Debate Magazine

Black Voters Can Decide Who Wins the Next General Election

Posted on the 11 August 2013 by Lesterjholloway @brolezholloway

EnglandandwalesI was delighted that two months work has ended with high-profile coverage in The Guardian today. A study on the Power of the Black Vote – commissioned by Operation Black Vote – looks at the extent to which the BAME electorate can influence the result of the 2015 general election. And the conclusion is clear: we have the power!

You can view the full report here: OBV study final version v2 and below:

View this document on Scribd

That means BME voters have been handed the greatest opportunity ever to effectively engage in British politics.

It proves that the BME have never more powerful and that power is shifting with demographics with an increasing share of the BME vote is up for grabs.

BME Britons have the political muscle to change not just their MP but the Government. Increasingly BME votes are up for grabs in marginal seats and any political party to seriously court the vote may well get the extra boost they need to cross the line into power.

As a consequence all political parties must wake up and realize they cannot win without the BME vote and devise policies to tackle particular concerns such as disproportionate discrimination.

Every parliamentary constituency in England and Wales – all 573 – are analysed in this report by comparing the latest 2011 population census data with the results of the 2010 general election.

This exercise has revealed that 241 constituencies (42 percent) in England and Wales have BME electorates larger than the 2010 majorities of the sitting MP when measured against the 2011 census and counting only the voting electorate.

Critically, 168 of these constituencies are in marginal seats which could probably decide the next Government.

These seats are listed on pages 6-7 along with 37 more which have BME electorates less than the MPs majority but where BME voters can still have a significant bearing on the election outcome, particularly in a close race.

Therefore if the 2015 election is neck-and-neck there could be 205 constituencies where the BME vote could heavily influence the result.

168 seats equates to over a quarter (29 percent) of all constituencies in England and Wales. Therefore almost one-third of MP’s can be voted in or out depending on the extent that they, and their party, appeals to BME voters.

This figure debunks the stereotype that BME communities are mostly concentrated in ‘safe’ Labour seats and therefore not significant in terms of electoral impact.

Although ‘inner city’ seats do indeed contain a high proportion BME communities, the overall picture across England and Wales is that many BME communities live in swing seats which will form the key battlegrounds at the forthcoming election in 2015.

It is accepted wisdom in political circles that between 100 and 130 seats will determine the result in 2015. That means the ‘Black vote’ will undoubtedly have a major impact.

Many of the 73 ‘safe’ seats with a BME electorate larger than the MP’s majority are only ‘safe’ because the sitting MP and their party enjoy the support of the BME electorate.

However traditional patterns of voting are changing as British-born decendents of immigrants increasingly make political choices independent of their parents and grandparents, so these seats – the vast majority held by Labour – may not always remain safe in future.

This process will almost certainly increase the power of the ‘Black vote’ over time as an ever-growing proportion become floating voters.

The concept of a ‘Black vote’ has been questioned on one level; BME communities are not homogenious in their voting patterns. Within each community and household different political choices are made, influenced by a range of factors including general policies of the parties, and issues of the day but also impacted by socio-economic status, faith, geography and the extent of local political activity.

However on another level the concept of a ‘Black vote’ is credible. The reputation of each party and, to a lesser extent, of the individual candidates in terms of how sympathetic or understanding they are towards the particular issues and challenges facing BME communities in general and specific race and faith communities has a major impact on voting.

Policies to specifically address disproportionate racial disadvantage and BME political representation matter. So while ‘race’ has been off just over half of all seats (285) have a BME population which is larger than the majorities of the sitting MP’s.

This includes four out of the eight Birmingham seats as well as both seats in Blackpool, Brighton, Newport, Northampton, Norwich, Oxford, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Milton Keynes; two out of three seats in Coventry, Leicester and Newcastle; and all three seats in Southampton.

None of these towns and cities fit the mold of being typically ‘inner city’ yet they are all examples of places outside London where the ‘Black vote’ could play a decisive role.

The last OBV study, before the 2010 election, found 99 marginal seats with a BME electorate larger than the MP’s majority. The dramatic rise to 168 seats today (a 70 percent increase) is principally the result of two key factors; the significant increase in the BME electorate between the 2001 and 2011 population census,and the fact that the 2010 general election produced more marginal seats because it was a closer general election than 2005.

A third, less significant, factor is the rise in Mixed Race voters in marginal rural and town constituencies where their population where,though relatively small, nevertheless has an impact on primarily rural or semi-rural ultra-marginal seats.

Marginal seats have majorities of less than 6,000, although a handful of seats with majorities of under 7,000 qualify for this definition because they have shown a propensity to swing between different parties from one election to the next, particularly if the seat changed hands in 2010, or they are targeted as realistic prospects by the main challenging party.

Three seats with current majorities of between 7,000 and 10,000 changed between parties in 2010. The report has analysed the BME electorate; voters who will be aged 18 years and above at the 2015 general election. We have calculated this data on the basis of
the population aged 15 years and above in the 2011 census.

If we counted the overall BME population, regardless of their age, the number of seats where the BME population exceeds the MP’s majority rises to 286, an increase of 10 percent or 27 seats.

This is a significant indicator of the number of constituencies that will decide future election results.

Currently 2011 census data for parliamentary constituencies is only available for England and Wales. When Scotland becomes available Operation Black Vote plan to update this report. It is expected that this would add more marginal seats where the BME electorate is larger than the MP’s majority.

By Lester Holloway @brolezholloway

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