More proof as if it were needed, that the ethnic minority vote will play a more decisive role in the 2010 general election than in any earlier poll, according to research released today.
Some 25 parliamentary constituencies have more than 40% of their voting population from ethnic minorities, and voters from the Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian communities are more likely to turn out than their white neighbours, Professor Muhammad Anwar of the University of Warwick found.
But he voiced concern that ethnic minorities – who make up 10% of Britain’s population – remain “massively undervalued and under-represented” at Westminster.
Prof Anwar said the imbalance is unlikely to be redressed in this year’s poll, as insufficient candidates in safe seats have been selected from ethnic minority communities.
If seats reflected the make-up of the population as a whole, there would be more than 60 ethnic minority MPs and 70 peers, rather than the present 15 in the Commons and around 30 in the Lords, he said.
In his book Ethnic Minorities and Politics, Prof Anwar noted that national average turnout in the 2005 election was 61.4%, but for Bangladeshi voters it was 76%, for Pakistanis 70% and for Indians 67%. Black Africans matched the national average at 61% and only black Caribbean voters were lower at 54%.
He predicted that ethnic minority turn-out may rise in 2010, particularly among Muslims.
“Our research shows that the higher levels of turn-out among Asians and particularly Muslim groups are likely to continue in future,” said Prof Anwar.
“Since, in recent years, Muslims in Britain and elsewhere have become a focus of attention for politicians and the media, Muslims themselves have become more conscious of their rights and responsibilities as British citizens, including participation in the electoral process.”
The highest proportions of ethnic minority voters were found in East Harrow (66.3%), Birmingham Ladywood (64.9%), Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath (64.8%), and Brent South (64.6%). In all, nine constituencies had a majority of voters from ethnic minorities.
Prof Anwar argued that the shift in Muslim support from Labour to the Liberal Democrats caused by the Iraq War will remain an important factor, particularly in cities like Birmingham.
“The effective representation of ethnic minorities in politics is crucial to the achievement of equality of opportunity across our society,” he added. “There has been some progress but Britain has a long way to go in providing equality for ethnic minorities in the decision-making process.”