Here we go. A snap election has been called and suddenly social media is on fire with pseudo-political statements from people who are just a little bit bored of the same-old conversations, broken promises and gurning grins from the folk in charge. For the most part I’m not a particularly political person, I vote, and I watch all the debates with a glass of wine and bag of Doritos, but that’s about as riled up as I tend to get. I’m part of the generation that grew up watching Tony Blair take us into a war nobody seemed convinced about, we learned an early lesson in sex ed from Bill Clinton, and we’ve endured party leaders breaking all their promises on student loans consequently saddling us with tens of thousands of pounds of debt (Nick Clegg, you are still not forgiven). And now we have to watch as May holds hands with Trump, Brexit is upon us whether we like it or not, and there is not a single party ready to campaign convincingly for a spot at No. 10. And yet, come June 8th, we have to put an X in a box and pin a shaky few years on someone.
I know it might seem a little odd that I – from my lofty tower in Singapore – should be having a crack at the impending doom of political Britain, but I’m still eligible to vote, so I’m still eligible for a whinge. In fact, just trying to vote from outside of the UK is a right pain in the backside. As soon as the news broke I was online and checking if I could still vote, and then how I actually could vote from overseas. The options are limited, and I understand why, but postal votes are dodgy territory (the outrage from fellow Brits here that their votes weren’t counted last general election because they didn’t arrive on time is a clue as to the unreliability of this system). So that leaves me with the options of either voting by proxy, where someone else votes for me, or to travel to the UK and vote myself. As it happens I will be in the UK come polling day so I opted for the latter. Simple, right? WRONG. The application forms for both the proxy vote and the voting in person are fraught with issues, the main one being that you are required to give the UK address at which you lived when you were last registered to vote in the UK. Not your current UK address, albeit a temporary one whilst you are in the UK, but the one you last lived at within the 15 year period in which you are still eligible to claim a vote. An address, for someone living overseas, that is clearly not going to be theirs anymore. That address is where your poll card will be sent to, that’s where you’ll be on the electoral roll for, and that’s where you are expected to cast your vote from. Unless that address has stayed in the family, or you’re very friendly with the people who currently live in it, it’s not exactly a reasonable request. If you have opted to vote by proxy, where you’ll need to find someone to cast your vote for you, you might run into trouble finding that trusted person in a place you lived in up to 15 years ago. Particularly if, for example, the last UK address you were on the electoral roll for was a student house and everyone has moved on with their lives. This address conundrum is also true if you opt to vote yourself, so I am now in the frustrating situation of needing to be in Plymouth to vote at the same time as needing to be in Liverpool (a distance of over 300 miles). I thought we’d all learned a lesson about making people return to former home addresses for political reasons when Mary found herself giving birth in a stable. Seemingly times have not moved on that much, despite the bells and whistles of, you know, the internet.
I feel bad for Barry at Plymouth City Council, he’s one of the nice folk at Council offices up and down the country who are now left to pick up the pieces of a messy system and T-May’s snap decision. I could feel the weight of his weary sigh in his email response to my complaint. For him the next six and a half weeks are going to be a bit shit as he tries to facilitate people’s right to vote. And when we’re all being encouraged more than ever to get out and vote – whether in the UK or not – isn’t it ironic it’s the very system designed to make voting an easier process that’s letting us down in the end? As it looks, I don’t think I will be voting in June. Not because I don’t want to, but to do so would mean a 600 mile round trip, probably an overnight stay somewhere, and a lot of diesel all on the back of a serious dose of jet lag. All of that for one X for someone who wouldn’t make that effort for me, or for anyone else. And that’s what it comes down to, who can I vote for who would go out of their way to stick up for and support me? Right now Barry gets my vote. He’s the only person I’ve come across who is showing an ounce of empathy and understanding for the British electorate. I want to say the next six weeks are going to be very interesting indeed, but without my usual Dimbleby and Doritos (or decent people at the forefront of British politics) I fear it’s going to be a rather boring build up with a complete anticlimax- the 2017 version.
(Feature Image: Pinterest)