Tooting View: Solidarity from Lodz to London
Poles in London are significantly aligned with the political Right. That is one reason why UKIP is going to do so well in the May general election, says UKIP candidate for Tooting Przemek Skwirczynski
It has been very heartening to be reminded of such notions as solidarity, especially during the Christmas period. The notion of solidarity was by no means invented in Poland; however it became synonymous with the great trade union movement of the 1980s which set off the chain reaction leading to Poland freeing itself from the shackles of communism, the subsequent fall of Berlin wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
In the 1990s the Solidarity was still a major force as a legacy group in Polish politics and is often referenced even now, with multiple politicians from most parties having their roots in that movement.
It should therefore come as no surprise that members of the Polonia (Polish community outside of Poland), such as myself, receive backing from other members of the Polish community, with whom they otherwise would not necessarily be affiliated.
I would call this Polish solidarity. Much was blown out of proportion by the Daily Mirror off the back of the leader of the only Polish libertarian and Eurosceptic party, Janusz Korwin Mikke, happening to be in the same picture as myself.
One picture has generated quite a story, but given we are both Eurosceptics and libertarians with links to Poland it should be no surprise that we would eventually meet and have a picture taken, without any other association necessary.
Those who do not understand such a simple concept are either ignorant, plain stupid or spread malicious smears, as we have witnessed.
Again, the Poles who are aligned with Janusz Korwin Mikke's party and reside in the United Kingdom are by default Eurosceptic and libertarian, and as such would never consider voting for the LibLabCon pro-EU and anti-libertarian establishment.
Importantly, as witnessed in May 2014, almost 1/3 of votes cast in London for the Polish EU Parliamentary candidates (Poles have the option of voting remotely in the Polish elections from the United Kingdom) were in favour of Nowa Prawica -- the libertarian and Eurosceptic party he leads - meaning they were a clear winner.
They are therefore a force to be reckoned with and no wonder their candidates travel over to London to campaign. More importantly, given I am their fellow Eurosceptic and libertarian with Polish roots, of course they would also vote for me in the British elections, even if I do not share a host of other views of Nowa Prawica's leader, over and above the said libertarian values and euroscepticism.
However, back to the notion of Polish solidarity, I have received a very warm welcome in my native Lodz from local politicians. In particular, the centrist party which currently forms the Polish Government called Platforma Obywatelska, known for its pro-EU stance, arranged a formal meeting with its councillors in Lodz on Christmas Eve.
Again, other than the fact that I am pro-business and pro-shale gas exploration as well as for my Polish roots, we do not share other political goals, yet I have gained their support. This party was runner up in London in May 2014 with around 1/5 of the vote. The backing of both of the above parties, Nowa Prawica and Platforma Obywatelska, takes my support within the Polish diaspora in London comfortably over the 50 percent mark.
I truly believe I could become the voice of the Polish community in British politics, which I have de facto been doing already since 2013 as Chairman of the Friends of Poland in UKIP, the only active party-aligned "Friends of Poland" group.
Also, given that third place in May 2014 amongst Polish Londoner voters’ was taken by another centre-right party called PiS with also some 1/5 of the vote, it is very obvious that the left wing option simply does not exist amongst the Polish community, making us probably the most small "c" conservative minority out there -- which again is the sort of outlook I promote.
Furthermore, all the aforementioned parties – PiS (Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc), PO (Platforma Obywatelska) and Nowa Prawica have their roots in the Solidarity trade unons movement due to the fact all their founders and often other important figures hava at one time or another been members of Solidarnosc or worked very closely with it. Janusz korwin-Mikke was also once associated with Solidarnosc.
I certainly look forward to further cooperation with Lodz politicians and would be very happy to show my solidarty by helping wherever possible. After all, the current mayor, Hanna Zdanowska of the Platforma Obywatelska party, has turned out to be one of the better mayors in the living memory and has presided over a number of very significant infrastructure projects.
Equally, another native of Lodz, the onetime Minister of Infrastructure, Cezary Grabarczyk, who recently returned to the Government, has been responsible for putting Lodz on the intersection of Polish (and continental) motorways as well as allowing for the redevelopment of the railway system to improve the city's links to the capital.
As such, he is miles ahead of any other national politician hailing from Lodz, as far as fighting for his hometown on the national stage is concerned.
Lodz has been getting more than its fair share of negative press in the UK. First there was the allegation that the city had effectively moved to the UK two years ago in The Sun, which lacked the basics of investigative journalism.
For a start, the author did not bother to take into account the urban sprawl, as indeed the population of Lodz has been settling en masse in neighbouring areas which fall outside of the city's boundaries. This growth of the metropolitan area of Lodz has triggered the need for the "agglomeration railway" which was establshed in the last couple of years by mayor Zdanowska.
More recently, there was an allegation that the city's airport was being underused in an article published by Reuters in December 2014. Again, this article is of course based on statistics and facts but does not take into account the prospective growth due to the city's and the region's rapidly improving road and rail infrastructure -- something that was initiated by Cezary Grabarczyk in the 2000s, whilst he was the Minister for Infrastructure.
Lodz being positioned in the centre of Poland on the intersection of two pan-European motorways and benefiting from the increased speed of its rail-link to Warsaw, as well as that same rail line passing through to Poznan and Wroclaw in the West, means that Lodz airport will eventually service not just many more passengers but also commercial flights of goods for onward distribution.
As such I would be very happy to provide a link between my old and new homes and have both of them cooperate on the political level. It would be great to see Lodz twinned with the Borough of Wandsworth; or Baluty, the district of Lodz where I was born and lived as a child, twinned with Tooting.
The other level of cooperation could be on the cultural level. Lodz is famous for being a hub of European cinematography with the likes of Max Factor, originally makeup artist to actors, or Roman Polanski the film director, hailing from there.
The Lodz Film School is still world-renowned and until recently Lodz was host to Camerimage -- the only film festival geared specifically at cinematographers. Tooting has in recent years been getting famous for its independent films with Gangs of Tooting Broadway released in 2013, Common People and Early Bird - The Movie both released in 2014 making their mark on British independent cinema.
There also are a number of independent cinemas in Tooting, a good example being The Gorringe Park, which, along with the fledgling film industry would benefit from the expertise that Lodz can offer.
Przemek Skwirczynski is UKIP Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Tooting
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