LABOUR MP Seema Malhotra has spoken of her surprise at the voting pattern among Asian com- munities at the EU referendum vote last Thursday (23), writes Rithika Siddhartha and Reena Kumar.
With the exception of London, large swathes of England, including west and east Midlands and Yorkshire and the north east, which have a substantial Asian population, voted for Britain to leave the EU.
In the run-up to the referendum last week, Malhotra, who represents Feltham and Heston, spoke of the challenges in persuading voters outside London to vote for Britain to stay in.
She told Eastern Eye on Tuesday (28), “When you look at the evidence of the benefits of EU membership, I am surprised. We have gained so much from being in the EU.
“Immigration from the EU, alongside the dif- ficulty experienced every day for Asians even to have family visit from abroad, suggest that the unfairness of the current immigration system was an important reason.”
Leicester, which hosts the biggest Diwali cel- ebrations outside India, voted to remain by a narrow margin of 3,000 votes. Leicester East MP Keith Vaz told the BBC last Friday (24): “Frankly, in a thousand years I would never have believed the British people would have voted this way. “It’ll be catastrophic for our country, for the rest of Europe and indeed the world. The issues of immigration are extremely important; if you look at the campaign I think there needed to be a much stronger campaign to stay in.
“The Leave campaigners were prepared to in- dulge in hand-to-hand combat, in local constit- uencies. They (voters) rejected the advice of all the experts and the arguments that had been put forward by almost everyone in Parliament.”
Malhotra said many Asian voters also changed their views near polling day, “when they grew concerned about the impact on the economy, saw that much of the unfairness had its root in the Tories’ immigration policy”.
In England, 53.4 per cent voted to leave, while the corresponding figure in Northern Ireland was 44.2 per cent and in Wales, 52.5 per cent.
Scotland (62 per cent) voted to remain and Humza Yousaf MSP told Eastern Eye: “I am very pleased. Every single local authority area in Scotland, including our two largest and most diverse cities (Glasgow and Edinburgh) chose to overwhelmingly vote to remain.” Polling by Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft showed that two thirds (67 per cent) of those describing themselves as Asian voted to remain. His survey of 13,369 people showed that across England, leave voters (39 per cent) were more than twice as likely as remain voters (18 per cent) to describe themselves either as “English not British” or “more English than British”.
Remain voters were twice as likely as leavers to see themselves as more British than English.
His poll also found that a majority of voters who saw multiculturalism, feminism, the Green movement, globalisation and immigration as “forces for good” voted to remain in the EU, while those who saw them as a force for ill voted by even larger majorities to leave.