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Review of "A Portrait of Modern Britain" by


19 May 2014

In January I received an email from Saratha Rajeswaran. She explained that she was the Deputy Head of a new unit at Policy Exchange looking into BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) research to analyse and understand Britain's increasingly significant BME communities. This would include patterns of migration, job occupation, wealth creation, social need and attitude development among the various communities.

Saratha explained that their first report will be a portrait of modern Britain and within it they would feature case studies from various people who represent BME communities, faith groups, community groups, as well as local and national politicians representing areas with a diverse ethnic mix. She explained that she had approached me due to my work within both the Muslim community and within the Conservative Party.

I was asked to contribute a short case study (no more than 300 words) regarding the experience of ethnic minority communities and participation in mainstream British politics. After speaking with her by telephone to clarify the task, I sent her my case study.

The report was published earlier this month, and received a significant amount of media publicity. In 97 short pages they have managed to distil the essential messages from a very large amount of data. It matters because 14% of the British population now belongs to an ethnic minority, projected to increase by 2051 to 20-30%.

An overview of the report

The back cover concisely explains why the report is so necessary.

“The face of Britain has changed. Among the heroes of Britain’s 2012 Olympic triumph were a Somali immigrant and a mixed-race girl from Yorkshire. Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis captured the spirit of the nation and came to represent Britain’s incredible diversity. Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities now make up a significant and fast-growing part of the population.

From a political perspective, few attempts have been made to properly understand Britain’s minority communities and there is a tendency to assume that all BME communities can be treated as a single political entity – as if all ethnic minorities held similar views and lived similar lives. But clearly there is no single ‘BME community’. This report starts to answer the question: ‘Who are Britain’s BME communities?’ It draws on an extensive set of data and individual case studies to build up a detailed portrait of the five largest minority communities in the UK.

BME communities will continue to become an ever more significant part of Britain. There are clear and striking differences between communities and these differences should be understood by policymakers and politicians. A Portrait of Modern Britain serves as a rich, authoritative and accessible reference guide to furthering that understanding.”

Table of contents

The table of contents provides an excellent overview of the document:

About the Authors



Executive Summary

  1. Background
  2. Origins
  3. Population
  4. Geography
  5. Citizenship and Identity
  6. Religion
  7. Household Composition
  8. Economic Activity
  9. Health
  10. Education
  11. Media
  12. Politics and Civic Engagement

Appendix 1 – ONS Rural Urban Classification

Appendix 2 – Geographic Breakdown of the BME Population

Appendix 3 – Data Tables

Ethnic categories

There is a wealth of data from the 2011 census, which is consistently analysed for the following classifications:

  1. White
  2. Indian
  3. Pakistani
  4. Bangladeshi
  5. Black African
  6. Black Caribbean

The above groups are all ethnic groups, not religious groups. However table 6.1 in chapter 6 “Religion” contains a detailed breakdown of each ethnic group between the religions of Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism and No Religion.

For example, 21% of Black African’s in Britain classify themselves in the census as Muslim.

My own contribution

The item I contributed appears on page 74 and is reproduced below.

Pen portrait 21: Muslims and the Conservative Party

Mohammed Amin is Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, however he has written here in a personal capacity.

Some British Muslims, under the influence of extreme religious views, consider that voting is un-Islamic. However the overwhelming majority do vote, with participation rates equivalent to, if not higher than, non-Muslim white Britons. Historically, most of them have voted for the Labour Party, for two reasons. Firstly, Muslims tend to be poorer than non-Muslims, and political affiliation tends to correlate with income. More significantly, the Labour Party has historically been much more active than the Conservative Party in promoting racial equality, while the Conservative Party is associated in the minds of many with racism. The memory of Enoch Powell is not easily forgotten.

However, significant progress has been made since 2005. As leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard appointed the first Muslim Conservative Parliamentarian when Mohamed Sheikh (chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum) was elevated to the House of Lords. David Cameron continued by ennobling Sayeeda Warsi and Tariq Ahmad, thereby emphasising that the Conservative Party was for everybody. Our first two Muslim Conservative MPs were elected in 2010; one of them, Sajid Javid, is now a Secretary of State.

The Conservative Muslim Forum exists to encourage British Muslims to participate in politics generally, preferably with the Conservative Party. Our activity in terms of events, membership and media presence has increased steadily since we were founded in 2005. Our simple goal is to make it commonplace for Muslims to vote Conservative and to be Conservative Party members and spokespersons.

One measure of progress is that I have attended the Party Conference each year since 2008, and each year ethnic minorities are more visible at the conference. At a personal level, the level of media enquiries I receive keeps rising.

Concluding comments

Much debate about politics and social attitudes takes place in a data free environment, dominated by opinion in the absence of facts. Accordingly, I cannot praise this report too highly. It is immensely informative while being short, well presented and very easy to read.

I cannot begin to summarise the data it presents. However I have selected just three snippets of data to illustrate how much one can learn from it.

  1. Three cities, London, Greater Birmingham and Greater Manchester account for over 50% of the UK’s BME population. (Page 7)
  2. All BME groups have higher proportions of students attending a traditional Sixth Form than the White population. (Page 63)
  3. Taking all minorities together, 61% identify with the Labour Party, but only 9% with the Conservative Party. (Page 73)

I recommend the report to everyone interested in politics or social policy.

Cover of the report

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