London battles for Polish votes

Ken Livingstone, the present mayor of London has started a battle for Polish votes. The Federation of Poles in Great Britain comprises 55,000 or even more Poles eligible to vote in the elections set for May 1, 2008.

The mayor of London is reaching out to the hundreds of thousands of Poles in the city as part of his effort to get re-elected. He is cultivating leaders of the Polish community and Polish newspapers. He has even added to the City Hall menu Slavic dumplings, pierogi with mushrooms, red cabbage and kotlety schabowe or Polish-style pork chops, the Guardian newspaper reported.Livingstone has pointed out to members of the Polish community that they are the 10th-largest ethnic group in the metropolitan area.Although most Poles have not been in Britain long enough to become British citizens, the City of London allows EU citizens who are more than 18 years old to vote in the election.

London residents who are citizens of a British Commonwealth country, but not yet British citizens, also can vote. London is home to an estimated 500,000 Poles. Livingstone’s efforts to reach out to Poles have landed him on the cover of the Polish-language magazine “Cooltura” and on the front pages of the daily newspapers Nowy Czas and Dziennik Polski.The weekly publications Polish Express and Goniec Polski have also given him “a lot of ink.”When he invited Polish leaders to his office, he discussed the possibility of an official celebration of Polish culture in years to come.

“This year in Trafalgar Square we’re celebrating Indian culture,” he said. “In a few years’ time, I can see a Polish festival in Trafalgar Square. I am sure that thousands of Londoners would go to experience Polish culture, music, film and cuisine,”The mayor also expressed support for opening a center which would help trained Polish engineers find work in their field when they come to London, the Guardian added. The mayor, a member of the Labor Party, got 120,000 more votes in the last election than his Conservative rival, Steven Norris.Livingstone is facing a much more popular Conservative candidate this time – Tory Boris Johnson. He needs all the help he can get – one reason he is reaching out to Poles.It remains to be seen whether Johnson and other politicians reach out to Poles as Livingstone has done.

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