25th July 2012
VOTES FOR EXPATRIATS
I was a Police Officer with the Metropolitan Police until my retirement in 1985. During my service I worked for the final 8 years with the Diplomatic Protection Group. For two and a half years I was posted on the inside staff at No 10, and my final three years were in the Palace of Westminster. I keep a close interest in UK politics. Upon retirement I took up my right to move elsewhere in Europe, and moved to France. I have therefore lost my right to vote for any politician in the British Parliament.
Our troops are fighting for democracy in other countries, and yet our own politicians refuse the rights of their own citizens. Where is the logic in that?
I quote paragraphs from an article written by Lord Ashdown in the Daily Mail on the 7th July, 2012 'On streets worldwide they're pleading for democracy. We can't sit in our golden chamber resisting it': ‘We send our young soldiers to other people’s countries to die for democracy – and kill for it too. Yet we haven’t got it in our own country’.
Nick Clegg is totally opposed to democratic representation for overseas Britons. This is unfathonable as I understand that Mrs Clegg, retains Spanish nationality, with a lifetime’s right to vote in Spain’s elections.
Here are the views of Nick Clegg – as expressed by his assistant Rory Belcher. “Nick appreciates that there are some British expatriates who have lived abroad for over 15 years and who want to vote in British elections. However, as you may know, Nick supports the existing legislation on this issue, including the removal of the right to vote after 15 years of living abroad. If a Briton has settled in another country, it is intuitive that they would know about and be directly affected by the issues of that country. If they want to become politically active, then they should register to vote in the country they have settled in.”
Rory Belcher suggests that I should register to vote in the country where I have settled. This means taking up French Citizenship and giving up my nationality of birth. I am sure that is not the meaning of free movement within Europe. If he had researched the matter he would have known that his remark about registering to vote in the country to which I had settled was impossible. Although I can vote in the European and local elections for Mayor of my village. As a British citizen, I am barred from voting for the French Parliament, and rightly so.
Why should we have ‘Representation’ and thereby the Vote at Westminster! The average expatriate Briton in Europe does not understand that their ability to live in Europe depends on the UK Government. If the European Union were to collapse, or the UK withdraw from the EU as the result of a referendum, as so many in the UK would foolishly wish, then many of us would be in an uncertain condition e.g. health cost support for pensioners could collapse if the EU fails. Representation means having an MP who cares for you, and who speaks for you in Parliament, and can intervene for you with the bureaucrats in Whitehall or elsewhere. The UK Government represents the expatriate – even if the expatriate is unaware of it. It represents us in treaties, and relationships with our host countries But, the UK bureaucracy is largely unaware of our needs. It has no means of listening to us! It has no ears! Those needs range from matters of local social support - to government taxation, and conflicts or confusion between UK, and host country regulations. Expatriates in difficulty.
Residents in the UK can visit or write to their MP if some particular issue is important to them. Expatriates may well have issues with a UK bank, the UK tax office, local authority, payment of pensions or social care payments, or a problem relating to a near relative – perhaps a child at a school in the UK or a relative in nursing care. Finally The principle of Democracy - that constant vigilance supports freedom. Does not the concept of ‘citizenship’ mean a binding relationship between the governing body and the people? - Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says 'nationality is the legal bond between a person and a State'.
I fear we have moved into a form of dictatorship of Government, which, has chosen to prevent the voice of millions of its citizens being heard. They in turn do not speak, because they know that no one is listening. Many British expatriates feel ALIENATED from the governance of their mother country, because of the indifferent attitude of the British Government. To establish a permanent vote would be a first step to redressing this alienation. If the expatriate does not have a democratic voice, the Government is free to take any action which it distantly believes to be in its interest. That is not necessarily in the interest of the expatriate citizen.
REPLY from LIPSEY, Lord
Thanks for your letter. You have of course been able to retain your vote for some time after you left Britain for France. I am afraid I think that your residence should now be the basis for your rights - and in any case I think it would be quite wrong to have an MP for expats who would naturally be concerned only with advancing their particular interests. But I do see the arguments the other way and am grateful to you for troubling to write to set them out.
Best David Lipsey
THIS IS HOW LORD LIPSEY HAS VOTED on key issues since 2001:
Voted strongly for more EU integration.
Voted very strongly against laws to stop climate change.
Voted very strongly for equal gay rights.
Voted very strongly against greater autonomy for schools.
Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards.
Voted a mixture of for and against the hunting ban.
Voted very strongly for a stricter asylum system.
Voted for allowing ministers to intervene in inquests.