Despite being mad as a hatter, and a lawyer to boot, you (hopefully!) would not think that Ms Raccoon, Ian Brady, Derry Irvine, and Phil Woolas had anything in common, but we do. We do. I wonder if you can guess what it is?
The answer is not a bald head. Now, can you guess which of us has the best chance of being restored to our former glorious birthright?
That answer is Phil Woolas to save you scratching your own head in bewilderment for too long.
You see, unlike the estimated 150,000 people who had, in the previous five years been entitled to reside in the British Isles, for a variety of reasons – like being a citizen of Botswana for instance, and had thus been able to register for a postal vote – none of us are entitled to have any say in who our MP is, nor any representation in parliament.
Ian Brady lost his vote by being both a prisoner and effectively sanctioned under the Mental Health Act – though there are those who would seek to restore his vote as a serial murderer, a fully fledged member of scoiety, there are no plans to allow the criminally insane, nor merely the legally insane, to vote.
Derry Irvine lost his vote the day he bit down on the golden carrot offered to him by Tony Blair; giving Donald Dewars ex-missus the chance to choose hand printed wallpaper and inflict the Human Rights Act on the rest of the population was apparently worth giving up his vote for.
I committed the crime of following my husband to France, embracing multi-culturalism and free movement of EU citizens in one suitably politically correct swoop – and losing my vote for life. Had I been prepared to lie on the electoral form and say I intended to return within fifteen years, I could have illegally kept a postal vote for those 15 years. Being honest gets you nowhere these days. Curiously, I do still have an MP – I just have no say in who he might be.
Phil Woolas was both a cheat and a liar, and convicted of electoral fraud, which only cost him his vote for a mere five years…
No other citizen of the European Union looses their right to vote in this way – citizens of France, for instance retain their right to vote in France for their lifetime, even though they may reside in Kazakhstan. Nick Clegg’s wife retains her right to vote in both Spain, as her birthright, and Britain as a British citizen by marriage. Had Clegg chosen to follow his wife to Spain, and work there, he too would have lost his right to vote in the UK.
The fundamental rights of EU citizens to move freely within the EU was never intended to be subject to restrictions or penalties, as the Court of Justice of the EU has consistently pointed out:
If a country places restrictions or penalties on its own citizens who wish to avail themselves of these basic rights, it is guilty of discriminating against its own citizens to the benefit of citizens of other EU Member States, whose free movement to other countries is not penalised.
Last week Lord Wills tabled a debate on government policy on electoral registration, in which he claimed millions of people could be denied their democratic right to vote as a result of the changes. He was talking about the estimated 6 million people who declined to register their right to vote (mainly an historic effect of the poll tax – if you weren’t on the electoral register you didn’t get a tax bill), some merely ‘don’t want to be easily traceable’ for various nefarious reasons as well as some sound reasons.
He seemed remarkably unconcerned about the estimated 5.6 million who live abroad, a high proportion in EU countries, who have effectively been disenfranchised. It was left to Lord Lexden to compare Britain’s “unjust” policy on expat voting to other democratic nations such as the US or France, where citizens are granted lifelong voting rights, he said that “no other leading democracy takes as restrictive an approach as our country” and that it was “high time the United Kingdom joined the international consensus”.
As ex-pats, we are used to hearing the popular jibe in the main stream media that ‘those living in warmer countries shouldn’t get the winter heating allowance’ – most of us don’t, you only get it if you were ‘in receipt of it’ before leaving Britain; and since when was winter temperatures of -12 as a norm ‘living in a warmer country’? It may be warmer in the summer, as it is in Britain, but we pay a price for those clear blue skies in the winter – there’s no cloud cover to protect us from the deep frost! We live with it, and put another log on the fire.
We are used to the jibes about ex-pats apparently living the ‘life of Riley’ on Disability Living Allowances that are never checked – only if you were in receipt of such an allowance when leaving Britain; if your circumstances change after you move, you are on your own Pal.
The vast majority of ex-pats get just their basic pension if retired, or pay full taxation if in work, to the country of their residence. Some of us have the misfortune to be paying tax in both countries, in France as a French resident, and in Britain as a person in receipt of a Government pension. (Bog basic variety, less than £5,000 a year since you are interested!)Let us not forget those ex-pats who went to live in Australia or Canada to maintain contact with their children – they lost the right to any increase in the pension whatsoever – frozen on the day they left.
As a community, we are saving our country of birth a small fortune by living outside of the country and not consuming any resources whilst still contributing to the national handbag – I really resent finding myself bracketed with such charmless bedfellows as Brady, Irving and Woolas in being considered ‘unfit’ to vote. It is even more of an insult that Woolas will be given his vote back for the next election!
Take a moment or two and and your voice to the poll on this site. It might help!