Tory Cabinet ministers have been ordered to attend Diwali and Eid festivals with Hindu and Muslim voters after being warned they can’t win the next election without increasing the number of Asian voters they attract.
George Galloway’s victory in the Bradford West by-election has convinced Conservative high command that they need to do more to reach ethnic minority voters.
Ministers and MPs are being quietly told that they need to ‘show their faces’ regularly at ethnic minority and religious festivals over the next three years, rather than simply turning up at election time.
The Tories are set to copy a strategy, pioneered by the Conservative Party in Canada, where ministers are expected to report which ethnic minority events they have attended each month.
David Cameron’s polling guru Andrew Cooper has identified more than 30 urban seats, with big black and ethnic minority populations, that need to be won to secure a Tory majority in 2015.
Mr Cooper has told ministers that polling data shows that while ethnic minority voters most closely associated themselves with Conservative values like the importance of family and law order, they still vote Labour by a majority of 70 to 30.
A senior source said: ‘The research found that while they shared our values we have a real brand problem with ethnic minority voters and that was something that needed to be addressed if we are going to stand a serious chance of winning in 2015.
‘We have taken the view in the past that we don’t need to show our faces and it’s enough to go and talk to so called “community leaders” and they can deliver the votes.
Victorious: George Galloway's win in the Bradford West by-election has spurred the Conservatives to chase the ethnic minority vote
‘But if you look at the 2010 election you can clearly see that didn’t work. If you analyse the result from seats like Solihull - which we should have won on the national swing - it shows that our failure to engage with ethnic minority voters was crucial in our failure to win.’
Stephen Gilbert, Mr Cameron’s Political Secretary, is to visit Canada to see what lessons can be learnt.
He will meet with Jason Kenney, the Conservative Minister for Citizenship and multiculturalism who has been nicknamed the “Smiling Buddha” for his efforts to win ethnic minority votes.
Mr Kenney has made frequent appearances at ethnic and religious events across the country and other cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Government are now expected to report which ethnic events they have attended each month.
The new strategy has the enthusiastic backing of the Conservative joint chairman Baroness Warsi who campaigned in Bradford and wants the party to adopt a more proactive approach to winning Asian voters.
She said last night: ‘If we want to win a majority at a General Election, we need the support of everyone who shares our values - whatever their background.
‘But at the moment, there is often a big mismatch between the ideals and aspirations of ethnic minority voters and the party they vote for.
We need to learn from centre-right parties in other countries how to attract votes who share our values but haven’t traditionally voted Conservative.
‘And we need to go out and persuade those voters that a Conservative government is the best way of fulfilling their aspirations for themselves, their families and their communities.’