Sunday, February 25, 2018

Votes for Britons Living Abroad

 At long (very long) last Harry Shindler's quest approaches its goal.  Harry at 96 has for so long been fighting for British Citizens abroad to be recognised by the Westminster Government.  That is to have their Right to a VOTE.  Some years ago he brought a plea before the European Human Rights Court (nothing to do with the EU Court of Justice)  and was refused.  We should also recall that James Preston, a businessman who was living in Madrid in 2012 took a similar case to the Supreme Court in London and there it was also refused.
NOW-  On Friday 23rd February The Overseas Electors Bill  passed the 2nd reading  in the House of Commons. you can read the text from Hansard as under.
Some members almost filibustered the motion out.  One of these was Sandy Martin MP (Labour) for Ipswich.  He spoke at length about the Frozen Pension situation, where Citizens who have retired to Australia and South Africa and elsewhere (but not the USA or Jamaica) have their State pension frozen. That wrong should most certainly be righted but Mr Martin's speech wandered considerably from the point of the debate which concerns the VOTE, and that alone.
However Mr. Martin spoke at length why Britons abroad should NOT have the vote. He was vehemently opposed to the idea.
Layla Moran (Liberal Democrat) spoke well for the Bill. She observed that all British Citizens abroad are ambassadors (for good or bad) for Britain
Mike Gapes (Labour) spoke volubly in support of the Bill. He is the representative of Labour International in Parliament and represents all those Labour voters abroad who are proudly British.
Sir Roger Gale (Conservative) spoke with passion about Harry Shindler in support of the Bill.
The end of the debate was remarkable.  The Shadow Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in the Commons (Cat Smith), spoke from the Labour front bench. Though she made a veiled support for the principles of the  Bill, she then embarked on what a fellow Labour member (Paul Flynn) called a ‘filibuster’  which would have talked the Bill out of time.  Cat Smith was speaking as for the Labour Party.  But she must have known that by going on so long, the Bill was likely to fail. If it had failed it would have been the Labour Party which kicked it out of touch.
 Geoffrey Clifton Brown  (Cons)  intervened.  He requested  a motion of closure -  But no division took place because the ‘nays’ did not put forward any tellers (those who tally the votes).
The ‘Ayes’ had it, as they say , hands down - more truthfully 'hands up', with shouts of Aye ringing to the rafters.
We await the debate in the forthcoming ‘Committee Stage’  in a month or two. Be prepared to support it, and to lobby the MPs.
Harry Shindler was delighted! He tells me that if the Bill eventually fails because of the tactics of  the Labour Party he will resign his life time membership.  He is the oldest member of the Labour Party. Various members praised Harry for his steadfast campaigning on this matter.
The details of the Bill in its current form can be read here