Diversity and Democracy: Race and the General Election

Summary

• In 2015, Labour remained the first preference for most Black and minority ethnic voters, with around 60% choosing Labour. The Conservatives have increased their vote share significantly, from around 16% in 2010 to over 25% in 2015

• The Liberal Democrats got around 5% of the BME vote, and the Greens less. Only 2% of BME voters chose UKIP

• There is increasing variation in how different ethnic minority groups vote, as well as regional differences

• There are now 41 BME MPs, a significant rise, suggesting a future BME Prime Minister could now be sitting in Parliament

• The success of Britain’s democracy depends not only on BME voter participation and representation, but on policy makers responding to ethnic inequalities

Introduction

The 2015 General Election saw the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron returned with his party’s first overall majority since John Major’s win in 1992. Before the election, Runnymede published a volume, ‘Race and Elections’, indicating the increasing importance of Black and minority ethnic (BME) voters. This briefing updates those findings with the 2015 election results. Historically BME voters have been very strong supporters of the Labour Party, with as many as 90% choosing Labour until the 1990s. In the 2010 General Election, 68% of BME voters supported the Labour Party, compared to 16% supporting the Conservatives, and 14% supporting the Liberal Democrats. Contrary to some expectations before the election, we expect that the Labour party maintained most of its support among BME voters, with indications that around 60% still support Labour. This is because Labour increased its vote share significantly more (over 10%) in its most diverse seats, compared to their overall increase of just 1.5%. The Conservatives appear to have increased their vote significantly, to perhaps 25-30%, while the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to have won more than 5% of the BME vote in 2015. To put these numbers in context, overall the Conservative vote share increased by 0.8% to 36.9%, while the Labour vote went up by 1.5% from 28.9% to 30.4%. The Liberal Democrat vote share plummeted 15.2% to 7.9%, a two-thirds decline in their vote share.

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