British enough for the vote? From ‘True Brits’ to no representation without taxation in the Overseas’ Electors debate

By Michaela Benson, Chantelle Lewis and Katherine Collins

I offer my sincere congratulations to my hon. Friend on bringing this Bill forward … Does he agree with me that in this centenary year of Emmeline Pankhurst’s efforts to get women the vote in this country, the same thing most apply to voters of over 15 years’ longevity abroad? This could open up the franchise to another 1 million people. It must be the correct thing to do … it is a disgrace for certain Labour Members to try to deny the vote to women who have lived overseas for longer than 15 years. —Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP (Con)

On 23rd February 2018, the Overseas Electors Bill 2017-19 – which proposes that British citizens should have the right to vote in British elections throughout their lives regardless of the number of years they’ve lived abroad – passed its second reading.

Wrapped up in symbols and stereotypes, with a cast of characters that included Emmeline Pankhurst and Harry Shindler, the meaning of ‘Britishness’ was at the heart of the debate as it played out for an hour and a half on the floor of the House. What seemed to be at stake was not so much the question of whether it was practical to extend the vote to UK Citizens living overseas, but whether the British abroad could be considered British enough (and whether the British abroad contribute enough to life in the UK) to be granted suffrage.

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Putting UK citizens abroad on the electoral map? Brexit, the demos and the overseas vote


Today, the Overseas Electors’ Bill 2017-19 will receive its second reading in the House of Commons. If successful, this would allow UK citizens living abroad for long periods of time to vote in parliamentary elections (a right which is currently lost after 15 years).

This Private Members’ Bill, sponsored by Conservative MP Glyn Davies, is the latest iteration of a longer-standing debate about overseas voting rights. While recent commentary depicts opposition to this vote as grounded in petty party politics, we argue that the question of whether UK citizens living overseas should have their right to vote upheld for life goes to the heart of deeply rooted concerns about British democracy and electoral representation.

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Overseas’ Electors Bill receives second reading in House of Commons

On Friday 23rd February 2018 the second reading of the Overseas’ Electors Bill 2017-19 was held in the House of Commons. This Private Members’ bill sponsored by MP Glyn Davies sets out to extend the vote for life to overseas-resident UK citizens.  It would allow UK citizens living abroad for long periods of time to vote in parliamentary elections (a right which is currently lost after 15 years).

You can read more about the bill here, or watch a recording of the discussion in full here (at 12.22.09).

Glyn Davies speaking at the second reading of the overseas electors' bill