Keeping the Vote
I recently received an email from a fellow blogger, urging me to encourage all expats who read my blogs to vote in the next UK General Election. Apparently, only 30,000 of the 2.5 million expats who have the right to vote, bother to do so. This is where the interesting politics begins since one of the UK political parties, currently in Government, is getting a tad concerned that it may be voted out of office in the 2015 General Election. This is where the sudden interest in the expat vote begins.
For those who are unaware, British expats have the right to vote in a UK General Election under the 15-year rule, meaning that after 15 years we lose the right to vote. My fellow blogger went on to say that because she had lived outside the UK for the last 25 years she was unhappy that she no longer had the right to vote in the UK. The email duly instructed me to support a host of Conservative MPs in support of their campaigns, as well as ensuring that I vote Conservative to ensure that this political party fulfil their promise to ensure that the voting rights for all expats are permanently extended.
I have several problems with this proposal. Firstly, I am not about to suddenly become a supporter of the UK’s Conservative Party, nor to follow the dictates of their Chairman who came up with this brilliant wheeze to garner more support for a party that was likely to lose the next General Election. My cynicism comes from the belief that if the party had really wanted to do this they could have done so during their present and previous periods in Government, when the expat voice was conveniently ignored. How times change.
Secondly, I am no longer interested in voting in UK elections. Don’t get me wrong, I love the UK and always will, but as I have been out of the country for the last twelve years, I no longer feel that I have the right to vote. Each time I return to the country, I feel that I no longer belong. I fail to understand the surge in support for parties such as UKIP, the SNP and the recent near debacle in Scotland. Frankly, I am much more interested in being able to vote in the Spanish General Election as this will directly affect me. As a Spanish resident I can already vote in European and local elections, but cannot currently vote in the national elections of the country where I live, work and pay taxes. This, to me, seems more unjust than not being able to vote in the country of my birth.
No doubt many will disagree with me and I can see their point of view, particularly if they intend to return to the UK in the future, have families in the UK, pay UK taxes and receive UK pensions. If this should be the case, they can apply for a vote in the UK by registering for a postal vote on: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. I am told that the procedure is simple and it will take only three minutes to make the Chairman of the Conservative Party a very happy person. On second thoughts, maybe I will apply for a vote, but maybe not use it as intended…
Barrie Mahoney was a head teacher and school inspector in the UK, as well as a reporter in Spain, before moving to the Canary Islands to launch and edit a new English language newspaper.