LibLink: Giles Goodall’s open letter to Polish people in Britain

Illuminated Polish flagOver at the Huffington Post, Giles Goodall, Liberal Democrat South East Euro candidate has written an open letter to Polish people in this country to let them know how welcome they are here and how it’s important to protect that freedom of movement around Europe.

For ten years, Britain has welcomed you as workers, entrepreneurs, friends and neighbours. The Poles I know are open, flexible and ambitious. They work hard, often with too little recognition. Some have been elected as local councillors, and I know another who works for the British government.

But the economic downturn has taken a toll. Populists and anti-Europeans seek scapegoats to blame for our problems, and EU ‘migrants’ have become a target. Today, our precious right to live and work anywhere in Europe is under threat.

For me, this right is not negotiable. It is at the heart of the Europe I entered politics to defend. It opens opportunities and broadens our horizons. I know, first hand: I’m one of 2 million Brits to have benefited myself, first as an Erasmus student and later working in Brussels. I want everyone to have the same opportunities I’ve had, whether they are Polish or British.

You make a huge contribution to this country – in economic, social and cultural terms. From Myslovitz to pierogi, I’m a fan. I have no doubt that Britain would be worse off without the contribution of Poles. That’s why I am campaigning to defend the rights of Poles and other EU citizens living in the UK to be treated fairly and equally.

He urges them to use their votes tomorrow – and who better to use it for than the party who wants to work together across Europe for the benefit of all. You can read the whole article here.

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9 Comments

  • Frank Booth 21st May '14 - 5:44pm

    ‘The Poles I know are open flexible and ambitious’

    Talk about politicalspeak. Ever got to know people beyond their views on macroeconomic policy?

  • Charles Rothwell 21st May '14 - 5:52pm

    Well said and sentiments I fully support. I work with a range of people originally form Poland and they all demonstrate qualities of creativity, hard work, commitment, friendliness and diligence which I have really come to admire and appreciate and which, I do not have the tiniest doubt, are helping to enrich the UK in cultural and social terms as well in terms of the very high quality of work provided. Many of them came here initially to take up quite low status jobs (e.g. in the NHS) even though a number had not only graduate, but also postgraduate, qualifications. Most of the people to whom I am referring have worked their way to becoming freelance operatives and are now significantly contributing towards the GDP of this country by the taxes they pay. They are also young, fit and healthy (and, in any case, often return to Poland for any medical treatment (such as dental) they require now and again) and, from their upbringing and general attitude towards life (and the need to seize the opportunities it presents) would never dream of taking a penny in benefits of any kind to which they were not fully entitled. One of them is now in the process of buying her own home with her husband (who is from Indonesia originally) after having worked very hard and very successfully for some years to acquire the wherewithal to make a deposit. Long may this country continue to benefit from all they have to offer to it!

  • Sadie Smith 21st May '14 - 6:26pm

    In the midlands we have had Polish communities since the end of the war. They fought against Nazis and many found themselves trapped on the “wrong ” side of the Iron curtain..
    We have had new residents from many countries in similar positions.
    Of course we have good friends from all sorts of communities. They add to our country. Having such a mixed country is a strength. It builds on the centuries of newcomers.

  • jedibeeftrix 21st May '14 - 11:47pm

    “Many of them came here initially to take up quite low status jobs (e.g. in the NHS) even though a number had not only graduate, but also postgraduate, qualifications. Most of the people to whom I am referring have worked their way to becoming freelance operatives and are now significantly contributing towards the GDP of this country by the taxes they pay. They are also young, fit and healthy (and, in any case, often return to Poland for any medical treatment (such as dental)”

    I can confirm all of this.

    “In the midlands we have had Polish communities since the end of the war. They fought against Nazis and many found themselves trapped on the “wrong ” side of the Iron curtain.”

    I’ve known people with this background too.

  • I am totally happy for the Poles or other country residents to come hear all I ask is we have a say in numbers and have a record of who is here the only alternative is using caravans for housing as sometimes in some places housing is full

  • Richard Dean 22nd May '14 - 12:39pm

    I wonder if this letter might have put more people off the LibDems and EU? It seems to me as divisive and racist as Farage’s words about Romanians – just because it’s supportive of a group (in this case Poles) doesn’t mean that it’s not racist.

    This letter also bangs home to native Brits that they don’t control their own political representation – easy to conclude that Poles do that, apparently! A consequence may be than some “Don’t Knows” will be pushed towards UKIP and away from LibDems – but this at least is fine, it does clarify what LibDems stand for

  • jedibeeftrix 23rd May '14 - 8:27pm

    Addressing the ‘substance’ of this article:

    I was talking with two Polish ladies just now about the election (one of whom I am married to), and I was struck once more by their focus on being allowed to get on with their lives without interference, wherever they happen to be.

    I start with this point because I often find that the ‘left’ seems to feel it has some natural right to accrue immigrant votes, regardless of who they might be. The article alludes to their self-motivation without realising that this is a defining characteristic of their character, rather than an endearing cultural quirk.

    Why does this matter? It matters because that same presumption assumes that immigrants from ‘poorer’ countries will always gravitate towards collectivist politics that stress positive liberty. Even where the left recognises a conservative bent to a given immigrant group it writes it off as some aberrant social conservatism, the hard edges of which will be knocked off by a few years in our British tolerant multicultural paradise.

    No, these self-starters tend to gravitate towards negative liberty; their freedom to work hard and succeed in the society within which they live, wherever that may be. They don’t want your benefits, they want freedom from the sullen and oppressive bureaucracy they know from back home. To the limited extent that there is a victim culture, it actually expresses itself as a benign contempt for Britain’s who aren’t willing to do they jobs they take up, instead wallowing in the benefits trap that the Poles i know have never used and wouldn’t contemplate attempting.

    So, to return to Giles’ open letter; the wife found it quite frankly patronising.

    You didn’t care to tell her why it mattered that she should vote for the lib-dem’s, rather, the message seemed to boil down to some insipid call for solidarity with the party that was nice about immigrants, rather than those other nasty chaps.

    Worse than this; the other half of the message, as it occurred to my better half, was the threat that bad times were coming for here if she didn’t give her vote to the nice people. Policy, who cares about policy, these simple people just need a smile!

    Speaking for myself here:

    I think this gross misstep is the logical conclusion of identity politics; “regardless of the issues, we have a right to your vote because we empathize magnificently so and are much nicer.”

    Pity the day when all these Poles enroll fro British citizenship, which they will do if only to escape the sweltering bureaucracy involved in updating a driving license back home, or a passport, or being asked to pay taxes on overseas earnings, because the soft left in Britain is going to get a shock. The Poles won’t be collectivist milch cows you assume them to be…

  • Jonathan Brown 24th May '14 - 12:57am

    @jedibeeftrix – it’s a shame if someone who is the intended audience for this letter found it patronising (and I’m not Polish / the intended audience), but when I read this letter I see it actually making several of the points you make.

    – It recognises that Poles don’t vote along communal lines
    – it recognises that Poles (and the implication is other central & east European immigrants too) are independent and self-supporting – qualities I would think most Lib Dems like to think describe our own political ideals – and asks for their support on the basis of common values not on the basis of their ethnicity
    – It calls for Poles to support a party on the basis of our defence of their freedom of movement within the EU.

    Perhaps the message wasn’t well made… but I don’t think it was trying to do anything very different than what you suggest it should have been saying.

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