The Overseas Electors Bill (aka Votes for Life) is in Committee stage at Westminster. The Bill aims to extend the franchise for overseas voters from the current 15 years to lifelong. The official Labour position appears to be to oppose the Bill. The Bill is now scheduled to go back to the Commons for the final report stage on 25th January 2019.
The time for action is now!
It appears from what has happened at second reading and committee stage that the Labour party may try to vote the Bill down in the Commons, thus opposing giving a vote to those of us who have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years. After 100 years of supposedly full suffrage, we are not included. It is argued that we are not in touch with events in the UK – simply invalid in the modern connected world – or that we are not affected. That was untrue, even before the idea was blown out of the water by the Brexit vote. We have family ties to elderly relatives; kids studying or working in the UK; brothers, sisters and friends whose lives are there. Some of us work for UK companies, others for companies with ties to the UK. The vast majority of us are working age or younger, and are not tax exiles or rich non-doms. Those who are pensioners may have spent a lifetime paying into UK insurance and be dependent on UK pensions and healthcare funding. Some of us are even active members of the Labour Party. Yet Labour appears ready to oppose giving us a vote.
Other objections have included potential costs to local authorities and that administration will be too complex. But if keeping costs and administration low had been the only consideration, women might never have got the vote. Somehow most other advanced democracies manage to register their overseas voters successfully. The Conservative government has allocated central government funding to cover expected additional costs.
Many of us in Labour International have been impacted ourselves by the 15-year rule, so have a direct personal interest in this change to electoral law. If you are not happy with the Labour Party position, now is the time to tell the Parliamentary party.
What can you do?
Let the Labour MPs know what you think. If they are not prepared to support the bill, ask them at the very least not to vote against it. Write to the leader’s office, to members of the Front Bench or to the 6 Labour members on the Overseas Electors Bill Committee:
- Bradshaw, Ben (Exeter) (Lab)
- Elmore, Chris (Ogmore) (Lab)
- Gapes, Mike (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op)
- Matheson, Christian (City of Chester) (Lab)
- Norris, Alex (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)
- Snell, Gareth (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab/Co-op)
If the MP for your current or former constituency is Labour, write to him or her. To find an MP: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
For tips on how best to get in touch, see <to be updated shortly>.
More information. For more on the content of the Bill and the debates in Parliament: https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/overseaselectors.html