Lib Dems are the natural party for Eastern Europeans in Britain

Britain’s always changing. That is one of the best things about our country.

Liberal Democrats, and before us Whigs and Liberals, have long supported outsiders seeking to make this place their home.

Whigs supported Huguenots – religious refugees from France. In the nineteenth century Liberals supported equality for Jews and Catholics, who were denied basic civil rights.

It is well documented in history that the arrival of new people has made our country greater. Immigrants have brought new talents and energy.

In the second-half of the last century we fought for the Race Relations Act and other laws to ensure equality, as more black and Asian people arrived.

Today, change continues.

EU enlargement, which has opened opportunities for British companies and many British people, has led to many people from Eastern Europe to settle here.

This is not entirely new. Southampton, for example, has had a significant Polish population since the 1940s. But there are many new people. All of us who have been canvassing have met them, in almost every town in England.

I want to say something to new residents,

Liberal Democrats welcome you.  Liberalni Demokraci zapraszamy.  Liberalų demokratų pasveikinti Jus.  Liberálni demokrati vítame.  Либеральные демократы приветствовать Вас.  Liberális Demokraták üdvözöljük.

The way East European people are sometimes talked about in the British media is a disgrace.

In years, decades and centuries’ time we will look back on your arrival as having made Britain a better place for us all – including the majority already here. If you get a job or set up a business, we don’t believe that your success is the cause of someone else’s failure.  More often it will be the cause of someone else’s success.

To those Britons who worry about whether more people means it will be harder to get work, speaking as a man from a working-class family, all the evidence says it won’t. We need to demand government delivers modern education and training that has been in short supply.

To my fellow Liberal Democrats, we must make every effort to establish ourselves as the natural party for residents from Eastern Europe or any other part of the EU.

To citizens of the EU living in Britain, “join the Liberal Democrats.” Help us build the best Britain that we can.

 

* Antony Hook is a Liberal Democrat MEP for South East England and has practised as a barrister since 2003.

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43 Comments

  • You really are a disgrace. You drove British voters away with your pro-EU stance and now you’re sucking up to what’s left in the hope of clinging to some power. I hope your party dies a deep and horrible death.

  • Sue,

    Very astute summing up of why the Liberal Democrats are so essential to a civilised society

  • ‘Sue’ I hope your party dies a deep and horrible death.’- ahh that great British spirt of compassion, love and understanding makes me proud……. BTW ‘Sue’ that is sarcasm….look it up.

    Keep up the good work Anthony – ‘All that is required for evil to flourish in the world is for good men and women is to do nothing.’

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Aug '15 - 3:29pm

    Andrew12th Aug ’15 – 2:23pm
    “Sue, Very astute summing up of why the Liberal Democrats are so essential to a civilised society”

    I wanted to say something Andrew but wouldn’t be able to better your comment 🙂

  • The party is fortunate to have members who are not afraid to defend Europe with passion and this plays well with voters. The party should also give senior Northern politicians like Joe Otten a platform to get back the UKIP vote.

  • Are the Eastern Europeans natural Liberal Democrats?

  • Shouldn’t the last sentence be “Help us build the best region of the EU that we can.”?

  • Manfarang

    many Eastern Europeans may need us to explain that we are not anything like the Russian party with the same name!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LDPR_%28political_party%29

  • Richard Underhill 12th Aug '15 - 6:09pm

    Please think about the Battle of Britain in 1940. Although our pilots parachuted down mostly into England, or the Channel we desperately needed the help we got from experienced fighter pilots from Poland and Czechoslovakia, without whom we would have lost.

  • Good to hear these comments. I hate when people say bad things about the Poles. They actually saved our country by contributing in the Battle of Britain and today they pay their taxes, respect our culture and laws. I wish we had more migrants like them. Good article.

  • David Evershed 12th Aug '15 - 7:20pm

    The only reason Antony gives for justifying the claim that Lib Dems are the natural home for E Europeans is that Lib Dems are in favour of being in the EU.

    Since the Labour Party and the Conservative Party are also in favour of staying in the EU, I don’t see that it makes Lib Dems any more a natural home for these EU immigrants than the other main parties.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 12th Aug '15 - 7:38pm

    David Evershed 12th Aug ’15 – 7:20pm – “Since the Labour Party and the Conservative Party are also in favour of staying in the EU, I don’t see that it makes Lib Dems any more a natural home for these EU immigrants than the other main parties.”

    I’ll respond in simplistic terms: for Labour would make them work to death, and the Conservative would oppress them, which is something they have experience of from their own Eastern governments history. However, with the Liberal Democrats for once they would be at home, that is, with their freedom and liberty.

  • jedibeeftrix 12th Aug '15 - 7:40pm

    “The only reason Antony gives for justifying the claim that Lib Dems are the natural home for E Europeans is that Lib Dems are in favour of being in the EU”

    I can only agree. Knowing my eastern european wife and our eastern european friends I am truly astonished at the certainty in the title.

    Little could be further from the truth.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Aug '15 - 8:31pm

    My sister in law is from Lithuania and she wasn’t even allowed to vote. She has been here since around 2005, always worked and never claimed benefits. It needs to get sorted.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Aug '15 - 8:34pm

    PS the issue is that you need a UK passport to vote in a general election, but this often involves giving up your old one, so many of taxpaying adults are prevented from voting.

  • jedibeeftrix 12th Aug '15 - 8:36pm

    “My sister in law is from Lithuania and she wasn’t even allowed to vote. She has been here since around 2005, always worked and never claimed benefits. It needs to get sorted”

    Get a british passport, easy!

  • The countries you speak of are probably the most racist.

  • I think the basis for these claims is false within the context of British politics. Furthermore, I believe if these comments were available to the wider population, they would provoke a backlash against LibDems and the EU.

    I do not argue with the polls. The UK public is uninformed and quite ignorant of the EU. Some people do not yet realise that we are in the EU. Much of this is due to the official policy of avoiding all information about the role of the EU in our lives in order to maintain such ignorance.

    Why are the Europhile LibDems not campaigning for the BBC and Press to have daily bulletins on legislation being discussed by the Commission and EU parliament in line with all other EU member states?

    Yes, don’t mention any of that. I thought that would be your answer.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Aug '15 - 9:15pm

    Jedi, she is doing, but when you can vote in the European it is not always intuitive that you are going to be refused on general election day.

    If people are working then why can’t they vote? They aren’t slaves.

    I don’t really agree with the article, but I have nothing interesting to say on it, besides that if you do want to target eastern Europeans then you better make sure they can vote!

  • most people can vote in local elections… general elections are not everything you know!

  • jedibeeftrix 12th Aug '15 - 9:26pm

    For the zame reason labour is weeding out corbyn votes from ‘vexatious’ third parties:

    Freedom of association, eddie, and citizenship is nothing more than that principle writ large.

  • Which part of the word ‘overcrowded’ don’t you get ?

  • Kevin
    Freedom of movement. Many British people live in other EU countries and they won’t be pleased if they are forced out.(other countries don’t give special treatment simply because your British)

  • Tony Fitzpatrick 13th Aug '15 - 7:59am

    Well said, Antony.

  • Is Sue Tony Greaves having a laugh?

  • John Tilley 13th Aug '15 - 8:19am

    Robert

    You are getting confused — if Tony Greaves had said such a thing he would have been reported three times (or as we used to say in the civil service “in triplicate”) to some faceless bureaucrat at the top of the party.

    Someone called “Sue” with the views of Attila The Farage can post what she likes in LDV.

  • If the Lib Dems are the natural party of Eastern Europeans, why should I, a white, working class, Englishman, vote for them?

  • Little Jackie Paper 13th Aug '15 - 10:40am

    wg – simple enough really. Because you as a, ‘white working class Englishman,’ (whatever that buzz-phrase means) probably have more in common with most East Europeans than you do with many other parts of UK society. The fundamental premise of this article is, frankly, bizarre.

    Firstly, it appears to assume that, ‘East Europeans,’ are some sort of homogenous bloc. This is, as anyone who has met East Europeans knows, cobblers. Secondly, it skates very close to an assumption that all, ‘East Europeans,’ are EU citizens. Even if I was to assume that there is no Eurosceptic thinking on the part of East EU Europeans there are many East Europeans (my wife included) with good reason to dislike the EU. Thirdly, as others have pointed out, there is no reason to assume that East Europeans all share the political values of the LDP mainstream.

    It may or may not be the case that large influxes of East Europeans create and/or solve problems in society. I make no value judgment here. However what I would observe is that established East Europeans, people who have come through the system, played by the rules and who have done nothing wrong are equally as affected by the issues surrounding immigration as, ‘white working class Englishmen.’ What they make of those issues is their value judgment and I fail to see why there should be a, ‘natural,’ party for such individuals.

  • Little Jackie Paper 13th Aug '15 - 10:43am

    Eddie Sammon – ‘If people are working then why can’t they vote? They aren’t slaves.’

    What does working have to do with anything. We don’t strip the unemployed of their vote. I have no reasonable expectation of going to the authorities in my wife’s country and getting a vote on demand on the basis of employment or anything else, other than citizenship. If people in the UK from other countries wish to be denizens rather than citizens that is their choice to make. But they are adults with agency and they make that choice knowingly.

  • @Little Jackie Paper – You are correct on the “working class” thing – I expect C2 or D would be more appropriate; but “white, working class” is what I consider myself to be.

    I have no beef with our Eastern European friends – I greatly admire their get up and go, but recognise that there is a generation, that belongs to a level of society in this country, that has completely missed out on vocational training in view of industry’s preferred demand for cheap E European labour.

    The author of the piece above seems to be suggesting that the votes of Eastern Europeans are worth trading off against the votes of my section of society.

    If the author had set out to throw a possible block of LibDem voters in the trash can he couldn’t have come up with a better post; I couldn’t see myself voting for Antony Hook.

  • Neil Sandison 13th Aug '15 - 1:18pm

    WG and Little Jackie Paper .The real problem is not allowing ” Daily Mail types” to exploit both of these groups with propaganda that both diminishes and belittles their contribution to our society . Blue collar workers were particularly hurt by the recession and employment agency recruitment practices which were shameful .WG does have a point regarding retraining and reskilling the domestic work force .Perhaps the Liberal Democrats need to re-engage with working people by rediscovering its commitment to life long learning and education.

  • I just wanted to clarify one thing which seems to get mistaken in so many places, especialy the media. Poland IS NOT in Eastern Europe, IT IS in Central Europe. Same as Czech Republic and Slovakia. I don’t know when this lie become the truth for so many people, that even politicians seem to follow it.

  • Richard Stallard 13th Aug '15 - 5:07pm

    “Poland IS NOT in Eastern Europe, IT IS in Central Europe. Same as Czech Republic and Slovakia”
    Not geographically, perhaps, but they were part of the old USSR.

  • Jonathan Brown 13th Aug '15 - 6:23pm

    Poland was part of the block dominated by the USSR but it was never actually in the USSR. A lot of geographic terms are a bit woolly and change over time, and I think ‘Eastern Europe’ is a good example. During the Cold War the West generally referred to everything behind the Iron Curtain as ‘Eastern Europe’ – it was a political as much as a geographical description. The term is a pretty out of date now I think, and ‘Central Europe’ better reflects how most people from most of the former Soviet-dominated countries which have since joined the EU think of themselves. And reflects the modernising economies of the region compared with Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, etc.

    @WG – “If the Lib Dems are the natural party of Eastern Europeans, why should I, a white, working class, Englishman, vote for them?” Because the Lib Dems aren’t ONLY a natural party for Eastern Europeans. We are a natural party for people who want to improve themselves (through education, training, work, hobbies, etc.), make decisions about their own lives and look out for their communities.

    Antony’s article calls for all of us who have this in common to work together through the Liberal Democrats. The context of this piece (and the answer to those saying that he gives no reason for Central and Eastern Europeans to join us) is that many in the major parties and the media are actively demonising European immigrants and ignoring the positive contribution they make to British life. In saying that Liberal Democrats believe in a pluralistic society he is making the point that Europeans should feel at home in a liberal party.

    You are right about the chronic under-investment in the millions of people at ‘the bottom’ of society here who have been denied opportunities for decent education, training and jobs, etc.

  • Jonathan Brown 14th Aug '15 - 6:44pm

    @jedibeeftrix – sure, anyone could say this, but to migrants from Central and Eastern Europe, they don’t. There’s not much of a welcome, and a fair amount of willingness to blame other people for this country’s failure to provide education, training, work, for our own titizens, etc.

    We could also argue with some justification that while everyone might espouse these values, Tory cuts to services needed to give people a chance to help themselves, and Labour’s seeming tolerance for millions to languish without decent opportunities when they were in power means that we’re the only ones to mean it. Of course, you’d need at least a whole new article to argue this, not just a single line.

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that when framed with the right language there’s not much that any party espouses that couldn’t be espoused by the others. Is anyone going to say that they want to destroy the environment? Or that they don’t care that some people live in poverty? Or that people shouldn’t be rewarded for hard work? And yet people still identify certain positions with the Greens, the Tories, Labour, etc.

    Improvement through education, training, work, hobbies, etc. may be something that no one else would disagree with, but it does rather point to the core of liberal ideology.

  • The Liberal Democrat Friends of Poland were launched at Westminster several years ago, in the presence of Vince Cable and other eminent members . Sadly, the party took no notice, in spite of the obvious numbers of potential workers and local election voters involved. More recent contacts with LibDem HQ produced similarly little in the way of encouragement. Julian Huppert, whose parents were from Lodz, has now agreed to be our President, so progress may be possible at last.

  • It might be worth examining how the Eastern and Central(!) European countries handle migrants and/or blacks. Hungary, building a fence along its border for instance. Romania and the Roma. Not exactly tolerant people. It seems to me and probably a lot of ‘ethnic’ white British that we are looked at as being less than anyone else and should be wiped out probably because we had fought for so much in rights and expected too much. Are you also the party for that religion that subjugates women and is extremely intolerant? I think that you have said that as well.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Aug '15 - 10:10am

    @ Anne,
    Do you have a sister called Sue?

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