Monday, 28 September 2009

Chinese for Labour – Don’t Forget the Chinese Votes

The Chinese community is an ethnic vote that many people do not recognise the size and importance of. It is currently the fastest growing non-European ethnic group in the United Kingdom. There are a quarter a million people of Chinese ethnic origin distributed fairly evenly across the country. South Thanet had at the last census 273 people of Chinese origin. With a projected Conservative majority of 328 after boundary changes they could play a pivotal role.
Today Sonny Leong (top picture) Chair of Chinese for Labour hosted the first ever Chinese community fringe meeting in Britain by talking about the importance of how the many parliamentary candidates and MPs in the audience could use the provided campaign toolkit to identify and work with Chinese voters. In seats with majorities in the hundreds like Oxford East and Finchley and Golders Green with almost 2,000 Chinese voters, their votes can decide the outcome. In some seats in 2005 Labour lost votes amongst the Asian community because of Iraq, resulting in George Galloway winning his seat, and assisting the Liberal Democrats to win in a number of seats like Hornsey and Wood Green, Brent East and Manchester Withington.

These complications mean any headline about universal swings for the next general election between Labour and Conservative are lazy and ill informed. Most political correspondents in national newspapers should plead guilty. British politics has never been so complex and diverse as it is now. Our media do us a disservice by clinging to the swingometer politics of 50 years ago.

Harriet Harman thanked Sonny Leong for all his work and fundraising for Labour. Her speech was brief as like many Cabinet ministers she was speaking at a series of meetings during the lunch break of Conference. Keith Vaz MP (2nd picture) talked about the outstanding academic achievements of Chinese children, the best in the country. He also highlighted the failure of the Labour Party to have selected a Parliamentary candidate of Chinese ethnic origin for next year's General Election. He was especially disappointed because the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have done this. He hoped that this would be remedied in the forthcoming selections. He recalleded his first Parliamentary campaign in Richmond where he lost by 20,000 votes.

Jack Dromey (3rd picture) Deputy General Secretary of trade union UNITE talked about how Labour’s legislation on gangmasters addressed the exploitation of casual workers. This was tragically seen when Chinese cockle pickers drowned in Morecombe Bay.
Labour’s General Secretary Ray Collins talked about the low level of voter registration in the Chinese community. This is a failure that still hurts Labour where lower representation amongst ethnic communities means they do not punch their full electoral weight.

Finally, rushing in from previous meetings Foreign Secretary David Miliband apologised for the brevity of his appearance. He was the star attraction with the many photographers, and two television cameras zooming in to get their shots. David Miliband talked about the need to fight for the diverse values of Britain both domestically and internationally. We are diverse not homogenous and we should be proud of that.

4 comments:

  1. I see all voters as important. If a political candidate was actively engaging with all communities there would be no need to chase small minority groups at the expense of hard to re-enfranchise larger groups because there would be no disenfranchised groups to start with. Targeting voters by race feels like racism by another name to me.

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  2. Surely we want all electors to vote equally? If we can identify a group that does not vote as much as it could shouldn't we encorage them to vote. I think everybody should vote. Parties target mums, farmers, students and ethnic groups. I think encoraging people to vote is good.

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  3. Mark. I do not target individual groups to vote for me, I target all those who vote, It strikes me that to discriminate encourages exclusion. Let all be included. Also, I see a trade unionist is keen on tearing up the 'Sun' newspaper. Cast your mind back to the late 30's who was it that tore up the written word that did not comply with their political dogma?

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  4. Ken then you are out of step with the rest of your party who do work to get more Asian, Chinese and gay votes etc.
    On Tony Woodley's actions he made the point about how the Sun lied about regarding the tragic death of Liverpool fans at Hillsborough. The Sun has never apologised to their shame. I would not have done it, but I understand why he did.

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