Posted by Compass Youth Group on 20 Jan 2008
In all the above, we assume that there is a strong potential for EU-citizens to support Labour policies, both on a local and regional and EU-level.
These figures are likely to seriously understate the eligible numbers of EU foreigners. The Electoral Commission/ONS study Understanding Electoral Registration (2005) found that 19 per cent of EU qualified voters were unregistered, compared to 5 per cent of UK citizens. The influx of EU nationals since 2004 will have significantly increased the proportions of potential voters, and probably by introducing a large number of work-seeking young people added to the difficulties of finding and registering them. The proportions for some boroughs, particularly Hackney, seem rather low given the high levels of EU voters in other comparable authorities.
Sense of Belonging
We will have to differentiate between different groups of EU citizens living in London and the South East.
First of all, there is a differentiation between EU 15 (-1) or EU 10 citizens, now joined by a limited number of Bulgarians and Romanians. While there is a split between “lifestyle migrants” (for example French, German, and Scandinavian EU citizens who come to live in the UK because of London’s cosmopolitan appeal, because their job brings them here, or because they like to just “live abroad”) and economic migrants (who mostly come from the recent EU-expansion states and mainly migrate to find better-paid jobs).
While their individual reasons to move to the UK may play into the electoral topics of interest to these migrant groups, another differentiation is more central to initially engaging European voters:
1. Migrants who move to the UK/London & the Southeast only for a few years to progress in their career or to generate income for their family who will often remain back home.
2. Migrants who stay here for an open-ended time, who make their living in the UK and build an existence, but maintain their citizenship of the home country.
3. Migrants who stay here and eventually become British citizens. While adopting British citizenship, often to help with overcoming bureaucratic obstacles, many EU-citizens still remain closely attached to their cultural community and thus are accessible for different topics than born English nationals.
If not involved actively in the local communities AND the political process locally, there is an increased danger of contributing to the already deeply split society we live in, as there groups will live mainly within their own community or with other similar people, instead of participating fully in their new home, whether temporary or permanent. To communicate with existing cultural-national communities, a British political party needs ‘interlocutors’ with that community and an ability to communicate in the right language, and strike the right notes, with the community.
Labour in many areas has been successful at finding interlocutors and integrating communities such as the Bangladeshi community into local politics. The same may be possible for EU voter communities.
Also, in general, EU-citizens from Southern and Eastern EU-countries are more likely to remain close to their direct cultural community, while Western and Northern Europeans often do not so much live within their direct community, but more in a diverse community of other Europeans in London. The latter group specifically can obviously be targeted on the basis of cross-European topics and issues, such as the environment, the EU, benefits and social care, as well as foreign policy and the economy at large.