Tories 'ignore' ethnic minorities as they fret over Ukip

Efforts to recruit more diverse candidates have been shelved in favour of chasing 'core Conservative voters'

Click to follow
Indy Politics

The rise of Ukip has diverted the Conservative Party from efforts to widen its appeal to Britons from ethnic minority backgrounds, a black Tory activist claimed yesterday.

Samuel Kasumu said the switch of emphasis to recovering "core Conservative voters" lost to Ukip had undermined attempts to produce dozens of ethnic minority candidates and "brand ambassadors" by the next election. The complaint comes after it emerged that the Prime Minister's only black, working-class adviser had been moved out of Downing Street, reportedly after being "frozen out" by Mr Cameron's "clique" of Old Etonian aides.

Shaun Bailey, who worked as a special adviser on youth, crime and race issues, was moved to a part-time role in the Cabinet Office earlier this year. The Daily Telegraph claimed he had told friends he was excluded from Mr Cameron's inner circle because he was "different" and repeatedly asked difficult questions about the Government's priorities.

Mr Kasumu, founder of the youth employment charity Elevation Networks and a member of the Tory Reform Group, stood down last month from his role helping the Conservative Party to boost the representation of people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The One Nation Leadership mentoring programme, run by the Conservative MP and vice-chairman Alok Sharma, was intended to sign up to 30 people as activists or candidates every year. By 2015, there were supposed to be up to 60 Tory "brand ambassadors" from ethnic minority backgrounds, but it has not yet been officially launched.

Mr Kasumu, 25, said he was disappointed with the pace of progress. He added: "I fear that it is too late to get enough candidates in place for 2015. The rise of Ukip has distracted the party from this, so the Conservative Party is going for core Conservative voters who have switched to Ukip. Some would argue that appealing to them is more important than doing something to broaden the party's appeal. I am not sure there was enough from the leadership to really move things along."

Mr Cameron triggered renewed efforts to increase support among black and Asian voters last year, amid growing concerns that the party's unpopularity within minority ethnic communities could cost seats at the next general election.

But the drive to diversify the party's appeal has been overshadowed by complaints that the Prime Minister is creating a "chumocracy" inside No 10 by surrounding himself with fellow Old Etonians, after the appointment of Boris Johnson's brother Jo to head the Downing Street Policy Unit. Mr Cameron's chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, was also educated at the top public school.

Following the surge by Ukip, led by self-declared "ordinary bloke" Nigel Farage, at the local elections earlier this month, Mr Cameron is under renewed pressure to demonstrate that his party appeals to all voters, not just an elite.

Tory insiders say that, despite the friend of Mr Bailey telling the Telegraph "you can see from space that the place is dominated by those from Eton", there are a number of state-school educated people in No 10.

Sam Gyimah, the black Conservative MP for East Surrey and the Prime Minister's parliamentary private secretary, was educated at a state school, although he went on to Oxford. A friend of Mr Bailey said it was the difference in his background, rather than race, that would have contributed to the former adviser feeling excluded from the No 10 circle.

Mr Bailey, who failed in an attempt to become Conservative MP for Hammersmith at the last election, is understood to be interested in a seat in 2015. He was unavailable for comment yesterday. But on Friday evening, as the allegations about his Downing Street experience emerged, he tweeted: "Very happy with my move to the Cabinet Office. The PM's office have treated me well."

It was followed, 12 hours later, by another tweet: "I want to be clear I have no problem with the PM. He has always supported me."

A No 10 source said the messages made clear that the adviser was not critical of Mr Cameron or his office. The claim by a friend of Mr Bailey that, when asked by the US polling expert Frank Luntz what kept them awake, advisers had said nothing –before one of them said "school fees" – was a "ridiculous caricature" of people who work in Downing Street, the source added.

Cameron to hold Syria talks with Obama

David Cameron flies to the US today for his first meeting with Barack Obama since the President won a second term in office. The two men will hold talks on Syria and the agenda for the G8 meeting, which the Prime Minister hosts in Northern Ireland next month.

Mr Cameron is putting in thousands of air miles in diplomatic "pitch-rolling" ahead of his first hosting of a G8 summit as Prime Minister. Mr Cameron and other leaders will hold talks in New York on Tuesday.

The agenda for the G8 summit in Fermanagh, is still being finalised, but Mr Cameron is under pressure to coordinate meaningful action, rather than mere tough words, on ending the bloodshed in Syria. Last week he flew to the Black Sea resort of Sochi for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Following the meeting with Syria's closest ally, Mr Cameron said he had held purposeful talks with the Russian leader but warned: "The history of Syria is being written in the blood of her people."

Mr Cameron will return to the UK on Thursday, avoiding the difficult Commons vote on Europe in which he is allowing Tory MPs a free vote, while ordering ministers to abstain.

Jane Merrick