Brian Cave, a leading campaigner in the team for UK expat rights whose website is www.votes-for-expat-brits.com, explains why it is important to him to be able to vote even though he has lived abroad for many years
WITHIN the last few days I have received copies of complaints from people about the non-reception of voting papers from as far apart as California, Massachusetts, Norway and, of course, France and Spain.
The Connexion and expat forums have had even more.
So, why do people who no longer live in the UK still want to vote? The passion to do so is clear. Yet so many politicians in the UK and so many residents there say “You have left the country – you don’t deserve to vote.”
A number of those who write to me are young and clearly intelligent. They have the desire to see that Britain is a country of which they can be proud. Oddly, that archaic institution the Royal Family is the focus of so much of this pride.
At a recent dinner of expats, most of whom could not vote because like me we left the UK over 15 years ago, the meal was interrupted with the cry ‘It’s a girl!’ and glasses were raised to Kate and her baby.
Why cannot those at home realise that we, the citizens abroad, are all ambassadors of the British nation? It is we who foster the goodwill of the country.
The ‘country?’ - whatever that is. We are not a country – hills and towns, a little offshore set of islands. We are a nation - a people of a common culture. Just as the French are a nation with a shared culture. And as the French passionately hold on to that culture wherever they live so do the British.
Whatever a nation’s government does in the world affects each and every citizen. The government acts in the name of ALL the citizens.
We are today no longer ‘subjects’ of that Royal Institution that we so much respect but ‘citizens’ with a shared interest in the welfare of us all.
Naturally, many of us have material interests as to why citizens abroad want a say in the development of the UK. All of us, young and retired, may wish or need to return.
We need a sound NHS and for all the social support systems to be good. For many, our income is based in the UK. Many are taxed in the UK.
Most of us, of all ages, have family at ‘home’ and we care for them, for their welfare and education. Our lives depend on treaties between the States – a BREXIT could be a disaster.
For all these reasons we desire the vote. But do you get the impression, as I do, that most parties seek power for their own interest rather than the interest of the voter?
I hope that is a false impression, we need the party in power to act with thoughts for the citizens everywhere.
Yet have you heard any of them during this campaign utter a word of concern for the citizen abroad?
We may be expatriates (‘out of the homeland’), but by no means are we ex-patriots.