February 21, 2023 - 10:34am

New UnHerd data has revealed that Labour’s Asian-origin heartlands are, like much of Britain, opposed to the currently high levels of immigration into the UK.

Around three in five people in the two constituencies belonging to my traditionally Labour-voting hometown — Luton North and Luton South — believe that immigration is too high (59% and 58% respectively). According to the 2021 census, one in three people in of Luton North is White British. Half of the population is either Asian (39%) or Black (11%). In the neighbourhood of Kingsway, four in five people are of Asian heritage.

Six in 10 people in Leicester East, a constituency where nearly seven in 10 residents are of Asian origin, believe that immigration is too high. Similarly inclined are 56% of voters in Ilford South, an east London seat where 61% of residents belong to an Asian ethnic group. Only one in 10 people in the constituency are White British. 

Bradford West has the same percentage of Asian-origin residents as Ilford South, only this time 55% of voters think that immigration is too high. Slough is a Brexit-voting constituency where white people now make up just 35% of the population, with 56% of its voters being of the opinion that immigration is too high. All of these constituencies are currently represented by Labour MPs. 

As I wrote for UnHerd back in January 2019, immigration-related concerns are by no means the preserve of the white British mainstream — and this remains the case four years on. The ongoing small boats crisis, which saw 45,756 people enter the UK by crossing the English Channel in 2022, is an especially bitter pill to swallow for many first-generation migrants who legally relocated to Britain after going through a range of checks and evaluations. 

Earlier this month, The Times reported that Indian nationals are now the third largest cohort of Channel migrants. The perception of the UK’s asylum system being overrun by ‘queue-jumping’ economic migrants may be virtually absent in the Westbury Park suburb of Bristol West, but is likely to run deep in the working-class Girlington area of Bradford West.

There are also concerns over war-fleeing Ukrainians, with questions being asked over how well some have adjusted to relocating from their relatively homogeneous homeland to hyper-diverse areas in inner-city Birmingham. There have also been reports of members of established ethnic-minority communities blaming new arrivals from South Asia for the August-September 2022 Leicester disorders, with subcontinental-style sectarianism spilling over in eastern parts of the city such as Belgrave.

The modern Labour Party would do well to heed such data on public attitudes towards immigration. Many of Britain’s ethnic-minority citizens are anything but open-border internationalists. Instead, they are more likely to be patriotic traditionalists who believe in respect for the rule of law, a more restrictive immigration regime, and a well-ordered asylum system which firmly reasserts the line between economic migrants and genuine refugees. 

A combination of social democracy and cultural conservatism is, these new findings would suggest, the order of the day in Labour’s Asian-heritage strongholds. Whether the Party will pay any attention is another matter entirely.

Dr Rakib Ehsan is a researcher specialising in British ethnic minority socio-political attitudes, with a particular focus on the effects of social integration and intergroup relations.