• Friday, September 29, 2023


Survey: British Indians are defecting in sizeable numbers from Labour party

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

NEW research has revealed that British Indians, who, along with most other ethnic minorities, have long been core Labour party voters, are defecting in sizeable numbers, reported The Guardian.

The report, based on a recent survey, added that a shift in the diaspora’s voting patterns would be significant in UK.

The Guardian report was co-written by Devesh Kapur, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and Caroline Duckworth and Milan Vaishnav, who work at the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The survey of nearly 800 British Indian eligible voters was conducted in partnership with YouGov.

“Six decades ago, India was the third most common country of birth for people born outside the UK. By 2011, it had become the most common. The Indian diaspora is young, fast-growing, relatively well educated and one of Britain’s highest-earning ethnic groups. Despite the growing prominence of British Indians, there have been few studies of their political preferences,” the report said.

“We have found that while British Indians continue to display a preference for Labour, the party’s historical advantage has been eroded.”

In 2010, a survey identified British Indian support for Labour at 61 per cent, while 24 per cent supported the Tories.

According to the survey, just four in 10 British Indians identify with the Labour party, while three in 10 support the Conservatives, and around one in 10 identify with other parties.

British Indians would be important swing voters in case of a snap election, it noted.

Among the diaspora, Labour would enjoy a 10-point advantage over the Conservatives in a hypothetical general election, but a significant minority (15 per cent) remains undecided, The Guardian report said.

However, the survey also revealed that Labour’s decline has not automatically translated into gains for the Conservatives.

Evidence from the British Election Study (BES) suggests that British Indian support for the Conservatives has plateaued.

“Instead of joining the Tories, a rising share of respondents support other parties or identify as “undecided”. Nevertheless, Labour’s losses among the Indian diaspora are real and unique among south Asian minority communities: BES data do not suggest a corresponding decline in Bangladeshi or Pakistani support for Labour,” the report further said.

“Younger British Indians (between the ages of 18 and 29) are the strongest supporters of Labour, preferring it over the Conservatives by a margin of 54 per cent to 21 per cent. Among those aged 50 and above, however, Labour’s advantage is a mere two points (37 per cent v 35 per cent). Also, a majority of Muslim and Sikh respondents would vote Labour in a snap election, but among Christians and Hindus the Conservatives would be the most popular party.”

The survey cited economics, perception of party “brands” and attitudes toward India as three major contributing factors towards this shift.

British Indians, though disappointed with the record of Boris Johnson’s government, many are also critical of Labour policies. They also think that the party is too influenced by socialism, The Guardian report said.

According to the survey, four in 10 Hindus report that the Conservative party is “closer” to British Indians; similar proportions of Sikhs and Muslims say the same about Labour. A majority of all respondents readily identify Labour as most proximate to other large south Asian minorities, predominantly Muslim.

It found out that foreign policy is not an electoral priority for British Indians, but policy positions can affect a party’s overall brand.

In 2019, Labour party passed an emergency motion calling for international observers in the state when the Indian government abruptly ended Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional autonomy. The decision divided British Indians, particularly Hindus.

British Hindus hold the most unfavourable views of Pakistan, another factor that might bind them to the Tories, who are less reliant on votes from the Pakistani diaspora, the survey has revealed.

“Promoting leadership that resonates with British Indians would help, particularly given the community’s dismal views of Boris Johnson. However, if there is a prime minister-in-waiting poised to entice British Indian voters, our survey suggests it is the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, not Keir Starmer,” The Guardian report concluded.

“On the other hand, immigration may counterintuitively hurt Labour’s standing. Many newer arrivals from India and newly naturalised citizens appear to lean Conservative. In this context, India’s polarised political environment – propelled by the BJP’s rising tide of Hindu nationalism – could have impacts beyond the country’s borders, bringing the UK and India together in a most unexpected way.”

Eastern Eye

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