Why do we need to target the Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) vote in the 2017 election campaign?

The following is a message from Leonie Barua, Policy Officer for Brighton & Hove BAME Labour Forum.

Why do we need to target the Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) vote in the 2017 election campaign?

 N.B. We need to have an intersectional approach: people have overlapping needs, depending on a combination of protected characteristics, including class. BAME groups are not homogenous and policies need to address this. Much of what follows is based on discussions within the local Brighton & Hove BAME Forum.

  • We need to retain and win back BAME groups, particularly in the South-East, to win the election. In 2015, the BAME vote was strong for Labour in the North, Midlands and London, but weaker in the South. In 1997 80% of BAME voters voted Labour. In 2015 it was 68%. At the last election, a million BAME votes went to the Tories, 25% of the BAME vote.
  • “Polling suggests that where ethnic minority communities are most concentrated, Labour are making their safe seats safer still, but are failing to appeal to growing BME populations in less diverse marginal seats, where those BME communities could make a difference to the outcome.”        

  • The BAME vote is growing nationally. In 2011, the BAME presence in Brighton was 20%. (2011 census).
  • Young people from a BAME background, particularly mixed-race, are a fast growing demographic in Brighton.
  • As people from BAME backgrounds spread out from inner cities some have become more aspirational and switched to the Tories. This is particularly true for Indian and Sikh communities. Labour is still generally more popular with black and Muslim groups.
  • The BAME demographic is growing but so is the gap in BAME representation locally. This is especially concerning re. under-representation of BAME staff in schools and higher education eg in Brighton, but is reflected in all institutions locally. Effective positive action is needed.
  • Labour has a good record on race equality legislation: the Race Relations Act, the Macpherson Inquiry, the Equality Act etc… but there is still a need for effective policies to tackle direct and institutional racism combined with policies that support aspiration. The two go together in an economy that invests in everybody.
  • Under-representation exists in the Labour party itself and alienates BAME members and voters.
  • BAME electoral registration and turnout rates are very low.

Why is racism such an issue at the moment? What’s the evidence nationally?

  • It is widely acknowledged that the rhetoric of some politicians leading up to the Brexit vote stoked divisions and contributed to a climate in which racism and prejudice could be ‘legitimised’. The ‘hard Brexit’ approach continues to foster this climate.

  • You do not have to be from a BAME background to feel angry and concerned about the current situation, but BAME communities are vulnerable and particularly sensitive and alert to what parties and politicians have to offer regarding their safety and security.
  • Race hate crime rose nationally, double in some areas, prior to and after the Brexit vote. Police anticipated a further rise once article 50 was triggered. There is concern about a further rise during the 2017 election.

What’s the evidence of race hate crime locally?

  • In Brighton & Hove there was a notable spike in race hate crimes post-Brexit. It dropped, but rose again following the election of President Trump. Locally, Muslim, African and African-Caribbean, Jewish and Eastern European groups were most targeted. Police are concerned about under-reporting, especially from Muslim communities.
  • Following the London attack, minority communities have been further encouraged to report race hate crimes to community leaders or via the internet if they prefer that to reporting to the Police. (This information from feedback from B&H Police and the Community Safety Team)

What would Labour do? What positive policies would Labour offer to appeal to and improve the lives of BAME people?

Austerity cuts have impacted particularly harshly on BAME people. There are race equality gaps in unemployment, pay, progression at work, educational achievement, housing, experience of  mental health and social care.

BAME households are more likely to be living in poverty.

This is particularly notable for BME children, with nearly 50% of Pakistani children and over 40% of Bangladeshi children living in poverty… (Runnymede report 2015)

Policies to tackle austerity, poverty, racism and race equality gaps, relevant to BAME voters

  • Labour is still the party best trusted on race
  • It is committed to tackling racism by having a new cross-party race equality policy. There would be a Minister for Race Equality. Every department would have to publish its race equality plan
  • It would tighten legislation, make equality impact assessments statutory as well as the recording of race hate crime, including Islamophobic and anti-Semitic hate crimes. It would strengthen the Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • 000 more police on the streets would support community safety and release capacity to analyse and respond to race hate crimes
  • The Labour approach to BREXIT and its rhetoric emphasises an open, internationalist approach, opposing an insular, hard BREXIT which helps foster racism
  • Labour will defend the Human Rights Act, commit to the European Court of Justice, guarantee full rights for EU people living and working in Britain and not allow them to be pawns in Brexit negotiations
  • Raising the minimum wage to the level of the living wage, expected to be at least £10 per hour
  • Ban zero hours contracts (Both these policies would help close the race equality pay gap e.g. half of the Bangladeshi community earn below the living wage)
  • Boost the incomes of the poorest and close the gender pay gap, closing the pay gaps between different ethnicities
  • End the public sector pay cap (Most BAME people work in the public sector.)
  • Ensure that any employer wishing to recruit labour from abroad does not undercut workers at home because it causes divisions when one workforce is used against another
  • Give equalities reps statutory rights – so they have time to protect workers from discrimination
  • Reinstate protection against third party harassment
  • Ban unpaid internships (Many BAME people are marginalised because of unpaid internships)

   Introduce a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay auditing– so that all

  • workers have access to fair employment & promotion opportunities and are treated fairly at work
  • Improve health provision: save the NHS, provide social care, parity for mental health services

Overall, people from BAME communities are  more likely to be diagnosed with mental health issues.

  • Build a million new homes in 5 years, at least half to be council homes, introduce rent controls and increase access to affordable home ownership

‘Bangladeshi households are 63 per cent and Black African households 75 per cent more likely than white British households to suffer ‘housing deprivation’ ….. White Gypsy and Irish Traveller households are seven and-a-half times more likely to experience deprivation in this way.

Useful links:

For BAME demographics in Brighton, ward by ward, see Pages 16-17 of:

For statistics of race hate crime in England and Wales, post-Brexit see:

We anticipate more detail about relevant policies in the manifesto. Editor’s note: Please see p. 112 of the Labour Party Manifesto.

Leonie Barua

(Policy Officer Brighton & Hove BAME Labour Forum)









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