Skip to content
Society, Politics & Law

How have the Conservatives overtaken Labour for the British Indian vote?

Updated Thursday 18th May 2017

Traditionally, Labour has been able to count on support from British Indians - but not any more. Rakib Ehsan asks: what's changed?

Prime Minister David Cameron hosts a reception to celebrate Vaisakhi in 10 Downing Street Creative commons image Icon Number 10 under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license In April 2016, David Cameron - then Prime Minister - hosted a reception in Downing Street to celebrate Vaisakhi and to recognise the British Sikh community's contribution to the UK.

As the 2017 UK general election nears, Labour is facing a probable loss of seats for the fifth consecutive time. It may also suffer further disintegration of its historical relationship with British voters of Indian origin. The Conversation

The 2015 election saw the Conservatives receive one million ethnic minority votes for the first time in its electoral history. And those votes came largely at Labour’s expense. A post-election survey by British Future showed the Tories enjoyed an eight percentage point advantage over Labour among Britain’s Hindu and Sikh communities. The Conservatives have 49% popularity among both ethno-religious groups, to Labour’s 41%.

This reported advantage sharply contrasts with the 2010 election figures. A report produced by think-tank Theos after that vote reported that Labour had secured a 13% advantage over the Tories among British Hindus, and were ahead of the Conservatives by 48.5 percentage points among British Sikhs.

Opposing views

The upcoming general election may well mark an all-time low in relations between Labour and British Indian voters. Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the party is severely disadvantaged among many British Indian voters. Particular pressure points include the economy, welfare, housing, issues surrounding caste and even foreign policy.

Corbyn’s old-fashioned social democratic model of political economy – high taxes funding an all-encompassing welfare state designed for mass wealth redistribution – is unlikely to command much support among aspirational British Indian voters. The reality is that if many had reservations over the interventionist nature of the economic policies promoted under Ed Miliband’s leadership, they are also likely to find the core tenets of Corbynism unpalatable.

Corbyn’s passionate protection of the welfare state is itself a problem for many British Indians. After describing cuts to welfare spending under David Cameron “rotten and indefensible”, Corbyn may have proven himself to be out-of-touch with much of this key demographic.

Out of Britain’s sizeable ethnic minority groups, British Indians are the most likely to work in salaried professions. Research from 2010 also showed the fertility rate within the British Indian community fell below the UK average. And according to the 2011 census, only 31% of Indian women aged 16-64 were economically inactive.

When combining the realities of greater occupational advancement, low fertility rates and relatively high female economic activity, the archetypal British Indian family is comparatively small, self-sufficient and minimally reliant on welfare assistance. So comprehensive welfare commitments are unlikely to appeal to them.

Corbyn’s opposition to the caste system also puts him at odds with those British Hindus and Sikhs who object to politicians intervening on culturally sensitive issues. They have found the Conservatives to be more sympathetic to their concerns.

Conservative charm offensive

Following the election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2014, the Conservative government has stepped up its Indian charm offensive. Former prime minister David Cameron not only invited Modi to address a packed Wembley Stadium on a visit to London, but essentially served as his warm-up act.

The event showed just how popular Modi is among British Indian Hindus. But Corbyn does not share their enthusiasm, tending to side with his critics more often than his supporters. This could help push British Indian voters – particularly Gujarati Hindus – towards the Tories.

Meanwhile, Theresa May continues to emphasise the importance of India as a post-Brexit trading partner.

Whether it’s economic management, welfare, housing, the caste system, or foreign policy towards a Modi-led India, Corbyn is out-of-sync with much of the British Indian population. Labour were once able to rely on the loyalty of British Indians at the ballot box. Times have changed. June 8 could well mark a full Tory takeover of Labour’s Indian estate.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

An Epochal Election: welcome to the era of platform politics Creative commons image Icon Capitalism is Crisis LABOFII, by Richard Houguez, via Platform London Flickr under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

An Epochal Election: welcome to the era of platform politics

How are new communications technologies affecting political thought and action? Prof. Jeremy Gilbert makes a leftist analysis of what happened in the Brexit referendum, the 2017 election, and what should happen next.

Article
Why did the SNP lose seats in the 2017 General Election? Creative commons image Icon Ninian Reid under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Why did the SNP lose seats in the 2017 General Election?

As Friday morning dawned, the SNP had lost two of its most senior MPs and 22 seats in total. OpenDemocracy's Laurie MacFarlane shares his personal view on what happened.

Article
How good were the pollster's predictions? Creative commons image Icon Manuel M. Vicente from Spain under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license video icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

How good were the pollster's predictions?

As politicians try to make sense of the results of the 2017 General Election, how well did the polls give us a guide to the final result? Leighton Vaughan Williams weighs the scores.

Video
5 mins
May's lost her majority - so what happens now? Creative commons image Icon Policy Exchange under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

May's lost her majority - so what happens now?

Andy Price takes a first stab at what might happen following the surprise result of yesterday's election

Article
General Election 2017: A collection Creative commons image Icon Coventry City Council under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

General Election 2017: A collection

An extraordinary period in British political life, as seen by OpenLearn. Dig into our election coverage from the seven-week campaign nobody was expecting.

Article
Labour to the marrow: Exploring the party's ethos Creative commons image Icon Chris Beckett under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Labour to the marrow: Exploring the party's ethos

Particular perspectives influence how individuals think about politics. But how do members and supporters of a single party create a collective perception of its ethos – what it stands for and where its future lies? Karl Pike examines these concepts in relation to the Labour Party, and explains how ethos can affect political direction.

Article
Could a progressive alliance remake UK politics? Creative commons image Icon estillbham under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Could a progressive alliance remake UK politics?

Andy Price believes that the 2017 election is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for UK politics to move beyond a Tory/Labour duopoly.

Article
How can Theresa May escape from the Fixed Term Parliaments Act? Creative commons image Icon mrdanielweir under Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

How can Theresa May escape from the Fixed Term Parliaments Act?

Since 2011, legislation has locked the length of a parliamentary session at five years. In theory. Petra Schleiter explains the escape clause Theresa May hopes to trigger.

Article
Ready or not, we're having an election Creative commons image Icon Garry Knight under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Ready or not, we're having an election

As Theresa May prepares to go to the country, who is prepared for this sudden election - and who might find themselves on the back foot? Tom Quinn explains.

Article