It would seem that Mayor Livingstone, famous for courting the unusual, is at it again. He is new-best-friends with the Polish community in London. His jolly japes this time include a Polish reception at Town Hall, replete with pierogi and pickles, and a trip to POSK, the Polish Community Centre in Hammersmith. He is quite the darling of the Polish press, by all accounts.
Of course only the very cynical would suggest that it has something to do with the fact that there are 55,000 (and counting) Polish voters in the capital and the mayoral election is just round the corner.
Londonist can see nothing wrong with getting to know the different components of London – pretty essential stuff, we reckon, for a mayor – and undoubtedly a certain amount of schmoozing goes with the job.
And we like Polish people (although we wish they wouldn’t put so much salt in their food) – they are for the most part bright and hard-working, and integrate splendidly into the buzzing throng that is London.
No, our raised eyebrow on this occasion is the fact that neither Polish officials nor them up at mayoral HQ seem to be doing anything about the very few Poles who are spoiling it for the rest of us, the alcoholics, the crack addicts and the scroungers. The new Polish ambassador to Britain seemed to distance herself from the less law-abiding of her compatriots:
But the Ambassador insisted that she had never heard anything else than Poles contributing to the British economy. “If you stay here it means that you must have employment and pay taxes.”
But perhaps the trouble is those on the black market who do not contribute? “Black market is something that your authorities have to fight against,” she replied.
Our friend The Shopkeeper tells us that currently 4 out of 5 shoplifters in his neck of the woods (Southwark) are young men from Poland (until a year or so ago an honour held by mid-European gypsies), and that around 50% of anti-social behaviour in or around his shop involves the same demographic. They reel into the shop, with reeking breath and blood-shot eyes, in search of alcohol or (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) crack cocaine in exchange for Polish cigarettes. Later they slump drunken in the street, or worse, engage in street brawls.
These lost souls are not representative of the Polish immigrant population, many of whom have been here for generations. In view of the huge swell in the numbers of Poles entering the UK, it is in fact hardly surprising that we will end up with a few undesirables. But if the mayor wants to get to know and help his citizens, then he needs to address the needs of the whole community, warts and all, and not just the voting part.
Image courtesy of bennylin0724’s flickr stream.