Baroness Warsi’s interview with the Sunday Times and Independent on Sunday is, unsurprisingly, not just about her discomfort with the government’s policy in the Middle East. The Independent on Sunday uses her jibe at public school Tories as its top line, while the Sunday Times splashes on the peer’s warning that the Tories have left it a ‘little too late’ to attract more votes from ethnic minorities.
Her criticisms, aimed as a parting shot at her colleagues, may be discounted for being just that: nothing more than a sour parting shot from someone who found that a number of people who worked with her were only too pleased to see her out when she resigned last week. But just because they come from Warsi, hardly flavour of the month, doesn’t mean they’re not true. Her killer quote on the Tory appeal to ethnic minorities is this:
‘I think the party has shifted since then. I think over time it will be a regressive move because we have to appeal to all of Britain, not just because it’s morally the right thing to do… but because it is an electoral reality.
‘We’ve probably left it a little too late to take this part of the electorate seriously.’
Leaving it a little too late is a problem for all political parties. Towards the end of the beginning of the electoral cycle, they start to talk earnestly about their shrinking electoral map – whether that be geographically or socially – and try to work out how to reverse the decline. Then in the middle of the electoral cycle, some worried party members set up campaign groups to do something about it. Then towards the end, as the General Election is in sight, party command starts to wonder whether there’s much of a chance this time around and whether it might instead be better to hunker down and focus on the core vote. It’s not just the Tories who could be accused with reason of doing this: Labour’s southern mission hasn’t yet built up anything that could optimistically be described as a head of steam, while the Lib Dems could almost tell you the names of each of the individual niche voters they’re after.
People other than Warsi inside and outside the Conservative parliamentary party have been warning for years that the party isn’t appealing to ethnic minority voters, working class voters, northern voters and sundry other groups. But it’s unlikely that Warsi’s particular warning will be heeded with anything other than irritation by those at the centre, even if beneath everything, she has a very good point.