Provincial Tories reject Asian City worker

The local Conservative party in Witham, Essex have rejected an Asian candidate, City chartered accountant Ali Miraj, dealing a blow to David Cameron’s policy of getting more ethnic minority candidates selected for winnable Commons seats. This has prompted the resignation of Bernard Jenkin, the party’s deputy chairman responsible for recruiting more ethnic minorities, who had overseen Cameron’s A-list project but whom Miraj accused of warning him that he “would be shocked if they didn’t pick a white middle-class male” for the Witham seat, and that two Tory MPs for neighbouring Essex seats had given similar advice. (More: Ali Miraj’s blog ([1], [2]), Pickled Politics.)

I don’t know if the local Tories actually picked a local, but Ali Miraj lives in east London and so clearly had no great confidence in winning over the local Asian voters to the party’s cause. The Conservative party is generally one in which local associations pick local candidates; it would not be so easy for an opportunistic ship-jumper like Shaun Woodward to count on continuing his career by having a safe seat found for him by Central Office. And just how Asian is Witham? Why on earth does he think the people in a small, predominantly white and middle-class, provincial Essex town would pick an east Londoner just because the party leadership want to get more “ethnic” bums on seats?

I’ve said it before and will say it again: the only way the Conservative party can raise its standing among ethnic minorities and convince anyone that they are not the party of white provincials and big businessmen is to actually win over ethnic voters in their own constituencies. I wrote about some of what the party needs to do in this article in response to Francis Maude’s unconvincing appeal in Emel magazine earlier this year. Clearly they did not think they could win Whitechapel or any other predominantly Muslim constituency by putting up a City accountant with a fondness for house music and not the highest of profiles in the local Muslim community; as Mr Miraj himself knows, white middle-class areas do sometimes vote Asians into office. There are good reasons why Muslims especially are wary of the party, and one of them is the fear that the attitudes towards Islam and Muslims routinely displayed in the Tory-associated press might become government policy.

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