As a Councillor in Brent, the most diverse Local Authority in the UK, I am used to representing a wide range of communities. The fastest-growing community in Brent is Polish, now making up 5% of the borough's population.
With nearly 1 million Poles now living in the UK, this thriving community contributes enormously to the country. Polish values of hard work, entrepreneurship, and dedication to family values make them perhaps the ideal community to be welcoming here.
However, despite Polish being the second most widely spoken language in the UK, there has been virtually no political engagement with these groups; indeed, only half of the Polish community in Brent is even registered to vote. From a Conservative perspective, this is unfortunate, as the values of the Poles with whom I have worked in Brent chime closely with those of our Party.
To address this, Conservative Way Forward and I have begun what we hope will be a series of engaging seminars with members of the Polish community. They aim to give more detail about how our local political systems work, and how and why Poles should engage with the political process.
This week, we held our first event at the Polish Catholic Mission in Willesden, NW London.
Alongside Daniel Kawczynski MP, Britain's only MP of Polish ethnicity, and Cllr Joanna Debrowska from Ealing, we hosted over 50 people from the local Polish community, from a diverse range of backgrounds.
I gave a presentation on how Local Government works in London, and what is involved in being a Councillor, with the aim of encouraging more Poles who live here to contribute further to their local area by standing for Council themselves.
There were several issues that seemed to be particularly important to the local Polish community which they have struggled to get on the local political agenda due to a lack of knowledge on how things work, and a lack of representation. Top of the list was a desire to establish a Polish Saturday school for children in Brent, which I can now help them to take forward.
The meeting demonstrated that Poles living here have a strong commitment to our society and call it home. What was also clear is that far from feeling vulnerable post-Brexit, they feel keen to participate and contribute.
It makes sense for Conservatives across the country to spend time engaging with Poles and other more recently arrived groups at the grassroots level. Given they use the full range of Council services, pay Council Tax, and have Conservative values, we need to make sure their voices are heard and that we increase our engagement.
Joel Davidson is a Conservative Councillor on Brent Council and was the GLA candidate for Brent and Harrow in 2016.