I hate things that start “I don’t usually post this sort of thing” but, I don’t usually post this sort of thing, I’m generally keener on putting up photos and little pieces on the local area. but I have felt more and more emotional about this, and it came to a head last weekend when I had to announce to my fellow councillors that I would unable to stand at the next local elections and could hardly get the words out for the lump in my throat.
I remember the first time I voted when I was 18. I remember several occasions when getting to the polling station was not easy, but I got there. I remember taking my little brother with me to show him how to vote and telling him how important it was (he was 10 and the lady at the polling station objected to me taking him into the booth with me.) For me as I’m sure it is for most people voting is both a duty and a right.
Since I have lived in France I have had a postal vote for UK general elections and of course for the referendum (despite having always been pretty anti referendums in general) as well as a vote here for municipal and European elections. For the last 6 years I have also had the honour of giving something back to my community as a local councillor.
Suddenly everything is changing. As things are at the moment, when the current mandate finishes in March I will be unable to stand again, what’s more I will be unable to vote for those who do. My right to vote as a European is being taken away and from July, when I have been here 15 years, I will also lose my right to a vote in the UK. I will be without a voice anywhere. It could happen that my son, born in the UK but in France since he was 4 and who has just turned 18 may never have the right to vote.
People will say, “go for French nationality” and I intend to do so. So does my son. But it’s not really the point; Whilst I am deeply committed to my adopted country, even more so to my local community, I feel more European than French. I find people are generally happy to celebrate the diversity that different backgrounds bring, I am no less Bournazeloise or Aveyronnaise when I’m also British-European. Unfortunately along with my vote I feel I am losing a part of my sense of self and my worth as a citizen. One of the best things about the European Union is just that…the union of the countries, I have come to feel at home here, part of the community whilst still being British.
I may have adopted many of the local ways of life, I may feel, very much part of this community, but I spent 44 years in the UK before I came here. I speak French well but with a British accent, I still come across occasions when my attitude is more British than French, I still make mince pies at Christmas. It is who I am. Part of who I am is being taken away along with my right to do anything about it.
How can all the struggles towards universal suffrage be so casually forgotten.