Posts Tagged ‘david cameron’

I’ve worked at many elections, as a journalist and as a local government PR person, and while I never looked forward to working through the night (I’m a girl who needs her sleep) I always ended up having a whale of a time. You can’t help but be affected by the pressure and the excitement.

This time round, I didn’t have the option of attending a count but at least the time difference worked in my favour. I set up the BBC and the Guardian websites on my second computer screen at work, and kept an eye on them throughout the day, giving my bemused (Australian) colleagues a running commentary on gains and losses interspersed with cries of distress as red and yellow turned to blue and the failings of the first past the post system became all too clear.

As I write the Lib Dems are still debating who to team up with. The very idea of them hopping into bed with the Tories makes me shiver (I pride myself on being tolerant – but as you may have already picked up, that tolerance doesn’t quite extend to Conservatives…). The country has already been betrayed by a hopelessly undemocratic electoral system, so how can the one party dedicated to changing it even consider joining forces with its biggest supporter?

But who knows what will happen? Having worked for a hung council, I fear a hung parliament might just make things rather dull. Or my proxy might find himself back down the polling station before too long.

Anyway, I did my bit. I used my vote, no matter how ridiculous it is that I should have one, living on the other side of the world.  I’m guessing that if Clegg gets his way on electoral reform, the rights of overseas electors might also be looked at. But you know, I’m willing to pay the price for a fair system.

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Remember 1979-97? No? Excellent.I’ve long been interested in politics. Growing up in Scotland in the Thatcher years tends to do that to you.

While my work in local government (and chronic indecisiveness) meant I couldn’t affiliate publicly with any political party, I’ve always hoped people saw me as a Guardian reader with a social conscience.

But now I find myself living abroad, with an election just round the corner. I have until 12 April to decide if I should register for a vote. Am I letting democracy down if I don’t?

The first consideration is practical. I am no longer on the UK electoral register. Before we left Bristol, I investigated how we could retain our votes. There was a form to be filled in – simple, except that it needed to also be signed by another British citizen, not related to you by blood or marriage, living in Australia. I didn’t know any, so filed it away as something to be sorted out when we arrived.

But of course any move to a new country is full of stuff to be sorted out, and the electoral registration form got forgotten about, even although I now know several British citizens living here. Now the election has been called I can’t put the decision off any longer.

The Conservatives are campaigning hard for the ex-pat vote. They’ve helpfully set up a website where you can register as an overseas voter and they will even help you find a proxy to vote on your behalf. Tempting as it is to use the site just so I can vote anything but Conservative, I suspect I won’t bother.

I’ve only been away from the UK for seven months, and I still read the Guardian (online) every day. But I know I’m out of touch with British politics, and why shouldn’t I be? I might have a British passport, but in reality decisions made in the UK have very little bearing on my life here. I don’t pay tax in the UK. I don’t own property there. I don’t even know who won the last series of X Factor. While I have a legal right to a vote, I’m not sure I have a moral right.

There will be many ex-pats (and they always call themselves ex-pats, never immigrants) who will vote. No doubt many will vote for the wax-faced toff; the international edition of the Daily Mail is more readily available here than the Guardian Weekly.

But why would you vote in an election in a country you have chosen to leave? And why, if you left the UK when you were too young to vote, would you take advantage of the rule that says you can still have your UK vote as long as your parents were registered there at some point?

Of course my argument would be stronger were I allowed to vote in the Australian elections, but as only a permanent resident, not yet a citizen, they’ll take my tax but not my opinions. But at least by the time I gain citizenship I will hopefully have worked out who stands for what in the Australian system; at the moment it appears we have a prime minister widely regarded as a buffoon, and an opposition leader best known for wearing budgie-smugglers.

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