Posted by Compass Youth Group on 20 Jan 2008
On a local level, district and unitary councils and London boroughs have a legal duty to maximise electoral registration. In this light, councils should be encouraged to reach out to EU-foreigners in order to get them on the electoral register. The means of communicating to councils can be through formal and informal channels, including encouraging Labour councils to take this statutory duty seriously and putting pressure on opposition controlled councils through members’ questions to do the same.
While the London & South East Labour Movement for Europe (LME/LSE) can contribute to an information/action campaign targeting councils in London and the Southeast, outlining the missed groups and opportunities, more work should be done on local CLP level to engage with EU-citizens in a move to specifically motivate them to register their vote first and to vote Labour. Their impact is likely to be highest in inner London boroughs, although the growth of communities of EU voters elsewhere (e.g. new Poles in Southampton) means that the possibilities can be applied in nearly all areas.
Since EU-citizens in London are also eligible to vote in the Mayoral and GLA elections, which are coming up in 2008, there is an added incentive to encourage this missed electorate. In a local context where there are specific Europeans, like Portuguese or Polish one could approach them as individual national groups but in a London context for Mayoral and GLA elections and for the European Parliament there need to be general messages for the EU electorate.
The Mayor’s focus on the recognition of London’s cosmopolitan nature would fit in well with this strategy, as it would truly involve all Londoners, not only the British citizens and descendents of former colonial dependents who have established themselves as immigrant communities.
EU-citizens make up a large, significant group of more recent immigrants and need to be recognised as groups to be involved. At the moment they do not obviously fall within the multi-cultural framework which is mostly geared up to deal proactively with ethnic diversity, rather than cultural diversity. With Europeans making up about 10 per cent of the population in London this wider understanding of cultural diversity needs to be remedied.
Also, discriminatory parties such as the BNP would have it much harder to achieve electoral success. This is an important aspect for the upcoming London-regional elections in 2008. Due to the proportional representation system and against the backdrop of recent electoral fortunes for the BNP, the activation of the EU electorate could make a real contribution to limit the influence of the extremist parties.
Furthermore, given the historical experience of some EU-countries, and the different environmental standards of others, European citizens could be engaged on messages such as anti-fascism, housing, transport (working EU foreigners benefit particularly from improvements to the bus service in London) and environmental policies.
For EU-elections, EU-citizens can chose to either vote in the UK for local European candidates or via a postal vote to vote for the European candidates of their home country.
Since strengthening the UK’s progressive policy in Europe should be high on Labour’s agenda, it would be preferable to encourage as many resident EU-citizens as possible to be registered to vote for EU-elections here, which again – if Labour gets their EU-voter-strategy right – significantly increases the chances of (Labour) candidates.
Most specifically, since all EU-citizens can work and live in the UK due to rights they have as EU-citizens, their vote could contribute significantly to keeping candidates from radical anti-EU parties like UKIP in check who do not want to contribute to the EU but instead only want to undermine EU-institutions in their development.
See next part or read more of the paper here