The Labour Party – once the default party for ethnic minority voters – has taken the support of minority communities for granted, according to the man who was, until recently, widely tipped to become Britain’s first black Prime Minister.
Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna, who surprised many by pulling out of his party’s leadership contest in May, said Labour was failing to better engage with minority voters.
Mr Umunna’s comments come days after research by the British Future think tank found that more than half of British Hindus and an equal number of British Sikhs voted for the Conservatives in the recent General Election.
The figure was the highest in the Conservatives history.
Whilst a not-insignificant majority of minority voters continue to support Labour, the party’s share of the increasingly important Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) vote is on the wane, British Future found.
Mr Umunna told the Independent on Sunday: “There is a real danger that the Labour Party, which traditionally has attracted the support of ethnic minorities, has taken these communities for granted and not engaged enough with them.
“In policy terms, what we were proposing at the general election with security at work, jobs for young people, and the compulsory jobs guarantee, these were all going to help ethnic minority communities, but we did not engage nearly enough with the diverse communities and we need to do that.
Mr Umunna, who withdrew from the Labour Party’s leadership contest saying he was uncomfortable with the scrutiny of his family the position will involve, said he was also concerned at the lack of diversity in the contest.
“I am very worried that we risk going into this leadership and deputy leadership contest without any candidate of colour in either contest.
“I think that would send a terrible message to many of our ethnic minority communities who see that their support is taken for granted by the Labour Party. There is a real danger that the lack of diversity in either contest reinforces the notion that the Labour Party does take ethnic minority support for granted.”
The MP for Streatham said he was supporting British-Bengali politician Rushanara Ali – the first woman of Bangladeshi origin to become a Member of Parliament – in the Labour deputy leadership contest.
“She brings much-needed diversity to our leadership contests. It is really important for colleagues who are considering who to nominate to think about the message they would send if there is no diversity in either race”, Mr Umunna said.