Nearly two thirds of voters in Harrow East are from ethnic minorities, but despite these groups being politically active they are still undervalued and poorly represented, new research shows.
In a study released last week, a Warwick university academic shows that the ethnic minority vote will be more important than ever before in the upcoming election but Britain must still do more to encourage their role in the national debate.
Professor Muhammad Anwar, from Warwick’s Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, notes that ethnic minorities are nearly on par with white voters when it comes to voter registration and that as a group they have above average turnout in elections.
Harrow East has the highest proportion of the ethnic minority vote in the country, and is one of 25 constituencies where more than 40 per cent of people come from a minority group.
With 66.3 per cent of the area’s population categorised as from a minority in the 2001 census, Harrow East is far above the national average of one in ten.
Yet even for the national average, minority groups remain badly represented in the political process. There are only 15 MPs of ethnic minority origin, and just double this figure in the larger House of Lords.
While nationally voter turnout has plummeted in recent years, it is rising amongst minority groups. Just 61.4 per cent of people turned out to vote in the 2005 election, but for Bangladeshi voters it was per cent, with 70 per cent of Pakistanis and 67 per cent of Indians voting.
Professor Anwar said this trend would continue among Asian and particularly among Muslim groups. He said this was because British Muslims had become a focus of the media and of politicians.
“Muslims themselves have become more conscious of their rights and responsibilities as British citizens, including participation in the electoral process,” he said.
He said that rising political participation should also be matched by rising representation.
“The effective representation of ethnic minorities in politics is crucial to the achievement of equality of opportunity across our society,” he said.
“There has been some progress but Britain has a long way to go in providing equality for ethnic minorities in the decision making process.”