The Myth of the Muslim Vote

Miliband ethnics

Many nationalist blogs and forums would have you believe that Muslim voters exercise significant political power, forcing party leaders to curry favour with them at the expense of White voters.

But is this true?  There is no doubt that the number of Muslim voters in Britain has increased dramatically in recent years, as children and grandchildren of the original Asian immigrant generations have grown up, and their numbers have been swelled by more recent arrivals from Africa.  Also there is no doubt that Muslims tend to turn out to vote at elections, in much greater proportions than some other minority groups such as the (mainly Christian) Afro-Caribbeans.

Nevertheless to have real influence even in a very close contest such as next week’s general election, Muslims would need to have two extra factors on their side: they would have to be concentrated in potentially marginal seats, and it would have to be credible that they could switch between the major contending parties.

The truth is that neither of these factors apply.  There are forty constituencies (out of the UK total 650) that are more than 15% Muslim, and of these only five are truly in the balance: two Lib Dem held seats being targeted by Labour (Birmingham Yardley and Bradford East), and most crucially three presently Conservative seats on Labour’s key target list (Pendle, Dewsbury and Ilford North).  In the latter case the importance of the Jewish vote (6.5% – plus ethnic Jews who are listed on the census as ‘no religion’) partly counterbalances the Muslim vote (15.3%), and the odds are that pro-Israel Tory MP Lee Scott will survive. Meanwhile in Pendle and Dewsbury the influence of UKIP will probably combine with Muslims moving from Lib Dem to Labour, and produce Labour gains.  In Bradford East the incumbent Lib Dem MP David Ward has desperately burnished his anti-Zionist credentials in a bid to avoid what seems sure defeat.

Of the rest 33 are safe Labour while one – Brent Central – is a certain Labour gain from the Lib Dems this year, and is such an ethnic and religious hotchpotch that its 21.2% Muslim population could never be seen as decisive anyway. Birmingham Hall Green was close in 2010 only because of the strong Respect campaign by local councillor Salma Yaqoob. With her retirement and the decline of Respect everywhere outside George Galloway’s Bradford, Hall Green is sure to be safe Labour this year.

That leaves just Bradford West – 51.3% Muslim and sensationally won by George Galloway in a 2012 by-election – where we really do see a contest that is all about the Muslim vote, though with many local peculiarites (in this case ‘local’ means Pakistani village politics transferred to Yorkshire).  Galloway will almost certainly win, but this underlines the real truth that Muslim voters will have very little influence on the outcome of the 2015 General Election, and very little influence on the next government.

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