Historically, the Chinese in Britain have not always found it worthwhile exercising their vote – only 30% of our community who are entitled to vote are not registered to do so compared to a UK average of 8-9%. Perhaps we have had too much to do in our businesses and families and have not been used to voting given our backgrounds. Or perhaps we did not feel our vote would change much given our minority status. Or perhaps we did not hold any of the candidates in General or other elections in much regard.
Well this year there are several reasons to think differently. In 2012 your vote will count, whether in the London Mayoral and Assembly Elections, in referenda elsewhere whether to have Mayors in other cities and subsequent Mayoral Elections, in council elections, and in elections later in the year for the Police Commissioners.
This is because your vote, now more than ever, really does count. In many electoral situations major parties and candidates have realised that given many mainstream voters have already decided which party to back, the floating voter has become key. And at the last General Election, analysis by party strategists on all sides now shows that women and minority ethnic groups were key floating voters in key electoral battlegrounds. So if you are a Chinese woman in Britain you are really powerful (my wife tells me this was always the case)! Therefore, I would urge you all to register to vote before the registration deadline of 18 April on the About My Vote website (www.aboutmyvote.co.uk).
Of course we must then in each case, work out whom you wish to vote for. And I would encourage you to vote for people, not primarily for parties. Because parties need to have more politicians in them who understand and will advocate for issues that British Chinese locally care about. So ask your local candidates what they will do for you, your community, and for better relations and trade between East Asia and the UK.
In the run up to London’s elections on 3 May, I shall be campaigning for Boris Johnson. He has shown he cares, and has done a lot to promote trade with London, to reduce crime and financial fraud which affects so many of our businesses, and has kept his promises (or admitted openly when he has not been able to do so). He has also worked hard to keep the cost of London government low by freezing his share of Council Tax for three years running and cutting it for 2012/13. As a descendent of migrants, he knows what it means to come in as an outsider, to have to study and work hard to rise up, and the importance of being self-reliant. And I know from having spent time with him in Chinatown that Boris is someone who will genuinely listen to our concerns and help us get a good hearing with the central government and other decision-makers.
So until the day when we get a Chinese origin Mayor in one of our cities, Boris is in my view the man for the moment. Let us all vote in 2012 no matter what, and if you are voting in London, let’s vote for Boris.
Lord Wei is the only active Chinese origin peer in the Houses of Parliament and sits on the Conservative Benches. He is Chair of the All- Party Parliamentary Group for East Asian Business and the Treasurer for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Chinese in Britain.