UK visa holders and migrants 'could decide election'

05 Feb 2015 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Migrants in the UK could hold the decisive vote in the coming General Election, according to a recent study conducted by the Migrants' Rights Network and Manchester University.

The research found that nearly four million people born overseas are eligible to vote in this year's election. This means that in 70 constituencies, the majority of the sitting MP is outnumbered by migrant voters.

In fact, the researchers claim that some ten per cent of the electorate are migrant voters – according to their analysis of data from 2001 and 2011 censuses.

Given the state of current discourse regarding migrant communities, UK visa access and immigration, the study has generated some concern that this migrant group of voters may find themselves alienated from mainstream politics.

Co-author of the report, Ruth Grove-White, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that despite the fact that this is a “highly disparate” group of people, there are “certain issues which unite migrant voters – an one of them is their view about immigration”.

She added: “We know that migrants in the UK are much more positive about immigration and its cultural and economic impact, and much more likely to be concerned about racial discrimination.”

Ms Grove-White advised that politicians should be “careful” given the already “heated debate” surrounding UK immigration.

The report found that the majority of migrants in the UK are from countries such as India, Nigeria and Pakistan, namely established Commonwealth countries. Due to the fact that many European Union nationals living in the UK have not had any reason to acquire British citizenship, it is likely that this group will be heavily under-represented in the voting.

Exactly which way the migrant vote will swing remains unclear, but from analysis of previous elections we can see that in 2010, 68 per cent of black and ethnic minority voters voted Labour, while 16 per cent voted Tory. It is thought that this was due a legacy view of Labour as the party that “protects migrant and minority interests”.