A Conservative government would seriously look to address the problems facing Britons living abroad and even provide expatriates with en elected body of representatives in government. These comments were made yesterday in an interview with the Bulletin, by the Chairman of Conservatives Abroad, John D. Taylor CBE who said that he and the party are aware of growing problems some Britons living abroad are facing. He in particular, has a number of proposals he intends to put forward, should the Conservatives win the forthcoming general election.
Taylor said that, as a home owner in France, he is aware of the issues British pensioners are concerned about and the fact that they receive unequal treatment. My trip, albeit brief, down here (to Palma) has also served to open my eyes to other concerns and realise that the pension problem is a common one, he said. Apart from unequal treatment, British pensioners, have been hit by the introduction of the single currency and the sharp rise in the cost of living in Europe over the past few years. They have no one to turn to in government, no one to raise their concerns with, he added.
However, looking at the global issues of Britons living overseas, Taylor also wants to address the voting issue. I would like to see Britain introduce a system similar to France. Every French citizen, whether they live in France or overseas, has the right to a vote (in general elections) for life, rather like United States citizens. But in France, there are 12 senators who sit in the Upper House and are elected by the overseas electorate and are therefore responsible for looking after the best interests of French citizens living overseas. I would like to see a Conservative government introduce a similar system with expatriate-elected candidates sitting in the House of Lords, Taylor said. I think if people back in Britain knew about some of the conditions British pensioners were having to live in overseas and that they are not receiving equal treatment, they would be very disappointed. Sounds promising, but do the Conservatives really believe they can win the general election? Yes we do. There's a great sense of optimism in the party, especially after Labour's behaviour over the Terror Bill last week, he said. The Labour government has managed to do in just eight years what it took the Conservative government to do in 18 - grow arrogant and out of touch. That's why we lost and that's why Labour will too. Had you asked people in the New Year about our chances they would have written us off. However, a lot has happened over the past five to six weeks and the electorate is starting to re-evaluate its position while (Conservative leader) Michael Howard has clearly emerged as a political leader who can lead the country, said Taylor. Labour was on the back foot last week and the public saw that the government cannot act under pressure; the government fell to pieces. Blair refused to come to the Commons to address MP's on his concessions on the terror bill, we all found out from Sky TV. Democratic government is about having a sound relationship with the people you govern and being able to talk to them. This government has lost touch with the public and is having problems talking within itself. People have had enough of being told whether they can smoke or not, what they can or can not eat - these are not issues a government should be legislating on, not even fox hunting - the issues this government should be dealing with are health, education, crime, taxation and immigration issues that concern people and effect their daily lives. The government has not just failed Britain but the democratic process. With the huge majority it has had for the past eight years and the chance to completely by-pass party politics, it could have really set about solving some of Britain's fundamental domestic problems, but it hasn't and people have realised that, he said. Politics is also cyclical, the mood of the country changes - the mood changed when we lost the election eight years ago and the mood has changed again now, he added. I am also Chairman of the Candidates Committee and we have some very good people coming through who will be standing at the election. We've been working very hard on making sure our candidates have a good grounding from local government. Once upon time people thought all Conservative candidates were merchant bankers, well not any more. We have a very good bunch of young people from diverse and varied backgrounds. We have no all women short list, but we still have just over 100 women candidates and nearly 40 from British minority groups. We have also started a new City Seats project which is a more long term political strategy, but is nevertheless proving very helpful in the run up to the May election. The idea came from a report my son compiled when working for the Bow Group Research Study which quite simply concluded that while most policies work in the Shires and non-city areas, they do not work in inner cities. We've set up working groups in seven inner cities, Leicester, Sheffield, Newcastle/Gateshead, Sunderland, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham to find out what the real problems are and make contact with inner city residents while making a good impact in the media. We've found that the political mood of a regional capital has a significant influence on how the rest of the region votes. So we're working at the very heart of city communities to boost our profile and membership, he said.
The Conservatives are not only enjoying a good response from the inner cities, but from across the nation and overseas. The three-week notice overseas voters were given to register to vote this time around was a scandal, but we've been very busy at central office. The registration period ended last Friday but last week we registered 1'000 overseas voters. We're well up on the last general election when 13'000 Britons voted overseas. One of the reasons I'm in Palma is to address local members and encourage them to vote. The Foreign Office and the Electoral Commission estimates that there are two million Britons living overseas who are eligible to vote, but many are ending up without a voice. It's a huge democratic deficit we would like to change. The 15 year rule means that while Britons, here in Majorca for example, can vote in local and European elections, they can't vote in general elections and, as I explained earlier, I believe that to be unfair. The same can be said for the referendum on the EU Constitution. In Spain you had no vote and in Britain, under Labour's rules, only those eligible to vote in the general election will be able to participate - tens of thousands of Britons living in Europe will have no say in the future of Europe, he added.
John Taylor flew back to London yesterday. We have a very busy time ahead of us but we're confident we can win back our target seats and win the election. We know where we're going, we've got our election issues sorted and we know what the country is really concerned about. In Parliament, Labour is demoralised, it's lost its way under Blair and members of the party and the public can see that. From WMD's to dodgey dossiers, to crime, immigration, health, unhappy police chiefs, teachers who are unable to teach because of Ofsted rules and regulations there is a mood for change in Britain and we're focusing all our efforts on polling day and winning the election.