I don't want anyone living in fear
Beki Sellick is the LibDem PPC for Peterborough
I’d like to share some quotes from fellow Peterboroughians that have shocked me this week: my German neighbour of six years who works for the NHS said: “We are the new Jews here now”; a Bulgarian care assistant working in Broadway asked: “Will you make me leave after 10 years here? My partner is British and our 5-year-old can’t even speak Bulgarian. It feels like ethnic cleansing.” Extreme language: extreme feelings.
People are feeling scapegoated, but they’re not making anyone homeless in Parnwell: they have jobs delivering vital services; they pay taxes and contribute to our community. It seems that the EU referendum has stirred up anti-foreign feeling. And that’s created fear among some of the 15,000 people who are on our electoral register here in Peterborough but happen to be citizens of other EU countries. I don’t want my friends and neighbours to live in fear.
Perhaps we are a suffering from our success: Peterborough is a vibrant growing city, attracting new people. Mark Johnson, a British resident in the Czech republic, wrote in last week’s PT about “giving credibility to racist, intolerant and fascist tendencies now sweeping Eastern Europe” and warning against labelling all problems as “immigrants” or “Muslims”. We know there are many issues: council housing was sold off under Thatcher’s government in the 80s; Peterborough has only just brought in Selective Licensing after years of being too soft on buy-to-rent landlords making money on poor quality housing. We need to learn lessons, putting blame aside to quickly implement strong, fair policies and people-centred decision-making, plus long-term investment in homes and infrastructure.
Immigration is positive too: we benefit from living in our city of growth, buzzing with new schools, jobs, arts and opportunities. As the former head of Abbotsmede Primary explained in last week’s PT, migrant children often learn quickly. Children who are supported by families who want them to succeed tend to have higher aspirations and ultimately attainment in our schools: sorely needed.
As Lib Dems, we believe in building an Open, Tolerant and United Britain, where no one lives in fear and every person is able to fulfil their potential. Inequality and feeling powerless often provoke intolerance – and fear – stopping us being open and united. We’re working to help all Peterboroughians feel (and be) part of our community. Our petition to Peterborough City Council this week asks for better support for our local EU citizens by:
n making the most of Community Connectors (Welcome-Orientation-Integration-Independence);
n helping qualified people become British citizens, with English language and ‘Life in the UK’ courses;
n celebrating diverse culture with more festivals – sharing food and getting to know each other.
Join our campaign at the national level too; sign up at libdems.org.uk/right-to-stay for EU citizens to be reassured - and for our local economy and culture to keep enjoying the benefits of their work and life. We want the government to reduce inequality, especially financial poverty, and help us believe we have greater control over our shared destiny - and to make sure we actually do!