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The 2015 General Election saw the Conservatives receive one million ethnic minority votes for the first time in its electoral history – largely at the expense of Labour. A post-election survey by British Future showed that the Tories supposedly now enjoy an electoral advantage within Britain’s Hindu and Sikh communities by a margin of 8% over Labour (49% / 41% in both cases). This sharply contrasts with the 2010 election figures, where according to a 2014 report produced by think-tank Theos, Labour secured a 13 percentage-point advantage over the Tories among British Hindus, with the Conservatives trailing Labour by 48.5% within the UK Sikh community.

While the British Future survey is admittedly small in sample, it does support the general trend from much ethnic minority voting research that there has been a real weakening in the party-voter relationship between Labour and people of Indian origin – to the benefit of the Conservatives. Being a vitally important electoral demographic due to their residential concentration in key marginal towns such as Swindon, Watford, Croydon and Milton Keynes, further strengthening and consolidating British Indian support should be a top priority of future Conservative electoral strategy.

While the conventional Tory message of personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, and sound economic management resonates with many British Indians, there is one issue that could win over their long-lasting loyalty if tackled – discrimination. Despite relatively high levels of upward social mobility, feelings of discrimination and injustice among much of the British Indian community have been reported.

According to a 2010 Ethnic Minority British Election Study survey, 28% of British Indians reported that they had suffered personal discrimination in the last five years. There is also a strong degree of feeling that there is a fundamental problem of ‘inequality of opportunity’ in the UK. 65% of British Indians stated that opportunities for minorities needed to improve, with 26% arguing that minorities should even be given priority – presumably to compensate for perceived embedded discrimination in employment practices. Feelings of fraternal relative deprivation are also noticeably high within the UK Indian community, with 44% agreeing with the statement: ‘there is a big gap between what my ethnic group expect and get’. There are particular grievances over ‘visible’ discrimination, with 40% believing that ‘non-whites’ are held back by prejudice.

These figures are anything but evidence of ‘misplaced victimhood’ within the British Indian community. In fact, their implications are supported by a number of research studies. These studies have shown that UK Indians continue to suffer employment disadvantages, in spite of their relatively high levels of educational attainment. Despite being a relatively successful ethnic group, British Indians are subjected to ‘ethnic penalties’ within the labour market, and find it more difficult than similarly qualified white British peers to obtain employment commensurate with their educational qualifications.

In light of this, the focus on CV discrimination during the Prime Minister’s last party conference speech was recognition that social issues not traditionally associated with the Conservatives need to be tackled head-on – not only on the grounds of justice and equality of opportunity, but also because it presents a real chance for the party to shatter Labour’s historical ownership of such policy matters. Therefore, it is vital that David Cameron (and his successor) vigorously presses ahead with the blind CV equality initiative announced last October, where graduate recruiters including the NHS, BBC, KPMG and HSBC committed to delivering name-blind applications for all graduate and apprentice roles.

The powerful legacy of the Race Relations Acts passed by Labour in the 1970s was demonstrated by the comprehensive electoral support the party used to consistently rely on from middle-class, socially mobile British Indians during the New Labour years. With the objective of creating durable electoral relations with more British Indians who may already be economically inclined to ‘vote blue’, the 2010s needs to be the decade where the Conservatives manage to consign Labour’s previous monopoly on tackling ethno-racial discrimination to the dustbin of history.

Stressing the importance of sound economic management, encouraging individual initiative by streamlining the benefits system, and championing innovation and enterprise, evidently won the minds of many British Indians in last May’s General Election. However, convincing them that the Conservative Party is dedicated to fighting labour market discrimination and ensuring a fairer allocation of rewards based on merit, could well win their hearts.

Rakib Ehsan is a Doctoral Researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London, specialising in ethnic minority socio-political attitudes and behaviour in the UK.