Having grown up in Britain’s political culture, I’m often shocked at the lack of personal accountability in Polish politics. On 7 May this year, general elections were held in the UK. The big winners were the Conservatives, who won a majority, and the Scottish National Party, who swept almost all seats north of the border. The morning after the election, the leaders of the other three main parties had all offered their resignation: Ed Miliband, despite increasing Labour’s share of the vote since the previous election; Nigel Farage, despite winning an unprecedented 13% of votes for UKIP; and Nick Clegg, whose Liberal Democrats performed disastrously.
Compare this to what has (or rather hasn’t) happened in Poland since Sunday’s election. Ewa Kopacz, despite overseeing PO’s dramatic collapse this year (it’s easy to forget that just six months ago the party was leading the polls), has offered no indication that she will quit. Indeed, there are rumours that she will try to cling on to her position. Continue reading
The proposal to stop paying child benefits to parents whose children live outside the UK – supported by all the main British political parties and aimed predominantly at Polish immigrants – is not only unfair but completely self-defeating, as it will actually cost more money than it saves. But it is, unfortunately, highly indicative of the populist, irrational and superficial way in which British politicians and the media respond to legitimate public concern at mass immigration.
I recently wrote on these pages about the rise of anti-Polish rhetoric in the UK and some of the reasons behind it. As I predicted then, such discourse has become increasingly prominent during campaigning for this week’s general election, in which immigration is a central issue. Yet it is also one on which there is a general consensus: that immigration should be more strictly controlled, and thereby reduced.
A notable feature of the growing anti-immigration rhetoric in British political discourse in recent years has been the specific criticism directed against Poles. Prime Minister David Cameron, in his campaign against the alleged exploitation of the UK’s social-welfare system by immigrants, has explicitly used Poles to personify the problem. The leader of the main opposition party, Ed Miliband (ironically himself the son of emigrants from Poland), has claimed that ‘Polish immigration in particular’ is ‘driving down living standards’ for British people. Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary from 2001-2006, recently admitted that the decision his government made to allow unlimited immigration from ‘states like Poland’ was a ‘spectacular mistake’. Continue reading