Saturday, August 20, 2016

Letter to the Cabinet Office

To the Cabinet Office, with copies to the various Boundary Commission bodies, and certain other concerned politicians etc.
I write as the administrator of the Pensioners Debout! site, and even more as an active supporter of the campaign and of the campaign for Expat Citizens Rights in the EU.
Further I have frequent communication with Harry Shindler, the 95 year old campaigner for Political Representation for the British citizens abroad.
Harry draws attention to the words of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 21 (i)
1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. 
The British Government is a signatory to that Declaration.
Yet the British Government refuses to bring forward a long promised Bill present in the last Election Manifesto for 'Votes-for- Life'.
In contrast France and Italy have long understood the need to recognise the value and the need to recognise the Citizen Abroad. They have constituency ‘deputies’ or assembly members to represent them at a National level. 
Britain cuts off our representation after 15 years.
When I first retired to France at the age of 69 (I am now 84) I had the chance to vote for up to 20 years. That was cut dead by the Blair Government without any reference to my opinion  – thus taking away quite arbitrarily my Right to vote, notably important in the Referendum–
The Citizen abroad has huge ties to the United Kingdom – Socially (family), Culturally and Financially.  I and my wife are in all three ways so linked, that the current Brexit approach could seriously harm our way of life.

But these are incidental to the urgent need to be represented in our National Government – The Government of the Nation. The Nation is the assemblage of Citizens, wherever they live.  The Government has responsibility for all citizens,  and should have a sensitivity towards them, as the expatriate should have  towards the Government. Currently this dialogue and mutual interest is severed.
That severance can only be healed by creating overseas constituencies.
Understand the following points.
1.  The Overseas Citizens have strong links with Britain.
2.  The Overseas Citizens  are often immensely proud of their British roots.
3.  The Overseas Citizens have little interest in the minutiae of management of any on-shore constituency, but they most surely often have an interest in the standing and activities of Britain in the World, and the particular part that they themselves play in these.
4.  The existing MPs, conscious of their own parochial interests  are reluctant to extend the franchise of their  localised constituency to overseas voters. They would probably vote down a simple extension of the principle of Votes-for-Life.
5.  The Overseas Citizens have various  problems which relate to British Government deliberations – pensions – treaty arrangements  affecting .. work permits.. investment/savings opportunities.. bank accounts … cross border movements.., for example. 
6.  At the last General Election & Referendum  more than 250,000 Citizens abroad registered to Vote. Remember many including myself and my wife were prevented from voting.

I am not here suggesting that at this time one proposes as many overseas constituencies as has France.  But one could start with TWO minimum, one for Europe and one for the rest of the World.  As the years pass, and the notion becomes accepted as normal, then the number could increase.
At this time one detects a  resentment on the part of many expatriates of all ages. towards the British Government   Many would raise the two fingers to it. That attitude is picked up by our foreign neighbours.  By fulfilling the promise to grant the vote-for-life in the manner proposed here, this could be turned about, so that the expatriate takes a pride in their Government.
Yours respectfully,