Launching the new ‘Lib Dem New European Network’

lib dem new european networkThe purpose of this network is to put Lib Dems of Central and Eastern European origin, as well as those with an interest in the region and the issues effecting our new European friends, neighbours and citizens, in touch with each other.   It should promote more effective campaigning, the sharing of advice on how to better represent residents of such a background, and spread awareness of the specific issues that affect these communities.

This hasn’t just sprung from disgust at the way UKIP and other politicians as well as much of our media have attacked Central and Eastern Europeans; nor is it just a reaction to recent events in Ukraine and the feeling that our response has been lacklustre.   At two separate party conferences I have been approached by Romanians who had just joined the party; in both cases out of a desire to ‘fight back’ against the tide of attacks against them and Bulgarians in particular.

Having joined however, they both expressed a sense of anticlimax.   ‘Now what?’ they asked.   They both seemed to feel that the party didn’t really know how to channel their activism.   Although the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats should and do campaign for racial equality for all, much of this effort understandably focuses on deeply entrenched problems faced by members of long-standing minorities in Britain.

I want this group to help us better welcome members of Central and Eastern European origin and to more effectively speak out on the issues faced by immigrants from the region.   With time we may become an organisation similar to the Lib Dem Friends of Turkey or the Chinese Liberal Democrats.   For now however, I think something less formal will suffice.

I do not aspire to grand heights of leadership: this network should be driven very much by the interests of its members.   But to get things started, my suggestions for the group’s initial agenda are as follows:

1)    Create a list of members who can act as ‘cultural advisors’, helping others within the party, and creating a living calendar of cultural and political events we ought, as a party, to be aware of, and feeding in the concerns of people from these communities.

2)    Put together a team of people who can write (or support others in writing) press releases on these subjects, as well as writing letters to journalists and MPs (backbench and/or minister, friend or political foe), raising concerns and asking for action to be taken.

3)    Pick a handful of locations – probably where our activist base already includes members of Central or Eastern European origin – and join them, campaigning on the local issues that matter to their constituents.

I am asking anyone interested in helping out to ‘like’ our Facebook page and/or (preferably both) email me at [email protected]   Please give me your name, your location / local party and your particular interest (a sentence or two is fine).   I am particularly keen to know if you speak any Central or Eastern European languages.    Please also state whether you are just signing up to be kept informed, or would like to actually help out.   I will need your help!

* Jonathan Brown is the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate of the Chichester Party and founder of the Liberal Democrats for Free Syria.

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  • Giles Goodall 25th Feb '14 - 1:31pm

    Great initiative Jonathan and one I’d be very happy to support. I also feel such a network is much needed within the party and could positively complement the work of EMLD. I’m keen to reach out to other EU citizens in the South East region ahead of the European elections, but agree that there is also a longer term challenge here we would do well to address.

    Best of luck!

  • Jonathan Brown 25th Feb '14 - 2:23pm

    @Dave, I hope so too. Of course, that’s more likely if people involved with ALDE get in touch with me. Hint, hint…

  • sounds like a good group for @markpack (sometime of this parish), with his Polish antecedants …

  • Jonathan Brown 25th Feb '14 - 10:26pm

    Thanks Dominic. Would you like to invite him? Personal contacts are always best, after all…

  • Jonathan Brown 25th Feb '14 - 10:29pm

    And thanks Giles too! I’ll respond to your email shortly.

  • Richard Sangster 26th Feb '14 - 8:24am

    It is going to be difficult to make contact with these groups, because, in the present climate, they probably feel the need to hide away; this of course shouldn’t be the case. The fact that there has been a large Polish community , who have never been a problem, in this country since the war, when they were somewhat war heroes , seems to be being ignored, a bit ironic. I wish your initiative well.

  • Hi Jonathan,

    You should also make contact with Jeremy Hill; he’s a member of my local party (Westminster), but as an ex-ambassador (to Lithuania among other places) has a good grounding in the region. He’s also been doing some work at Federal Party level to increase our vote share among EU voters living in the UK. If you can send me an email with your details and a bit of blurb, I’ll happily pass it on.

    Mark Platt ([email protected])


  • Jonathan Brown 26th Feb '14 - 6:57pm

    Thanks Richard, I think you’re probably right. I should make clear though that despite the timing of this launch, this is not primarily about the European elections. Of course, I hope that we can make a difference, but the intention is that his is more than just a ‘recruit the ethnic vote’ exercise.

    Your point about the Polish war heroes is well made. Having recently been reading about WWII, and the I think 25% of Battle of Britain pilots who were Polish, as well as the contribution Poles and other continental exiles made, it’s so insulting and so sad to see that we as a country have come to this.

    @Mark, thanks very much for the suggestion. I’ll send you an email shortly.

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