The controversy now raging about who will – and will not – be allowed to vote in the EU membership referendum reminded me that a similar issue has taxed my mind for several decades.
It is an open secret that I am an Israeli national, as well as a British one. For as long as I have lived there I never failed to vote. Israel has a brutal form or proportional representation in which every vote really does count and it was a duty on many fronts.
Since leaving in 1972, however, to make my home in London, I have never voted in an Israeli election although I had the legal right to.
On several occasions Israeli friends pleaded with me, as crucial elections loomed, to take my ID card and the next flight to Tel Aviv and do my bit to try and save the country from the lurch to the extreme right, where it now tragically languishes. I had to decline, however painfully.
The reason is simple. I do not believe that people have a moral right to vote on issues the outcome of which will not directly and personally affect themselves. Which is why I always vote here – and never there.
The great Hungarian humourist George Mikes wrote a wonderful book entitled “Wisdom for Others”. It is a classic, and its title is as wise as its contents. A variation of “Do as I say, not as I do” it encapsulates the ease with which advice can be dispensed as long as it need not involve, implicate or impact on the dispenser. And the value of such advice, which is not much.
Voting is the same but far more so. With all respect to Brits now living abroad, I believe that to allow them to decide whether this country and its population should remain in the EU or leave it, with all the weighty consequences involved, would be morally repugnant and just plain wrong. Even worse is the prospect of people not living in this country tipping the balance in favour of one choice or the other, as could happen in a referendum.
It’s not a matter of “no representation without taxation”, but more of “no power with responsibility”.
Voting is precious and universal suffrage was paid for with much bloodshed and agony. But it should not, in my opinion, be transferable or exportable. If you want to vote here – be it for a parish council or the future of the Britain within EU – then come and live here. I did.