At that time a plenary session opens – The Committee Stage of the ‘Electoral Registration Bill’ .
The Lords are renowned for quiet gentlemanly and ladylike behaviour but behind that façade will run deep emotions. These are rooted in a fight for Democracy for British Citizens throughout the World.
Political Representation and Voting is a major route to justice. It is the bastion of a free society. Great numbers of Britons who live abroad have considerable links with Britain and its governance. In the Euro-zone countries, there reside about 3.5% of all UK State pensioners – that is about 450,000. Elsewhere beyond the UK there are another 1 million. In total over 9% live outside the UK. They all are dependent on the UK for income. Nearly all carry strong ties with UK and are dependent on the Government and its decisions for themselves, their family connections, and above all for international treaty agreements where the UK holds itself responsible for its citizens but allows for no form of consultation with them. There is no Representation. What else is this but a form of dictatorship? The Government dictates and we have to put up with its decisions!
The situation is just as bad for the millions of Britons of a younger age who work for Britain abroad. The businessmen, workers for industry abroad, and charity workers. Many move from country to country but remain stolidly British. Very few indeed have not watched with pride the performance of team GB at the Olympics. Very few have not praised Bradley Wiggins – Wiggo - for his achievements. He, who must be a European at heart (being born in Ghent!) surely would be aghast at the manner in which the UK disowns his fellow citizens. Yet another supposedly European at heart who is fluent in Dutch and Spanish, that is to say Nick Clegg, suggests obliquely that if the expatriate wants to be politically active then he should take out the nationality of his host country. He can’t be serious! But he is.
After 15 years the Briton Abroad has no opportunity to vote for any MP at Westminster. Before that time limit the expatriate can vote for an MP in the constituency where he last lived. That can be cumbersome and difficult. Many can't remember the post code of that address, which is essential for the process. The registration form to be filled each year is several pages long. The Representation before 15 years is pretty paltry, but at least it is an embryonic form of political representation. For most it is useless and that is why it often appears that the Briton Abroad does not care. Of course they care. They run parties on the Queen'’s Jubilee. They argue the case for Britain with their neighbours. They are Ambassadors for Britain.
On October 23rd there comes an absolutely pivotal moment for a revolutionary change in British Democracy. Its importance cannot be too strongly emphasised. If the opportunity which arrives this autumn is missed, then the possibility for democracy for the Briton Abroad may not come again for many years.
It is certain that Lord Lexden (Conservative) will table an amendment to remove the 15 year limit on the voting rights of all expatriates. When the Bill was before the Commons, a very similar amendment was introduced by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown – MP (Cotswolds) . Pressure from the Liberal Democrat leadership, caused him to remove it.
Could this amendment be similarly treated? Yes it could. The Coalition Government could denounce it. The Coalition Government could table a different amendment offering a different time limit. DISASTER! This is a real danger.
How can such proposals be aborted before birth? By a polite fury of many peers who can be persuaded to speak up for the Briton Abroad. We need them to feel as red as their seats at any such proposals of rejection of the amendment or change to the time limit. Only removal of the time limit is acceptable.
Many Liberal Democrat peers who do not see eye-to-eye with their leadership could speak out. There is a low murmur running on the Labour benches also gunning for the Briton Abroad. But we also recognise that there are die-hards like Lord Lipsey and no doubt followers of Nick Clegg who are against any change at all.
The Briton Abroad must steady the nerves of the peers and by a ground-swell of feeling give the peers strength to speak out for us – for the British and for Britain.
• Leader of the Labour Party in the Lords -- Baroness Royall
• The Liberal Democrat leader – Lord McNally
• To locate the email addresses of ALL Peers --- go to….
Britons around the world have expressed their feelings – Read the comments of the web site www.votes-for-expat-brits.com
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