One of the more significant – but still rather underreported – shifts in Conservative policy in the past few months has been Theresa May’s review of stop and search powers. The Home Secretary told parliament at the start of this month that she could understand why some communities felt stop and search was used unfairly. As James wrote at the time, the consultation was a signal from the Conservatives that they do understand the concerns of black and ethnic minority voters.
May’s announcement seems to have gone down very well indeed: the latest issue of black newspaper The Voice carries a feature examining which party should get the black vote, with a front page splash asking ‘Is Labour losing the black vote?’
The article praises May’s announcement in particular, saying:
‘The rare acknowledgement of racial discrimination shows how far the Tories have come from the ‘sus’ laws that were rife in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher, which fuelled riots in Brixton, Toxteth and Handsworth.’
But as well as saying that the Conservative party ‘has certainly changed its tune’, The Voice lays into Labour for growing complacent about the black vote. It quotes Simon Woolley, of Operation Black Vote, who believes Labour must do better, and says ‘discontent is growing among black and minority ethnic grassroots activists who feel there is no place for them in the party beyond being a foot soldier’.
This will please the Tories, and more specifically May, a great deal. It shows that this key modernisation moment on stop and search has had resonance with a group of voters they are specifically trying to target, and that their mission is by no means in vain.