Pole vote

The Conservative Party should be courting the Eastern European vote. But not in the same way that Romney did

Are Britain's Polish communities naturally aligned with the Conservatives?
Przemek Skwirczynski
On 6 August 2012 11:42

At the time of writing this article, Poland is insignificantly bumping along in the Olympics medal table, largely unnoticed by spectators, except for the volleyball and "strength" enthusiasts of course.

At the same time the Olympic Grinch, Mitt Romney, is returning home following a tour of USA's traditional allies forgotten by the wunderkind president Barack Obama. The final stop of his tour was the last growth economy of the EU, or possibly even a "Slavic Tiger" - Poland.

Whatever impressions he might be leaving behind, the significance of his trip is such that it puts Poland firmly on the map of places to go to by aspiring American presidents, and puts the ten or so million Americans of Polish descent back on the political US Monopoly board.

On UK soil the approach to the Polish vote is quite different in that politicians are only beginning to notice the significance of this minority, and so far only in the local elections.

As recently as May 2012 Baroness Warsi was quoted as saying that the Conservatives would struggle during the forthcoming general elections if they fail to secure votes of the Asian and Black electorate in major English cities. It is therefore a bit of a political phenomenon that we have here new migrants who already identify with the Conservatives and did not need much convincing in order to do so.

I am of course referring to the Eastern European minority who arrived in the UK as a result of the A8 EU accession in 2004 and, despite owing their welcome to the then governing New Labour, largely failed to follow the pattern of new migrants aligning themselves with the Labour Party. 

As highlighted in the recent University of Roehampton study by S. Driver and M. Garapich entitled "The new conservatives? Eastern and Central European voters and the London elections", registered non-UK EU-national voters in London made up to eight percent of the 2012 mayoral election electorate. The majority of these were Eastern Europeans, and more specifically, were predominantly Polish.

The study concludes that this group believes in conservative values such as: hard work, family being the foundation of a healthy society, and the core of this residing in raising disciplined children; and therefore identified most strongly with Boris Johnson out of the three major candidates. 

I assisted with capturing these votes, which may well have helped secure the marginal win for Boris Johnson during these extremely testing times for the Tories, regardless of how media-friendly they may be, by addressing the Polish voters in Polish language and appealing to their particular type of conservatism on the "Back Boris 2012" blog.

Hence, in contrast to Black or Asian voters, the Eastern European minority seems to already be largely aligned with the Conservatives. But it is now for the Conservative Party to ensure that status quo remains for at least the next two years so that they benefit from this group's support as they become British citizens - a prerequisite to vote in the 2014 parliamentary elections. 

Given the falling popularity of the current government, it is more than certain that the next general elections will indeed be grueling for the Conservatives and Lib Dems alike, even with the Labour candidate as lacking in credibility as ever. As such I am expecting an intense fight, where every vote will count.

Shall we therefore expect the British PM hopefuls, and maybe even MP candidates from largely Polish constituencies, to court the Polish and other Eastern European voters?

Quite likely, although hopefully we will be spared the sort of campaign we have just been subjected to courtesy of Mitt Romney.

Przemek Skwirczynski is an economist, banker, and Conservative

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