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Restore voting rights of long term expatriate UK citizens

Comment 3rd July 2010

There used to be a rule that deprived UK citizens of their right to vote after they had been continuously resident overseas for 20 years.  The last government reduced this to 15 years, for no apparent reason.  Both rules are monumentally unjust.  UK is almost unique in treating its citizens in this way. 

The rule is unjust, it is unnecessary, it serves no purpose and it could be removed with no harm to anyone.

Why does this matter?

The idea is important because it will remove an obvious injustice.  Most of those affected have moved overseas for legitimate and understandable reasons – work, marriage, the need for a warmer climate in retirement – none of which necessarily implies breaking or loosening ties with the UK.  Many pay UK taxes on their UK earnings and pensions, visit Britain frequently for family and cultural events, watch British television, listen to BBC Radio 4 on long wave, buy British newspapers and contribute to British charities.  Depriving such people of their right to vote is not only unjust, it is mean spirited and un-British.

The crime for which my wife and I have been struck off the register of electors in Devizes is that I have been living in Europe working for NATO for 17 years, following 30 years Army service – that's 47 years continuous service to my country and its allies.  Now I pay taxes on my army pension and retirement "benefit" but I'm not allowed to vote. There is no justice in that.

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