Monday, April 30, 2012

The Extraordinary thoughts of Mr. Clegg

An assistant to Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party wrote on April 25th this year (2012)

“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.”

It is easy to pick holes in this statement.  To vote in another country means taking out the nationality of that country and in some cases thereby renouncing British citizenship.  Is Mr Clegg suggesting that British patriots should become less British?  Let us quietly reflect on these thoughts, in Europe and throughout the World.

In 1973 Britain joined the European club, which perhaps should be more appropriately labelled the European Association of Nations, rather than the European Union!  Since then there has been a tardiness in the evolution of the British domestic fiscal and political regulations supporting the tenets of this Association.  They tend to be fossilised in a fashion which would be considered more appropriate to the early 20th century, before the second World War than to the current age.  The regulations within the ‘Association’, which stem from the EU and have been adopted (it would appear rather grudgingly) by the British Government, enable Britons to survive on the continent. I and others could not live in France if these arrangements collapsed.  Further, I and others hold dear our families and friends resident in the United Kingdom with whom we communicate on an almost daily basis.  Whatever happens to the NHS, education services, the police and passport controls and of course the management of the finances, on which I and all British pensioners depend wherever we live in the world,  most certainly affects me and mine, just as much as if I still lived in Gloucestershire!   Of course such links vary according to the individual, but all British citizens are always linked in some measure to the triple countries of Britain and Northern Ireland, whether they live in Normandy or New Zealand.
The world has become (as they say) a global village.  Europe is changing into an association of States, none of which can stand alone. EU regulations affect us all- if at times imperfectly implemented.  Everything in the 21st century world is connected. Particularly in Europe we have a network of  nations – held together by the webs formed  of  its citizens and communicating (hopefully) with the Governments of  their Nation States.
Politicians often use phrases  such as ‘It is good for Britain that’.. ‘It is in the interest of Britain that’  …   What, one must ask, is this ‘Britain’ of which they speak? It is clear that they are not  thinking of the geographical entity of hills, and rivers.  They are considering the welfare of the citizens.  Are the only British citizens of concern to the Government, those who reside amongst the hills and valleys and the towns and villages of the United Kingdom?   Is Mr. Clegg prepared to answer ‘yes’ to that question?  Or will a shadow of guilt pass across his mind.  Is the Citizen Abroad of little value? Is the answer from Mr. Clegg – ‘quite so’?
If all the Citizens of Britain disappeared, then so would the Nation of Britain.  The Citizens ARE Britain.  The ‘good’, the ‘interests’ of Britain, is and are, those of the British Citizens.
Why does a Government exist?  Does it exist for the sole benefit of the members of the Government?  No. That is dictatorship.  It exists for the benefit of the Citizens.  All citizens!  There cannot be a ranking of, ‘they are all equal but some are more equal than others’.
A Government exists to serve the Citizens,
The Citizens do not exist to serve the Government.
The policies of any Government must ensure the welfare of the Citizens wherever they may be living, at home or abroad. Not just those who are resident within the geographical State.
In the global village or more narrowly, the Association of Europe,  the British Nation is widespread and British influence is spread by these very same Citizens. 
Every British Citizen epitomises British culture.  Their attitudes, the way they think, and act, appear to their host country neighbours as a reflection of the British way of doing things.
The good (or evil) that they do, affects the image of all British citizens, and thereby the image of this entity called ‘Britain’.
For the good of all Britons, at home or abroad, would it not seem sensible, imperative even, to engender a feeling of mutual support between them, of affection one with another.
As things are now, we have British citizens abroad denigrating the British Government, despairing at the blindness of British politicians and the civil servants.  They despair at the tepidness of respect for their efforts in promoting British business or culture.
Would it not engender pride and mutual loyalty to be warmly recognised?   The sense of pride is of huge importance.  The notion that one is no longer to be considered a full citizen – for that is the effect of the law - after fifteen years - is insulting.
The answer is Representation in one form or another at Westminster.
Perhaps the House of Lords could accept elected members from the wider world of British Citizens.  Most expatriates are desirous to be patriots and not ex-patriots.
A full exposition of my arguments on the matter of Representation of Britons Abroad can be viewed here:-
**Please view also (More in depth analysis of the position of Britons Abroad and voting/Representation). ***
You can leave comments on that site or this one (see the link below).
Author ---  Brian Cave
Email addresses for Mr. Clegg are:-


  1. Well put as always Brian.

    Can I add that it is insulting in the extreme that come election time candidates from all parties suddenly become interested in the expat that still retains the vote. I experienced a sudden rush of interest in my vote at the last election with all sorts of promises made to aid the expat.

    What has happened since then?

    Well, you do not need me to answer that question as it is self evident.

    After eight years in France it will be interesting to see what happens at the next election as I did use my proxy vote last time.

    So there it is, politicians tell us that expats do not need a vote but are very keen to seek the vote of the expat that still has it - double standards? Surely not!

    Keep up the good work Brian, we need to become an itch that our representatives, (for that is what they are), cannot scratch.

  2. Bravo Brian, extremely well said.

    Has Nick Clegg's outrageous position now become the new Liberal Democrats' party line? From the logic of his reply he appears to not have an inkling of who or what a citizen is, particularly one living abroad, and this despite his own numerous stints abroad, including with the European Commission and as an MEP. I find it hard to believe he has been informed properly of the letters he has received and which give rise to this unacceptable reply.

    As he also has special responsibility for constitutional reform, this is particularly insidious. Perhaps he would like us to be declared no longer citizens at all after 15 years' absence?

    Our children born abroad have already had their right to transmit our nationality taken away from them, unless we happened to be in Crown service or working for example in a European Union institution at the time of their birth, and to add insult to injury, retroactively for anyone over the age of 30 (I leave aside the previously untenable position of mothers not being able to transit their British nationality before the 1981 Act).

  3. Robert in Les LandesMay 1, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    Very well put Brian. until now I have had a lot of respect for Nick Clegg, but after this comment that can only be described as insulting, my opinion has changed somewhat. What on earth made him make such a statement? I would have expected better of him.
    I know we who have been here over 15 years no longer have a vote so perhaps he thinks it doesn't matter what he says, but does he realise that most of us have close families in the UK, some larger than others who do have a vote and think that we are being discriminated against in being disenfranchised. Come the next election and their vote WILL COUNT. Perhaps he should reflect on this matter.

  4. I can only but agree with Brian's response to the 'Clegg' reply. Many of us expats also continue to pay taxes to the UK through our government pensions. We are therefore, as continuing UK tax payers, deeply effected by the issues in the UK. For Clegg to infer otherwise is crass. We should continue to be represented in the UK parliament after 15 years. Indeed as other countries do, we should have a special M.P. for us, the overseas constituents. Let us demand that we have such an contituency. As taxpayers surely we should be entitled to be represented?