The Labour Party has taken the support of ethnic minority voters for granted and risks losing them to the Conservatives, says Chuka Umunna.
The shadow Business secretary, who stunned his party by withdrawing from the contest to succeed Ed Miliband, told The Independent on Sunday that Labour had failed to engage with diverse communities because it was assumed they would simply vote for the party regardless.
Research by the British Future think tank published last week showed that one million voters of ethnic minority background helped to put David Cameron into Downing Street.
While Labour still secured 52 per cent of these voters, the Conservatives won 33 per cent of the three million votes up for grabs, the highest ever proportion for David Cameron’s party. Mr Umunna said this shift in support will continue unless there is better representation at the top of Labour, and more engagement with ethnic minority voters.
The MP for Streatham, who had been tipped as Britain’s first ethnic minority prime minister until he withdrew from the Labour leadership race earlier this month, said he was backing Rushanara Ali in the party’s deputy leadership contest because there needs to be an ethnically diverse range of candidates.
Mr Umunna said: “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.
“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."