British living overseas should vote in British elections

Dear Editor,

You are no doubt aware that the UK parliament is considering the voting rights of ex-pats, which currently expires after 15 years of living outside the UK.

Those who are passionate about politics might be interested to know that when the House of Lords debated this issue earlier this month, Lord Lexden proposed that long term ex-pats should no longer be disenfranchised.

I thought this should be supported, so I emailed him ([email protected]) the letter below (on Sunday January 27) to express my views. Others may like to add their support.

You can find out more about this from his website:

Dear Lord Lexden,

Regarding “Why all British citizens living overseas should vote in British elections”.

I am writing to applaud the fact that you support this issue. I think this matter has suddenly assumed a greater urgency and importance now that the possibility of a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU has been proposed. This matter of supreme importance to the UK’s place in the world is a matter in which every ex-pat must surely participate, especially when many of those long term ex-pats are responsible for the economic success of the UK in world markets.

I have only just read that this matter came up for parliamentary consideration earlier this month, and that you put forward amendments to improve the current situation. It has always been a great disappointment to me that my right to vote in the UK expired a few years ago.

I have voted in almost every election that I have been entitled to vote in since I became 18 (about the time the voting age was reduced from 21), and in that time I have voted for all three major parties at different times.

I sold my interest in a high tech company in Cambridge almost 20 years ago, and moved with my partner to Portugal where we founded a small R&D business, in part to develop one of my inventions. We continued to vote in UK national elections until this right expired, though we vote in European and local elections here in Portugal.

I have been told that to continue to vote in national elections, I should adopt Portuguese citizenship, and I am seriously considering this.

However, that would be a major decision, and although it would re-enfrachise me at the national level, it is not a very “portable” solution to suffrage, as it would not be practical for a British ex-pat who moves from country to country, say.

One final point I would make: Given the low turnout at elections within the UK, it seems perverse to exclude those British citizens who are prepared to make the effort to vote, and who are well qualified to do so.

Yours sincerely

Michael Kemp

São Marcos da Serra