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Ethnic Minority Vote Stronger Than Ever But Massively Undervalued By Main Parties

New research published by Professor Muhammad Anwar, from The University of Warwick’s Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, shows that ethnic minority votes will be more important than ever in the forthcoming general election but ethnic minority voters are still massively undervalued and under-represented.

In his new book, Ethnic Minorities and Politics Professor Anwar notes that ethnic minorities voter registration is approaching levels of white voters and turnout is now higher than the national average. In the last general election the national average turnout was 61.4%  yet for Bangladeshi voters it was 76% , Pakistanis 70% and Indians 67%. Black Africans matched the national average at 61%  and only Black Caribbean voters were lower at 54%.

Professor Anwar says:

“Our research shows that the higher levels of turn-out among Asians and particularly Muslim groups are likely to continue in future. 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.”

He also notes that although nationally ethnic minorities are 10% of the population, there are actually 25 parliamentary constituencies where over 40% of the population were categorised as being from an ethnic minority in the 2001 census.  These include: East Harrow  66.3%, Birmingham Ladywood 64.9%, Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath 64.8%, and Brent South 64.6% - full table in notes for editors below .

Professor Anwar is concerned however that while ethnic minorities are 10% of the UK population,  the total number of ethnic minority origin MPs does not reflect that. To do so there should be over 60 MPs of ethnic minority origin when there are only 15.  The ethnic minority representation in the House of Lords is over 30 although to reflect the ethnic minority population it should be over 70. Professor Anwar believes that this balance is unlikely to shift – particularly for Muslim minorities.  He does note that at least Labour has selected three Muslim women for safe seats at the next general election but that the other parties have not selected Muslims for safe seats.

Professor Anwar argues that the shift in Muslim support from Labour to the Liberal Democrats caused by the Iraq war remains an important factor.  He notes that many members and councillors defected from Labour to the Liberals between 2003 and 2007 and as a result many ex-Labour councillors represent  the Liberal Democrats in places like Birmingham. Professor Anwar says his research indicates that that pattern is likely to continue into the next general election.  It is clear however that the Labour Party are working hard to try and reverse this.

Finally Professor Anwar stresses:

“The effective representation of ethnic minorities in politics is crucial to the achievement of equality of opportunity across our society. There has been some progress but Britain has a long way to go in providing equality for ethnic minorities in the decision making process.”

Notes for editors:

Constituency Ethnic minority % in the 2001 census
East Harrow
66.3
Birmingham Ladywood                                    
64.9
Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath        
64.8
Brent South                                                     
64.6
West Ham                                                       
60.2
Brent North                                                     
58.2
Ilford South                                                     
54.9
Ealing Southall                                                 
52.7
Camberwell and Peckham                               
50.2
Bethnal Green and Bow                                  
49.8
Leicester East                                                 
49.8
Croydon North                                              
49.5
Birmingham Perry Barr                                    
48.1
Bradford West                                                
47.4
Poplar and Canning Town                               
45.7
Harrow East                                                   
44.9
Tottenham                                                      
44.9
Lewisham Deptford                                        
43.4
Brent East                                                      
42.3
Hackney South and Shoreditch                       
41.7
Leyton and Wanstead                                     
41.4
Walthamstow                                                 
40.8
Vauxhall                                                           40.5

Details on book:  The book is entitled Ethnic Minorities and Politics: The British Electoral System by Muhammad Anwar,  published by : LAP Lambert Academic Publishing
ISBN-10: 383831901X, ISBN-13: 978-3838319018

For further information please contact:

Professor Muhammad Anwar
Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations
School of  Health and Social Studies
University of Warwick
Tel: 024 765 24870
Email: muhammad.anwar@warwick.ac.uk

Peter Dunn, Head of Communications,
University of Warwick, 024 76 523708 or
07767 655860 email: p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk

Pr1 12th January 2010  PJD