A study carried out by cross-party organisation Operation Black Vote showed the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) voters had grown by 70% since the last election. Using the 2011 census, it calculated that in England and Wales there are168 seats where the black and ethnic minority population holds greater sway than the majority. It is a significant number that means that not only is the BME vote increasing but with this growth comes a variance in voting patterns. A growing class of educated, affluent British Asians has grown up over the past decade who are concerned about the community they live in and the current political climate.
For example in Bradford the Respect campaign recruited Asian women, targeted community centres, visited homes, sent campaigners who spoke Punjabi and Urdu and most importantly asked the constituents what they wanted from their representatives. This one-to-one strategy empowered a sector of the community that had for too long been marginalised and disenfranchised. Up until then, the men of the house decided which party the family as a collective would vote for. The women of Bradford seized this opportunity and quickly spread the word that there was finally a party that appreciated their involvement.
Let this serve as a lesson to mainstream parties: you can win the votes of the Asian women by engaging them in dialogue, by addressing their concerns and assuring them that their voices are valuable. And by Asian women I mean ALL Asian women, those who are educated, uneducated, those who work and those who are stay-at-home mums and carers. Mainstream parties also need to engage BME youth, many of whom worry about rising tuition fees, lack of employment opportunities, the glass ceilings they will encounter because of their backgrounds, racism and the discrimination they face.
There is a growing interest in politics within the BME communities, it is time to respect and engage with them in the most effective manner possible so our multicultural society can take the most benefits from their respective contributions.