London: Indian-origin migrants that form the UK's largest foreign-born voter population could play a decisive role in the country's May 7 general elections which could result in a hung Parliament.
The party leaders from the ruling coalition—Conservatives and Liberal Democrats—and Opposition Labour redoubled their efforts to win over the electorate in one of the closest elections in British history where every vote will count.
The British Parliament is made up of 650 seats with 326 required for a majority. In the last elections in 2010, which also presented a hung result, the Tories had 307 and Labour 258.
The Liberal Democrats' 57 helped the Tories cobble together a majority but with the Nick Clegg-led Liberal Democrats losing much ground this year, any coalition talks are expected to run on for days as parties may be forced to resort to horse-trading.
For the first time, in this year's elections, it is predicted there are a significant number of seats where the migrant vote is likely to have the biggest impact—areas where there are large numbers of eligible migrant voters and a relatively small majority for the sitting MP.
In this so-called “migrant power list” there are 12 Opposition Labour marginal seats, six ruling Conservative seats and two held by the coalition partners Liberal Democrats.
The number of Indian voters, estimated at around 615,000, identifying with the Labour party has fallen from 77 per cent in 1997 to just 18 per cent in 2014 -- a fall of over three quarters, according to the figures from a recent British Election Study.
“The ethnic minorities are seen to be the core of Labour party vote, they have been for years, for decades but...the percentage of people who identify with the Labour party is falling very fast,” says Dr Maria Sobolewska, an expert from Manchester University and part of the team which conducted the study.
The ruling Conservatives, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, had only attracted 16 per cent of ethnic minority votes at the last election in 2010 and are seeking to address that by fielding 12 Indian-origin candidates in these elections.
These include Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy's son-in-law, Rishi Sunak, as well as the first Sikh candidate to contest in Northern Ireland, Amandeep Singh Bhogal.
The opinion polls reflect a neck-and-neck race with the latest YouGov opinion poll for the ‘Sun' indicating the Conservatives and Labour both at 33 per cent, with anti-immigration UKIP on 12 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats gaining two percentage points on 10 per cent.