- Toby Melville/Reuters
- BME voters much more likely to vote Labour than Conservative.
- Theresa May is seen to blame for the loss of support, following her “citizen of nowhere” speech in 2016.
- Tory MPs given “gloomy” briefing about private polling.
LONDON – The Conservative Party’s support amongst ethnic minority voters has fallen to its lowest level since 2001, with Theresa May’s stance on immigration being blamed for the setback.
MPs have been told at secret Downing Street briefings that the Conservatives are now “toxic” to many non-white voters across Britain.
Private polling for the Tories has shown that black and minority ethnic voters have a similar set of values to the rest of the country but are a lot less likely to vote for the Conservatives.
The prime minister was responsible for the Home Office’s “go home” vans while she was home secretary, and has repeatedly stated her aim to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands.
May also told the Tory conference in 2016: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what citizenship means,” which was later condemned by opposition figures.
She also vowed to tackle “burning injustices” such as racial inequality when she became prime minister, including the fact that “if you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white,” but this message has not appeared to attract voters.
MPs were given a presentation by the prime minister’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, in the past fortnight that presented the figures. One MP told The Times: “It was really gloomy.”
Another MP said: “We made big strides under Cameron. For reasons of image, not policy, it seems to have gone backwards.”
A senior Conservative source said: “We’ve been told that BME support is down to 2001 levels, when Iain Duncan Smith was leader. It’s that bad.”
The private polling showed that BME voters identified with Conservative values such as freedom and choice and caring for future generations, but would not vote Tory.
BME voters are much more likely to vote for Labour, with data from the 2017 election showing that the Conservatives only achieved 17% of the ethnic minority vote, which is down from 21% in 2015.