With only some 30,000 registered to vote out of an estimated 5 – 6 million British citizens living abroad, the question is whether this is due to apathy or neglect. Neglect encourages apathy and the British government does not go out its way to encourage its expatriate citizens to vote, indeed even denying them the right to vote after 15 years abroad.
If you are a British citizen living abroad and concerned about your civil duty with respect to the UK, the Electoral Commission’s website www.aboutmyvote.co.uk is for you . This states that:
Every British citizen who has been registered to vote in the UK within the last 15 years is eligible to vote in UK Parliamentary (general) elections, European Parliamentary elections and referendums in the UK.
However, here we have the reaction below from a British couple living in France and members of a local British club. Both she and her husband are registered to vote and diligently go through all the bureaucratic procedures required. I asked her if she could tell me what the feeling was in their British Club. Were they interested or apathetic (about voting in the UK), trying to get a feel for it, as it’s quite a strong club, collects for charity, does good works, etc?
“It seems that we are unique in that we are the only ones who still care enough to register to vote every year. (Our friends) attitude is, that they have chosen to live here not in the UK, so it has no effect on them what happens there. It seems to make no difference, when we tell them, that their pension’s value, or ability to receive automatic increases can and might be affected by any change of law or Government. I honestly don’t know if it’s apathy, ignorance or head in the sand. I’m even more astounded, as they ALL have children and grandchildren…..”
Another British expatriate living in France also said to me once on the matter of voting in UK elections when I said that we are guests here:
” Guests? How do you make that out, we pay taxes, TVA everything that is asked of us, we contribute hugely to the local economy,……”
However, they still can’t vote in France although France in contrast grants full voting rights to its own citizens living overseas and is rewarded by some 1 million registering to vote in the last presidential elections.
Show your support here for our campaign to remotivate the British citizen living abroad by removing the 15-year-limit on our voting rights.
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I am afraid this ignorance and apathy is extremely widespread and can even lead to rudeness and hostility towards those of us who are and have been fighting for recognition of our rights for so long. Some seem also to think that if they are even registered with a consulate they may be taxed further. Also “I’m all right Jack, pull up the ladder” which will last until for example the UK pulls out of the EU and so many will suddenly find themselves with many very practical bureaucratic and other difficulties, as for example have those in so many countries whose pensions have been frozen.
It can only mean a grave defect in their education – who is to blame? Certainly themselves as adult citizens, certainly the families they grew up in and their schools. Which leads me to suspect that we should ALSO be setting up a campaign to further obligatory citizenship lessons, more practical “school-children’s parliaments” etc. which should also gain some support within the UK, where voters’ apathy and ignorance is also rife. Perhaps for our generation of adults working abroad and retirees it may be too late, but for our children and grand-children there may be some hope, as long as one does not rely entirely on parents to instill ideas and principles of citizenship.