Tory rebel talks expat voting bill out of time

Conservative MP Phillip Davies appears to have conspired with Labour opponents to see off moves to give expats living overseas for more than 15 years the right to vote in UK elections.

He filibustered the Overseas Electors Bill 2017-19 despite the private members bill winning government backing.

The bill aimed to scrap the 15 year limit for British expat voters and to offer votes for life in UK elections instead.

Not only was the bill supported by ministers, but also widely supported by expat groups across the world as the measure would give them a say in elections in Britain – especially any second Brexit referendum and the upcoming General Election in 2022 – or a snap poll that may come before that date.

Conservative MP conspires with Labour

But Davies and Labour thought differently when the bill came up for a third reading.

Labour left the floor to Davies, a member of Jacob Rees Mogg’s European Research Group (ERG).

Davies took up Labour’s previous amendments and additions to the bill that were voted down during the second reading and proceeded to argue their merits.

His speech only gave supporters 10 minutes to reply and the bill was dropped after running out of time.

“The question of overseas voting rights continues to be dominated, as in previous parliamentary debates, by party politics,” said Dr Susan Collard, a senior lecturer at Sussex University.

Overseas Electors Bill is dead

“As anticipated a year ago, the pursuit of partisan interests prevented the emergence of a properly informed discussion of the core issues at stake in this bill. It is those who will become, or remain, disenfranchised by the 15 year rule that have paid the highest price.

“The Overseas Electors Bill is now dead, but the question of UK overseas voting rights will not go away and determined expatriate campaigners will continue their battle for what they see as electoral justice.

“The Conservatives should recognise that trying to deliver Votes For Life through a ‘single issue bill’ presented as non-political was an ill-judged strategy that proved to be counter-productive, particularly in a hung Parliament.”

Read a full report of the Parliamentary proceedings here

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