PM orders new minorities push to stave off Tory election crisis

David Cameron alarmed over Labour lead in immigrant communities

David Cameron has ordered a drive to increase the number of black and Asian Conservative parliamentary candidates, amid fears within the party that its unpopularity among ethnic minorities could spell disaster at the next election.

The Prime Minister has told colleagues that he regards building support among voters from immigrant backgrounds as the biggest challenge facing the Tories in their quest to "detoxify" their image among large sections of the community.

Senior party figures are pointing to last month's defeat for the Republican candidate Mitt Romney – who was largely shunned by black and Hispanic voters – in the US presidential election as a warning of the costs of ignoring Britain's rapid demographic shifts.

One Conservative MP in a marginal urban seat told The Independent that his party faced an "existential" challenge in responding to the country's changing ethnic make-up. MPs and candidates are being given advice on how to engage with non-white communities by regularly attending key events, being urged to increase their presence in ethnic minority newspapers, radio programmes and television bulletins and to gain expertise on issues that particularly affect such groups.

The Tories said they were basing the strategy on the success of the governing Conservative Party of Canada, which boosted its electoral fortunes partly by increasing its support among voters born outside the country.

The party insists its core messages – including support for small business and defence of the family – resonate with many ethnic minorities, but admits it is hampered by a "brand" problem among such groups.

The Reading West MP Alok Sharma, the Tory vice-chairman in charge of the strategy, said Mr Cameron supported increasing the diversity of Conservative parliamentary candidates and MPs.

Mr Sharma said he hoped the party and Parliament would come to be "reflective of the country we live in". He said: "I very much hope that over a period of time there will be many more people from ethnic minority backgrounds on the Conservative benches, but also all benches."

Although the Conservatives increased their number of black and Asian MPs from two to 11 at the last election, alarm bells were sounded in party headquarters by their 16 per cent support among ethnic minorities compared with the 68 per cent picked up by Labour.

Unless they can close the gap, their poor polling among non-white communities threatens their control of between 10 and 15 parliamentary seats and undermines their hopes of capturing 10 to 15 other seats held by Labour with small majorities.

Research presented privately to party leaders revealed that people from Afro-Caribbean and Pakistani backgrounds are most hostile to the Conservatives, but that other ethnic minorities including Sikhs and Hindus – even those who regard themselves as middle class – are resistant to Tory messages.

They have been told the Conservatives suffer a serious "brand" problem dating back to Enoch Powell's "rivers of blood" speech. It has been fuelled by such episodes as Norman Tebbit talking about the "cricket test" for immigrants and the institutional failures exposed by the murder of the black schoolboy Stephen Lawrence, which occurred under a Tory government.

Gavin Barwell, the MP for Croydon Central, warned the party could not win the next election without significantly increasing its appeal to minority communities.

He said: "The Prime Minister, and people around him, understand this and are focused on it. The party as a whole is increasingly focused on it and the number of colleagues who understand this is growing all the time.

"In the long term it's an existential issue for the party. In the short term we have got to focus on everybody who didn't vote for us at the last election."

A prominent member of the Tory Reform Group, Samuel Kasumu, who joined the Conservatives at the age of 19, said: "There was a party that didn't look like me but sounded like me – that was the Tories. And there was a party that looked like me but didn't sound like me – Labour."

Changing face of the Tories ethnic minority MPs

Helen Grant (MP for Maidstone and the Weald)

The family lawyer, brought up by a white single mother on a Carlisle council estate, said in 2010: "I'm part of a changing face of the Tory party. Together we are a truer and better reflection of modern Britain."

Alok Sharma (Reading West)

The Indian-born MP wiped out Labour's 5,000 majority to claim Reading West in 2010. He has worked on a factory production line, as a company auditor, tutored students, and run a consulting firm.

Priti Patel (Witham)

William Hague's former press secretary, who is the daughter of Ugandan immigrants, said this year: "Many Asian communities are entrepreneurial and very Conservative. We have made real progress as a party in reaching out to them."

Sam Gyimah (East Surrey)

The former banker, who spent much of his childhood in Ghana, was appointed David Cameron's parliamentary private secretary earlier this year.

Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove)

The son of a bus driver was recently appointed Treasury Secretary. Mr Javid is "proud" of his Pakistani and Muslim heritage and has said: "For too long we have championed an ideology of multiculturalism which has created divides rather than broken them down."

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star