Dear Jason Moore,
In response to your open letter to David Cameron (of which I will personally ensure he receives a copy) and other comments in the Daily Bulletin over the past week, I hope this letter will help you and others understand some of the complexities involved in why many will not be getting a vote in this referendum. Please feel free to print the relevant pointers.
The Conservative Party is and has been for many years the only political Party in the UK totally committed to the abolition of the - grossly unfair - 15-year voting rule for expats. The Conservative Party made the commitment in their election manifesto to abolish this and has introduced for all British subjects living overseas the ‘Votes For Life’ Bill. This bill will include more than just the abolition of the 15-year rule. It will also contain a number of measures to improve the current rather complicated process involved in the voting and registration process, which will ultimately benefit all expat voters.
This type of legislation does not come around often. I have been told by an MP and a minister that the ‘Votes for Life’ Bill involves huge constitutional change. The government does not want to introduce the legislation until it has explored all the practical problems and pitfalls and identified ways to address them.
This is the one chance for many years we have to get it right. I can see the reasoning but most people cannot as they have not been given the relevant information to understand the reasoning - hence the dissent felt by those who will not get a vote - myself included!
Personally, I find this process extremely frustrating, but I concede that rushing the bill through the House in order to meet the referendum date would not be good for expat voters in the long term. However frustrating it is for me along with thousands of others who will not have a say in the referendum, it is clear that the Conservative government has not deliberately delayed this bill. It would seem that a majority of the cabinet favour a "remain" vote and probably would have benefitted from bringing this legislation forward early. The fact that they have decided to go for solid legislation rather than politically rushed legislation is, I’m assured, a sign of good government.
I need to remind people that if Labour and the Lib Dems had not consistently opposed the removal of the 15-year bill introduced and held in place by the Labour Party during the last parliament, all expats would have achieved the right to vote in this forthcoming referendum and indeed in the 2015 parliamentary election.
Contacts I have with Labour International have themselves been pressing for a form of votes for life, but Labour HQ unequivocally does not come out in favour, though I am informed their MEP’s are frustrated by this: not surprisingly!
The Lib Dems. Only time will tell if they have truly reformed themselves. Having ditched Mr Clegg, partly because of broken promises and in my view his appalling lack of understanding of the lives of expatriates. which is ironic as Nick Clegg is married to a Spaniard who enjoys the benefits of a vote for life herself, they now espouse votes for life and a continuance within the EU.
I remain most profoundly disturbed by not having a vote in the referendum. I have received many emails from expats who cannot understand why they do not have the right to vote particularly when the Conservative Party manifesto in 2015 promised to amend this law. Perhaps the information I have outlined here will give you an opportunity to point this out to your readers.
The fault lies clearly with the two opposition parties. I reiterate that it is the Conservatives who are the only political party committed to giving expat citizens a vote for life.
Former Chairman of Conservatives Abroad - Majorca Branch
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