Thursday, 3 January 2013

Tokenism, gay marriage and the ethnic vote


Mark Pritchard MP sets off to attack tokenism:

Tokenism has always been politically lazy. It can also go disastrously wrong as different religions, sects, and schisms within the same ethnic communities emerge over an election campaign. It is also worth remembering that whilst more MPs from Britain’s ethnic minorities would be a good thing, the majority of the electorate still rightly place more value on the calibre of a candidate rather than the colour of a candidate. Most want a candidate who share their values and are willing to fight their corner – irrespective of gender, race, or religion.

Absolutely agree there - if we are to secure support it has to be on the basis of values and not some carefully selected mix of black/white/man/woman/gay/straight. What I don't understand is why Mark Pritchard then proposes a tokenistic policy platform?

The Party could also shelve its misconceived same-sex marriage plans. Apart from antagonising the Tory grassroots and traditional Conservative voters, Number 10’s decision to press ahead with a Bill is likely to alienate large parts of the very same ethnic and religious groups the Party says it needs to attract to win the next general election. The Bill is self-defeating, divisive, and could inadvertently breed intolerance. To proceed regardless would show the Conservative Party as out of touch with many in the Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and Christian communities – many of whom are Asian and Afro-Caribbean.

The Labour Party - which, if I might remind Mr Pritchard, is vacuuming up two-thirds of Britain's ethnic vote - is almost wholly in support of the proposed Bill on same sex marriage. Presumably the rules are different for Labour? They can propose socially liberal policies AND get lots of votes from ethnic minorities!

The reality here is nothing to do with gays - or for that matter women, abortion or dress codes. The problem is that lots of people in ethnic minorities don't trust us. Not because of our economic track record. Not because of our social policies. But because of immigration. Because of that 'dog whistle'. Because their Labour councillors, their teachers and their elders have told them Tories are racist.

And the politically ambitious from those ethnic minorities join the Labour Party because overwhelmingly that is the Party of power where they live. We won't change this in one or two years, we won't change it by putting a bloke with an Asian name in charge of campaigning in ethnic communities. We will change it by putting in resource on the ground - backing those few ethnic Tories in urban areas with professional support, with campaign finance and with the scope to develop policies that really do respond to the concerns of these communities.


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