The outcome of the 2015 general election is looking to be every bit as close as that in 2010, and immigration has risen to the top of the political agenda of all the main parties.
Immigration has played a major role in shaping modern Britain over the last few decades, with London especially being one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. It is an issue that could decide the result in many marginal constituencies and subsequently impact directly on the make-up of the next government.
According to a recent briefing by the pressure group Migrant's Rights Network, entitled Migrant Voters in the 2015 General Election, foreign-born residents of the UK could have a substantial impact on the outcome of the May 2015 election. The migrant electorate is a crucial voting group in this election, and this electorate will grow with importance in future years.
In the UK, all British Citizens, Commonwealth citizens and those who are citizens of the Irish Republic, registered to vote and are over the age of 18 are eligible to cast a vote in the general election, provided that they are not legally exempt from doing so.
There is a risk facing political parties today that any overly fierce rhetoric regarding immigration, will have a lasting effect on the way that migrants choose to vote and may impact on the political orientations of the new migrant electorate in future elections. Likewise the parties are crucially aware that their policies and pronouncements on immigration issues could adversely affect their traditional core vote.
According to the recent study published by Migrants' Rights Network, around one voter in every ten eligible to vote will be a migrant voter, and many more will be the children of migrants, with this share steadily rising, as migrants who have settled in the UK over the past decade gain British citizenship and integrate into political life.
The briefing states that political alienation has become an increasing problem in the UK, with many groups in society feeling cut off from, and disillusioned with today's political parties. Groups such as the 'working class' as well as young graduates are losing faith in the political system and are less trusting in Britain's political institutions. Britain's migrant population presents an exception to this rule however. According to the study, migrants are generally positive about British politics. Yet experiences of hostility, or even indifference from the political class is likely to affect this positive mind-set and may result in migrant communities feeling unwelcome and unwanted, the briefing has warned. The briefing has highlighted that costs to parties running in the upcoming election could be significant if migrants are made to feel alienated; the migrant electorate is sizeable and highly concentrated and could easily sway a number of marginal parliamentary constituencies across the country. The briefing states that in at least 70 parliamentary constituencies, the migrant share of the vote will be more than double the present current majority. Therefore, the report suggests that there are risks in marginalising those who have committed to Britain in making it their new home, and as immigration continues in Britain, modern political parties would be wise to reflect the new realities of modern Britain.
If you would like to read the full Migrants' Rights Network report, visithttp://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/files/publications/Migrant _Voters_2015_paper.pdf