It’s a well-established piece of election law that Irish and Commonwealth citizens who live in the UK can vote in general elections. Despite the minor matters of it being long-standing, a matter of past political discussion, often featuring in briefing information provided to election candidates and something that 1.5 million people get reminded about directly at election time, The Times has rather curiously called it “obscure” [£]. But more importantly also reported what Liam Fox and Conservative colleagues want to do:
Senior Tories called for an emergency change in the law last night as official figures revealed the scale of foreigners who will be free to cast a vote in May.
This could result in them being able to decide the outcome of what is set to be the closest and most unpredictable election result in decades. Under an obscure law that has never been reformed, people from Ireland and the Commonwealth who live in the UK are given voting rights. Irish, Indian and Pakistani citizens top the list of those allowed to cast a vote…
Some Conservatives believe that the number of voters from ethnic minorities included in the list will provide a boost to Labour. The previous election showed that Labour was far more successful in winning the votes of those from ethnic minorities…
Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, said: “It is ridiculous that the government of a country like ours could be decided by those who are not British citizens. It is high time we brought this law up to date.”
Graham Brady, the chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee who has attempted to change the law in the past, said that a legal change was “crucially important”…
“This is a matter of fundamental fairness, but is critically important as we face a general election that threatens to be very close. It would be outrageous if overseas nationals were able to decide the outcome.”
Who would such a change kick off the electoral register?
- 345,000 Irish
- 306,000 Indians
- 180,000 Pakistani
- 73,000 Australians
- 52,000 Zimbabweans
- Other countries in the top ten are Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Canada and Bangladesh.
I suspect non-Conservative candidates may be repeatedly reminding their local Commonwealth and Irish voters of the views such Conservatives hold…