The UK government has created a backlash by claiming a British expat who is fighting for the right to vote is “not a victim.”
The expat embroiled in the saga is 90 year old World War Two veteran Harry Shindler. Mr Shindler, who currently lives in Italy, has been battling against the ’15 year rule’ for some time. The rule states that British expatriates who are away from the UK for 15 years or more lose their right to vote, yet Mr Shindler, along with any others, feels that this rule is unjust.
One of the main points of Shindler’s arguments is that the rule is discriminatory, a claim that is currently being investigated by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
In fact, it was the ECHR who received the letter that sparked the outrage, sent from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In the letter a Government spokesman derided Shindler’s claims, stating that he is “not a victim” and that if his desire to vote is so strong he should “take Italian citizenship and acquire a right to vote in elections to the Italian national parliament.”
However, this dismissive stance has led to outrage amongst expat campaigners. One such campaigner, Brian Cave, wrote on his blog: “The letter indicates that Mr Shindler has not demonstrated that he has been adversely affected by not being able to vote in the last 14 years or in the future. Well, he hasn’t lost an arm or caught some horrible disease because he hasn’t been able to vote. But he hasn’t been able to influence the political progress in England in his own small way. You may as well say ‘let’s take away the vote from everyone, no one will suffer'.”
Other expats have also leapt to condemn the Government’s actions, co-founder of the British Expats Association of Spain David Burrage told The Telegraph “When I consider that Harry had jumped ashore and onto the beaches at Anzio and offered up his life, like so many of our brave servicemen, during World War Two, when viewed alongside the conduct of our Government, by way of that most recent response on their behalf, it not only makes me feel ashamed, I also feel utterly disgusted.”
Mr Shindler hopes that a fresh look at the effects of globalisation will convince the ECHR to change the law, as expats are now much more connected with their former lives than in years before.
A government spokesman said: “The Government is considering whether the 15-year time limit remains appropriate. If a change is proposed, Parliament will need to consider the issue. We cannot comment on ongoing court cases.”