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Conservatism, Corbynism, and London’s Changing Demographics

The Conservatives should not underestimate Corbynism. It should be taken more seriously - not scoffed at – especially when the element of London’s changing demographic is added to the mix. Like lambs to the slaughter, I stood as the Conservative Candidate in the Labour stronghold of Harrow Road in summer 2015, and saw first hand the meaning of London’s changing demographic in action, against the Tory party.

The changing Demographic in London will not vote Conservative, unless and until as Tories we create a concerted, sincere, transparent strategy to attract more Blacks, Asians, other Ethnic minorities, and the White working class to our ranks.

According to the economist, "on current projections London's population will swell from just under 8m now to over 9m by 2031, which is roughly the equivalent of annexing Britain's second city, Birmingham. 

Ethnic minorities are expected to account for almost three-quarters of the increase".

Such a plan would entail going beyond the mere rhetoric of ‘Tory Aspirationalism’, and would require guaranteeing greater numbers of hard working individuals from among London’s changing demographic, the possibility of access to greater influence at all echelons of society, greater political power sharing, greater access to top level education, and greater access to top tier jobs and the wealth that accompany said jobs.

All across the UK, and astoundingly right across London, leadership from top to bottom in the Conservative party remains far too white, and many times far too right, the same way it remains far too male and pale. Black leaders are virtually non-existent and there are far too few Asians and other ethnic minorities in the mix.

“Latest figures show 45% of Londoners describe themselves as "white British" - a drop from the 58% in 2001…the capital also had both the largest proportion of residents born outside the UK (37%) and non-UK nationals (24%.)”, according to the BBC, based on the 2011 census. 

Along with Corbynism, the Labour party  selected a brown Muslim as their candidate for Mayor of London and Londoners voted him in. Like it or not, and even if many White Conservatives are squeamish about mentioning race; as a Black Conservative, I am delighted to see more colour in London politics regardless of party affiliation, and not just as some gimmicky 'Operation Black Vote' stunt that we promoted during the national elections, after which nothing has materialised within the Conservative camp to follow through.

Labour has proven it is far more serious about actually placing qualified people of colour in positions of power and influence than we are – and as Conservatives, we should stop being fearful of addressing race, the same way we are now much better at addressing gender issues.

For instance, the talk in Westminster was that Zac Goldsmith was the “safe choice” within our party, and whilst Syed Kamall is not the ‘”safe choice” among older white Tories, (who vote white, because its right for them from a certain era) Kamall may very well have been the gamble that just might have paid off within London for us as a party. As a Tory, I am not happy losing London. 

The point is that what we perceive as safe now, will not remain 'safe' in the long run, based on the arithmetic in the demographical shift in London. 

More importantly, if as a party we don’t address this now, when we still have an advantage, we’ll be locked out for generations when we become forced to grovel for today’s ethic minority vote, which in future may very well become the ethnic majority vote in London. We need to win hearts and minds, based on our shared values.   

David Owen, of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at Warwick University, said: 'Population has never been the main determinant of influence - it's wealth and income. White people still have their hands on most of the levers of military and economic power.’  

The simple reality is that many ethnic minorities in the UK are pragmatists and are not 'diehard' supporters of any of the major political parties in Britain, like our white counterparts are; perhaps because our political lineage do not extend back hundreds years so as to impede us from supporting candidates, who, as our single criterion, actually supported our aspirations of upward social mobility and to becoming holistically successful Britons.

That said, one could extrapolate that an authentic, sincere, transparent Conservative-led strategy, enshrined in concrete policies to help the changing demographic of London convert their aspirations into viable financial equivalents, will by and large outdo the ‘feel good notion’ Corbynism offers them of finally having someone at least talking about their concerns.

The reality is the great majority of this so-called changing demographic in London believes as Conservatives we cater primarily to the needs of the rich, the privileged, and the well off White establishment, and wonder in utter bemusement as to how David Cameron and the Conservative plan to deliver Britain’s first Black prime minister, if there are no Blacks in his cabinet, and currently not enough qualified Black MPs in parliament to choose from.

Our ostrich approach as a party to race, proportional representation and to finding a remedy to attract London’s changing demographic to our ranks, and our collective continued willingness to lull ourselves into believing the changing demographic will surely only vote on issues and policies and not on the basis of ethnicity and identity politics (as white Britons have been doing for generations), will only continue to reduce the number of Tory voters in London, precipitate a continued shift to Labour in London, and will eventually convert the Tory party into a fringe organisation in London, or even eventually push it down the path of Scottish Labour.

This is all possible, and fortunately it is all reversible as well - but only if we act now! We cannot wait until 2020 to start asking London’s changing demographic for their vote, after having neglected them for five more years. We simply won’t win them over and the scary realities of Corbynism might become another nail in our coffin as London Conservatives. We need to show we are an inclusive party and we’ve got to start proving it to London’s changing demographic, if we intend to win London in the long run.

 

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Author:

Wilford Augustus, Partner at Trade Bridge Group London, and Deputy Chairman Political for Bayswater Ward, Westminster North Conservatives. All political views expressed herein are exclusively his.