The Political Representation of the Expatriate?
This paper discusses the means whereby the British Expatriate could be represented in the British Parliament. It explores the most expeditious means to achieve this under current conditions of financial restraint, an increasing world-wide movement for Democracy and rapidly accelerating ease of communication.
Axioms- It is taken as being axiomatic:-
That a Nation is the sum total of its Citizens. (It is not only a geographical entity)
That each Citizen has a natural bond with the Government of that Nation.
That each Citizen has a right to a voice in that Government.
Conclusion to this paper
That Full Representation in the House of Lords should be the final solution. But for reasons of cost and practicability, a half way stage should be introduced whereby the current system is extended to allow for life voting for expatriates but accompanied by a form of Representation by appointed peers.
A -1 – The Distinction between ‘Voting’ and ‘Representation’.
Voting is a mechanical process. Representation is a dialogue.
There is a
confusion in many minds between ‘voting’ and ‘representation’. Let
us explain by reference to the work of a GOOD constituency MP in
The GOOD MP has ‘surgeries’
frequently. He visits societies, factories, the local authorities and
their councillors, schools, hospitals and youth clubs, elderly people’s homes
and so on. He gives occasional public speeches in his physical constituency.
In this way he attains a DIALOGUE with his constituents. The channels for a
The expatriate constituent under the system of VOTING (for up to 15 years) for a British based constituency has no possibility of such a DIALOGUE.
A-2 -What motivates the expatriate to consider voting?
1. Loyalty to the concept of Britishness.
2. Concern about
3. Concern for their families
5. The knowledge that treaties
and agreements signed by
6. The British Regulations which personally affect them. Large numbers (particularly pensioners) are affected by financial (but not only financial) rules. They are passionately concerned about this – this is why we get so often the mantra ‘No taxation without representation’.
A-3 What deters the expatriate from voting? Variously--
1. They feel detached from the constituency system.
2. The 15 year rule inspires no confidence in the British Government. They get the feeling of not being wanted.
3. The constituency MPs are not interested in them. There is no dialogue.
4. They have cut their links with
A-4 The value to
1. In brief, they are all ambassadors of British culture.
2. Most display a pride in
3. This all reflects in trade for
A-5 The views of the expatriates
The web site www.votes-for-expat-votes.com has amassed about 500 comments from the world population of expatriates. There are two locations of comments on the site.
A-6 [THE OLD ORDER]
1. The complexity of the British based laws which affect expatriates makes it almost impossible. Some MPs do not even attempt to understand the lives of their expatriate constituents. ‘Pensioners Debout!’ *(see note- author) has correspondents who have been given the brush off by their British based MP, even saying in effect “You live abroad and I cannot represent you”.
2. Further, this system of voting for a British based MP just dissipates information over 600+ MPs and no one MP ever sees the big picture.
3. A considerable number of
expatriates have never had a close bond with a geographical constituency, nor
do they want to be represented by an MP of any such constituency. [They may
have been working abroad for Government agencies or otherwise and have no
special constituency link.) They are moved strongly by the items in A-2 above. If they were not, they would not vote. They are not necessarily interested in local
issues of a
. This is a genuine problem which must be addressed. It can be tackled only by allowing the citizen firstly to demonstrate that he has not had a recent constituency residence, and then secondly to choose a constituency (or e.g. unless separate expat constituencies are defined).
4. The expatriate remains in real terms unrepresented –see argument A-1 above.
It is unlikely that the expatriate would be strongly moved to vote under the system of votes for existing constituencies, unless it is clearly demonstrated that a much stronger form of Representation of his special needs, was also brought into play alongside.
In other words the existing
system can never achieve the position whereby an MP based on a constituency in
This is surely a major reason (among others – see A-3 above) that the majority of expatriate citizens just cannot be bothered to vote. The expatriate is much more likely to vote for someone who represents his needs.
At present the expatriate can only vote according to party allegiance or the conditions of the particular constituency (in which he does not live), but his special needs are not referenced.
Because currently, few
expatriates vote, the Government assumes they are not interested in the
political scene in
B The Current Situations
The British citizen can move around unhindered but remains a British Citizen all the time. He can live 5 years here and 5 years there and is all the time an ‘ambassador’ for British culture.
The role of MEPs in Representation?
Unfortunately the MEPs have shown themselves to be of little help in representing the expatriate. They have no influence in the British Parliament Neither a British MEP nor a host State MEP can understand the complexity of the 3-way relationship of the expatriate. That is, it is difficult for them to understand what it is like being a British person living in France, or Spain etc. subject to the interplay of the laws (financial and other) of two countries, which have evolved from a pre-EU situation. In neither case have they the stimulus to discover the issues affecting the expatriate. It is not in their ‘brief’.
The EUROLAND Crisis
If there should
eventually be a referendum on changes affecting
Will they; can they; be given a fair voice? The few, who have taken care to maintain
their right to vote in the
Those who left
But will those who have a voice be heard? Unfortunately, the tiny voices of the expatriates are not united into one big bellow.
There is no structure for the REPRESENTATION of the British people
The B-2 The Movement for Democracy throughout the World.
One observes - The European Commission Report on EU Citizenship 2010
deplores the lack of Representation in States like the
Most other European Nations have created a system of Representation for their
The Arab ‘Spring’
is creating similar Representations –
The notion of representation of
expatriates is spreading. Malaysian citizens have demonstrated in
discussed two versions of a
[THE IDEAL SOLUTION?] A elected Representative MP – Commons or Lords?
In both cases the role is similar.
C-1 Representative MPs in the Commons or Lords for the expatriates
Let us suppose that a New System
existed whereby the British Citizen in
Let us examine how such an MP could function.
He would very rarely, have meetings at consulates or embassies, but the consulates could have an important role.
The consulates (or embassies) would maintain lists of registered electors. Each elector, as now, would register themselves individually. The vast majority of expatriate electors (but not all!) are likely to have email addresses. Registration (and voting) could be done by secure internet communication. Others could do so by post.
The MP would try to establish voluntary contacts/spokespeople in the neighbourhood of all major towns or where concentrations exist. The MP would visit regions where many expatriates live, though necessarily rather sporadically.
Through these channels the MP
would communicate between
He would be a listener in the grass for the issues affecting the expatriate and again would largely communicate via the internet. A dialogue could be easily developed.
Possibly one expatriate MP could
C-2– New Order continued.
The expatriates in the rest of the World
Given their numbers, it would be necessary under this New Order that there should also be representation for these British citizens as a logical extension of the argument in favour of European citizens.
C -3 -The costs of an Electoral Campaign for expatriates for Political Parties
It could be argued that only the two major parties could afford to lobby for expat votes. In this world of fast email communication, this is not a major issue. Assuming, as it must be, that lists of registered expatriate electors are centrally held, then information can be immediately sent to hundreds at almost no cost. Emailed questions can be sent in reverse to would-be MPs and answered just as easily. Secure internet makes all possible, including voting. Local party volunteers could be asked to communicate with the relatively few other registered voters not on the internet. This need not be onerous.
C -4 [COMMONS] - The pros and cons of having MPs elected by expatriates in the House of Commons.
Pros (FOR) -- It would achieve a voice for the citizen abroad within Parliament. The MP(s) could voice the feelings gleaned via the channels above. That would be a real achievement, and the objective of Representation would be gained.
Cons (AGAINST) –Remember that the number would be less than a handful in a total of over 600.
These are the issues.
1 It is conceivable, if unlikely, that the expatriates could alter the balance of power by changing the ‘swing’ in marginal seats. If there were one, two or even three ‘expatriate’ MPs, the effect on power politics within Parliament would be minimal. That is surely clear.
2. The expatriate representatives
might be considered as interfering in the domestic management of
3. The existing MPs might resist the intrusion of such ‘expatriate’ MPs.
5. The cost of employment of 1,2, or 3 MPs plus expenses could well make the notion unacceptable amongst an unthinking public, and the popular press – at present.
Elected Representatives in the House of Lords
The pros and cons of of having MPs elected by expatriates in the House of Lords.
1. It introduces the concept of elected peers. Is this a problem?
2. They do not have the same power of voting as in the Commons. Is this a problem? They will have the power of debate in the amending processes, and will speak from a true knowledge.
1. They can have a good dialogue with their electorate to whom they would be fully loyal - the electorate is their sole power source.
2. A different electoral time span to the Commons could be chosen – e.g. a fixed term of 5 or 6 years?- and this would be naturally addressed within the current programme for reform of the Lords, including the introduction of elected peers (see Cons1. above).
D- The difficulties of implementing this New Order (either Common or Lords)
1. Money. The costs of paying for the MPs or Peers plus expenses
2. See above C-4 Cons.
The feeling that ‘expatriate’ MPs could intrude in the Commons makes the invention of Representatives in the Lords more acceptable.
E -AN INTERMEDIATE but temporary SOLUTION
1. Continue the existing order of voting for a constituency MP – with the proviso of those expatriates who demonstrably have no recent constituency selecting one.
2. Appointing perhaps two peers as ‘counsellors’ for the expatriates. This establishes the role of true REPRESENTATION into the parliament.
Without this second part – it is doubtful if the interest of the expatriates will be passionately roused, and the exercise may be seen as failing.
Then at some later date.
Converting the ‘counsellors’ into elected Representatives.
The conclusion as expressed at the beginning is reached.
F - The current Campaign for the Universal life time VOTE.
That is - Life-time registration of the vote for expatriates.
It would indeed be a step forward, a very small step forward. However, it would cross the most important threshold of recognition of the value of the expatriates and that a new age of democratic representation is upon us.
The recognition of the value of the British Citizen abroad would make the expatriates feel wanted and respected.
This would in turn reflect on the