Labour clings onto the Hindu vote

By Hamant Verma

Labour faces a fight to maintain its traditional support among the British Indian community, according to the results of a poll of Hindu voters.

The Hindu Forum of Britain claims to be the largest representative body for Britain’s 750,000 Hindus, with its membership strong in London and the Midlands.

The results of its poll, shown exclusively to politics.co.uk, revealed that Hindus are split as to which party to vote for, with Labour marginally in the lead on 27%, the Conservatives with 25% and the Liberal Democrats with 21%.

With 22% of respondents claiming to be undecided, the Hindu vote may have a significant impact on some constituencies because of the density of their ethnic population in certain boroughs, such as Brent and Ealing.

The HFB-commissioned survey found that only 12% of the Hindus polled believed that the major political parties proactively consulted or engaged with faith groups.

This lack of engagement is a worry for the main parties because more than a quarter of those polled, 28 per cent, will base their votes on the opinions of community elders, community leaders within the local temple or their local spiritual guru.

The poll, conducted by Able Marketing Communications, was composed of 1,000 telephone interviews with random-selected Hindu voters.

It showed that most Hindus think that Gordon Brown would make the best prime minister, closely followed by David Cameron, with Nick Clegg third.

Bharti Tailor, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: “It is very disappointing that so many Hindus have already decided not to vote. In the current political environment their vote will could be pivotal in some marginal seats, so I would urge them to make their vote count.

“The research also sends a warning to whoever comes to power, that they must actively engage with faith groups. Too many in the Hindu community feel that politicians and decision-makers are failing to address many of their concerns, despite being the third largest faith group in the UK.”

The top policy issues that will determine Hindu vote were the economy (36%), education (30%), healthcare (25%) and street crime (23%).

The disinterest comes despite there being 89 prospective parliamentary candidates of Asian origin standing this election compared with just 68 in 2005.

The HFB results follow an ICM poll, commissioned by BBC Asian Network over the Easter period, suggesting that just over four in ten Asian voters intend to make the trip to the ballot box.

The findings add weight to a recent campaign – backed by leading Muslim scholars – to try to get more people from the Asian community to vote.

The University of Warwick’s Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations stated that, in 2005, 67% of Pakistanis, 70% of Bangladeshis and 67% of Indians voted – compared with just over 60 per cent nationally.