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2015 UK poll: growing Indian vote adds to uneasiness

It’s that time of the year when most of Britain hunkers down for Christmas and New Year holidays, but a certain uneasiness is discernible among the Westminster set as the more-unpredictable-than-ever May 2015 elections draw near.

world Updated: Dec 25, 2014 16:49 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar

It’s that time of the year when most of Britain hunkers down for Christmas and New Year holidays, but a certain uneasiness is discernible among the Westminster set as the more-unpredictable-than-ever May 2015 elections draw near.



Latest election research suggests that the Labour party can no longer take the increasingly crucial Indian or Asian vote – better known as ‘ethnic minority vote’ – for granted. It was traditionally the most preferred party for this segment, but no longer.



The consensus so far among demagogues and demographers is that 2015 will once again throw up a hung parliament, as in 2010, but besides the direction of the Indian vote, the question gnawing many is how and to what extent will the UK Independence Party (UKIP) upset applecarts.



British politics has long revolved around two poles – Labour and Conservative – with the Liberal Democrats running a distant third. In 2010, the Liberal Democrats emerged king-makers, and joined a coalition with the Conservatives. Now UKIP has emerged as the fourth significant factor.



‘British Election Study’, a widely-respected report by academics from Oxford, Manchester and Nottingham released last week, makes uncomfortable Christmas/holiday reading for the parties, particularly for Labour and Conservative.



It has concluded that the number of Indian voters identifying with the Labour party has fallen from 77 per cent in 1997 – when Tony Blair led the party to a majority – to just 18 per cent in 2014. The fall is similar among the Pakistani and Afro-Caribbean communities. Other research reports have indicated increasing importance of the Indian and ethnic minority vote.



Maria Sobolewska, an expert on the team conducting the Ethnic Minority British Election Study, said: "Labour is not really sitting pretty on ethnic minorities anymore and in fact it wasn't in 2010 either... we can already see that a lot of the ethnic minority groups, in fact all of the ethnic minority groups supported Labour a lot less even in 2010, but this did not yet make Labour worried…The percentage of people who identify with the Labour party is falling very fast."



However, the report suggests that the Conservative party has not really benefited from the growing ennui with the Labour party, despite efforts by Prime Minister Cameron to woo the Indian community.



Cameron sought to gladden Asian hearts by declaring at a recent event that he wants to see an Asian as the prime minister of Britain in his lifetime. There are already signs that the Conservative party would give tickets to more Indian-origin candidates during the May 2015 elections.



Rishi Sunak, a 34-year-old businessman son-in-law of Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy, has been chosen as the Conservative candidate from Richmond in Yorkshire, which is currently held by senior party leader William Hague, who is quitting politics.