By Euro Weekly News Media • 06 February 2015 • 13:33
UK RIGHTS ABROAD: Labour International secretary Lorraine Hardy with veteran campaigner Harry Shindler.
WITH the debate about the controversial ‘15-year rule’ for expat voters heating up, the Costa Blanca branch of Labour International has voiced their opposition to the rule that prohibits expats living abroad from voting in the UK General Election if they have been away for more than 15 years.
And they have also urged those UK expats who are eligible to vote to make sure they register soon.
“Resident expats who have been away from the UK for less than 15 years can still register as Overseas Voters in the last constituency in which they were registered in the UK,” said Lorraine Hardy, Costa Blanca-based Labour International secretary.
“It is vital that eligible expats do this as a precursor to a possible In-Out Referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. Depending on the outcome of the General Election, this could happen quickly and it is essential that expats living in the EU have their say.”
Ms Hardy attended the House of Commons with the veteran campaigner for voting rights for British people abroad, Harry Shindler, at the first reading of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown’s Ten Minute Rule Bill to remove the 15-year limitation on overseas voters in December.
“There is cross-party support from expats who feel that the right to vote is a basic civil right, not a privilege to be taken away by the UK government,” she said. “Losing the right to vote in the UK leaves expatriate Brits with no public representation in their own language and from their home country. They do not acquire the right to vote in the country of residence unless they renounce their British nationality and become a national of their country of residence.”
Labour International in Spain are reminding British expats that they need to re-register annually to vote and now that the online registration system is operational, some Electoral Registration Officers are not sending out reminders.
Dick Smith of the Labour International co-ordinating committee said: “We are supporting Harry Shindler and lobbying in our own right for both the dropping of the rule and also for the establishment of an MP, or MPs, to be elected by and represent British citizens that are resident outside the UK. There is a consensus among the overseas branches of the major political parties in this regard.”
Mr Smith said that the UK Labour Party has no official policy on the 15-year rule and that a number of Labour MPs are not in favour of restoring the vote, but that Labour International “is working hard to change the minds of these MPs.”
British expats residing in Spain who are eligible to vote can log on to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. The process takes less than five minutes.
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On behalf of the Campaign http://www.votes-for-expat-brits.com I have sent the following request to HQs of all National Parties – Labour/Conservatives/LibDems/Greens and UKIP.We all need to feel that the H.Qs are interested in the Citizen Abroad.****************************************Party Message to overseas voters.With contacts across the world and particularly in the European Union, it is intended to circulate a campaign message from all National Parties to all those British Citizens who have the potential power to vote in the May elections. It will reach hundreds of voters many of whom forward onwards to their own circulation listsThe message needs to state Why the expatriate should cast a vote for your Party. Why the expatriate should encourage their friends and families to vote for your Party.Please limit your response to 200 wordsAll messages will be circulated together in the first week of March.This message is sent to all Parties with UK wide interest. If no reply is received then that situation will be reported.Campaigns Ã¢ÂÂ http://www.votes-for-expat-brits.com****************************************
I congratulate EWN and Brian Cave, with the ‘votes for expat brits’ campaign, for bringing this issue the publicity that it deserves. I have, probably like many other overseas Brits, taken the trouble to make sure that my wife and I have retained our UK vote. Over the past few years I have also reminded my MP (previous UK address) about the 15 year limitation rule. The MP has repeatedly told me that, should a Conservative government be returned at the next 2015 election, then the 15 year restriction rule, reduced by the previous government from 20 to 15 years will be changed to that of the life of the voter. I am disappointed, but not very surprised to learn that the Labour Party do not (yet!), have an official line on this issue.The democratic political system is by no means perfect but it is all that we have, so support it!
Dear Brian Cave, I fully support the Campaign for votes for expat Brits and salute you for promoting this. The expat, who makes the effort to vote, (for any party), will greatly assist the argument, and your campaign, to make a credible case that the number of potential voters who live abroad should in future be taken into account and not just discarded after 15 years. I must also add that I am disappointed, but not very surprised, to see that it is only the Conservative Party that has made a firm commitment to extend the current 15 year restriction to be extended to the life of the voter. I understand from my MP that it was originally 20 years and was reduced to 15 years by the previous government. Yours sincerely, ]Ken QuinnellTabernas, Almeria
So far I have had only one reply from the Conservatives-Why? The Labour International movement is fairly strong in Europe. It seems that not even that stalwart group which includes Harry Shindler can prise no response from the Labour HQ. With the WFP fiasco you would think that Labour would have a good following in Europe – I am sure of it! I know that various Labour International members are pressing their HQ. to respond.
You will have had details of my e-petition 74848 to provide a fall-back for> 15 year ex-pats to register via their passports should Parliament not remove the limit before details of a Referendum are published.
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