It engages a large, so far passive section of Londonâ€™s population in choosing how London is run.
People who work in London, pay taxes in London, commute in London, raise families in London, should be made aware of their right to have a say in how London is run. Change a section of the electorate from passive by-standers to active participants in the life of the communities and wider society surrounding them.
EU Citizens living in the UK are four times less likely to be on the electoral register than UK citizens. This is a challenge to local councils to full fill their statutory duty of maximising electoral registration.
It helps with the integration of EU citizens, from old and new member states.
By activating the EU vote you help the integration of non-British EU citizens into British society. In the case of London, this means contributing to London functioning better for everybody who lives here.
Allows people to better understand their European identity, by showing them the agency the EU can give them â€“ the same participation possibilities apply to the many Brits living in Spain, France etc.
There is a lot of talk about the democratic deficit of the EU. However, no other structure of international cooperation gives its citizens more rights to participate in the political life of wherever they live within its territory. Encouraging political participation by non-British EU citizens helps develop a deeper understanding of their European citizen-rights. The application of these citizens-rights will lead to a greater European awareness and European identity.
Electoral advantages for the Labour Party
Many issues with high prominence on the Continent are reflected positively in Ken Livingstonâ€™s work for London so far and his future plans. Kenâ€™s environmental stance matches the interests of many Europeans, as does his support of the London Living Wage campaign, transport policy and Safer Neighbourhood policies.
The Labour Party and Ken Livingstoneâ€™s campaign in particular are best placed to benefit most from activating the European vote.
For EU workers, especially those who have recently come to the UK from new EU member states, are employed the in lower paying sectors of the labour market. We expect them to see the advantages of having a Mayor in City Hall who supports the London Living Wage campaign actively. The introduction of the minimum wage and subsequent increases of it by the Labour Government has already benefited this group of potential voters.
Even EU citizens with a temporary interest in London, who only plan to live here for a few years, benefit from re-electing an administration which is doing so much to get London moving (transport wise), to reduce anti-social-behaviour and crime by rolling out Safer Neighbourhood Teams of Police in all of Londonâ€™s boroughs. Also, in many European countries environmental politics are much advanced, so Europeans living here will to a large degree support a city-administration that not only talks about tackling climate change but actively implements effective measures towards this end. Every tonne of CO2 not emitted in London has a positive impact on everywhere else on this globe.
On this last point. The global becomes local and the local becomes global, this is the process social scientists would call Glocalisation, which holds particular true in London. Ken is the one politician in London who has fully grasped this trend and is utilising it to the benefit of all Londoners.
The EU vote might be especially important in the election to the GLA, which will be held in Proportional Representation mode. It is unlikely that this part of the electorate could be attracted by discriminatory parties and therefore might help prevent the BNP from gaining a seat in the GLA.
Why the Conservatives will find it difficult to make significant inroads with the EU voters
Basically, the Tories traditional EU-phobia speaks against EU-citizens voting Tory, as the recurring notions of Conservative politicians to take the UK out of the EU would threaten EU-citizens basic right to live and work here.
Their general stance towards European integration and immigration make it doubtful that many of the EU citizens, who now do, would live and work in London had the Conservatives had their way.
Even EU citizens who would vote Conservative in their home country might find it difficult to vote Conservative in the UK. Most conservative parties on the continent have a strong link to religion and in particular Christian social teachings, which much more emphasise the importance of community and solidarity and are diametrically opposed to the Tory focus on the self-interested individual. Therefore many conservative Europeans will be more at home in the value base of the Labour Party. As the small-c-conservative Irish Catholics have found a political home in the Labour party.
What LME works on?
What we have, are well-informed guesstimates for numbers of EU citizens and their political views. I am not aware of any polling that has been done along these lines.
But should the political parties take up the challenge to actively engage this hidden electorate we will be able to see in May this year how the non-British Europeans can influence London.
With the Labour Movement for Europe in London, we have published our â€œPolish Voterâ€ paper. By the way, the academic thinking behind this is being done by Henning Meyer at the Global Policy Institute at the London Metropolitan University.
We are very happy that the importance of this issue is increasingly recognised especially in the run-up to the Mayoral and GLA elections this May.
We, the Labour Movement for Europe in London and the South East of England are working on integrating an awareness of EU-citizens living in London in Labourâ€™s electoral strategy and are in touch with people in Kenâ€™s campaign and the London Labour party to take this further.
We are also encouraging British and non-British EU citizens to participate in the consultation process run by the Party of European Socialists to develop a manifesto for the next Election to the European Parliament in 2009. We will be holding events on this over the next couple of months.
My two recommendations
We Labour Party activists need to acknowledge the existence of the EU voter, welcome them and offer to work together for the benefit of all Londoners.
We non-British EU citizens phone our councils to register for the elections. (The registration deadline for voting in the May elections is April 16) And to participate in the debate about how London should be run in a Mayoral contest which promises to be an exciting one.
David Schoibl is Chairman of Labour Movement for Europe in London and the South East