As Rob Ford warns, MPs like Bob Blackman, Angie Bray, and Mary Macleod could be driven out by their party’s brand problem with migrant voters.

But the great fear for the Conservatives is that 2015 will not mark the end of the party being dragged down by its lack of appeal with new Britons. By 2050, ethnic minorities could make up a third of the UK population. Unless the Conservatives pay heed to the new electoral map, 1992 may be remembered as the year of the party’s last general election majority.