polling station, UK
Source: pixabay.com (Creative Commons)

Many British expats were left disappointed by the recent Downing Street decision to uphold the 15 year rule when it comes to expats having the right to vote in their homeland.

Right to Vote Pledge

The campaign against this rule was lead by Harry Schindler, a war veteran who believes that Brits should have the right to vote at home no matter how long they have been absent from the UK.

Back in September, a Conservative Party manifesto pledge offered Schindler hope in his campaign, as it pledged to change this current law if the Conservatives win the 2015 general election.

Schindler’s aim was to obtain the support of the Liberal Democrats to get the Coalition Government to go ahead and get the ban lifted before the election next year, instead of after it. This would allow millions of Britons abroad to vote in the election who currently cannot. However, a letter from Downing Street left Schindler very disappointed, as it explained that the government do not plan to rush this new legislation through. This news put a big damper on 93 year old Schindler’s plans, as it means that even if the Conservatives did win next year and change the law, then expats who have lived abroad for over 15 years, many of whom are very elderly, would have to wait to vote in the 2020 general election.

Expats Want Say in EU Votes

Schindler, who has resided in Italy for many years, had originally written to David Cameron in order to inform him that he would be very gratified to have the legislation changed early, and would assist in campaigning to keep Britain in the EU, which would be a huge aid to many British expats who are currently scattered across Europe. If the Conservatives do win in 2015, Cameron has planned to have a referendum in 2017 concerning Europe and European relations.

Assistant Private Secretary Iain Forbes responded in writing to Schindler on Cameron’s behalf, thanking him for his correspondence but telling him that unfortunately the law was not a pressing enough concern to be changed immediately.

The current law of 15 years has mixed feelings among the parties, with the Liberal Democrats not viewing the law as a pressing concern, stating that 15 years is already a long time, and also giving the reminder that currently only 20,000 of the 5 million British Citizens living elsewhere have even registered to vote.

Mr Schindler, however, who does not believe he will be around to see the 2020 election, feels that the government have plenty of time to change the law before the election, and should not wait to do so, saying that the government should think of how the new law could affect the outcome of the election and possibly help the current government.