Dear white people, this is my message to you as you go to the polls on Thursday

The Tories have learnt to play the politics of race, and the 'wages of whiteness' to perfection. Here's how you can cast that aside

Kehinde Andrews
Tuesday 06 June 2017 09:38 BST
BME voters are often concentrated in single constituencies and cannot influence the outcome of a general election
BME voters are often concentrated in single constituencies and cannot influence the outcome of a general election

The work of groups such as Operation Black Vote in encouraging black voters to the polls is extremely important and may even swing key marginal seats including Croydon Central.

The cultural movement #Grime4Corbyn has captured the imagination of the young black electorate in ways that we have not seen before in Britain, but racial segregation will still have an important influence on the election. More than half of black people in Britain live in London, and half of all minorities reside either in the capital, in Birmingham or in Manchester.

Even in the cities, our votes tend to be concentrated in particular constituencies, which tend to vote strongly Labour. Perry Barr in Birmingham, where I will cast my ballot on Thursday, has a local population that is 60 per cent ethnic minority and has been held by a Labour MP since before I was born (and probably will be long after I am gone).

I have never seen a party candidate on the stump or had a call from a pollster, and my family has voted in this seat for decades. That’s because both know that the election will be decided in those areas between the cities, in seats such as Wirral West (2.7 per cent ethnic minority); Middlesborough South and Cleveland (2.5 per cent) and; Derbyshire North East (1.8 per cent).

General Election polls and projections: June 5

I will certainly be casting a ballot, and it is vital that ethnic minorities vote this time around. But saving the country from the economic despair of Toryism and Brexit is solidly down to the white vote.

Unfortunately, the Tories have learnt to play the politics of race to perfection. Decades ago, Margaret Thatcher pursued an economic agenda that laid waste to Labour heartlands and devastated the fortunes of the white working class. But she was able to capture much of the traditional Labour vote by appealing to what WEB Dubois called the “wages of whiteness”.

Draping herself in national pride and warning that the country was being “swamped” by immigrants, Thatcher offered the comfort and pride in whiteness. Once in power, the Conservatives decimated industry and public services by cutting taxes and allowing the rich to take an ever growing slice of the economic pie.

The legacy of that decision is significant at this election. In 1979, the richest 1 per cent took home 6 per cent of the all the wealth in the nation. By 2009, this had risen to 15 per cent. Even so the Tories have managed to convince a large section of the white voting public that their problem is immigrants rather than the rich.

The complaints that we hear from the white working class are all valid: housing is scarce and ill affordable; the NHS is under stress; evidence of social cohesion is about as easy to find as a unicorn. Many feel they are losing a foothold in the country they call home.

But I guarantee you that the decline of areas such as Middlesbrough or the Wirral has not been down to immigration. In fact, every issue that the white working class faces has an even larger impact on minority communities. The country is being lost, not to immigrants or minorities, but to the rich.

We saw the “wages of whiteness” play out at the ballot box only last year, when Cameron’s Brexit gamble backfired because he never believed that “people would vote themselves poorer” to avoid living near immigrants.

With Brexit now on the horizon, Thursday’s vote is one of the most important elections in post-war history. The Conservatives are offering the same cocktail of low taxation, low investment and neglect of public services that have led to the current failures of the welfare state. There is less money for all of those who are “just managing”, because the Tories managed to con the electorate into handing the wealth to the richest.

So this is my plea to white voters to: cast aside the “wages of whiteness” and vote in your own interests – which are those of the many and not the few.

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