I answered the phone recently to a local number, and found someone from the Labour party (oh yeah, we’re in the midst of an election).
He seemed so surprised to find someone actually answering the phone; he was flummoxed for a moment, but got out words to tell me who he was, and that he had a “Mr Chris” at this number – has that changed?
“Nope,” I declared. “He’s the one who can vote – but you can change that!”
He was a bit thrown, of course, and latched onto the only thing he could think to do: “Is that – are you American?”
It’s funny; sometimes people here in my town can’t place whether my accent’s American or Canadian. Given the words I’d spoken, however, it was much clearer. “Yes,” said I. I them explained how massively unfair it is that other people at my stage of immigration can vote, but not me, and how he should change that.
He said he’d look into it.
“You don’t have to look into it, I’ll tell you all about it!” I cheerily chirped. “The UK has treaties with the EU and the Commonwealth, so people from those places can vote once they get Indefinite Leave to Remain, but people from anywhere else in the world can’t! I can live here for the rest of my life – til I’m 100 or whatever – ” (I realized later on that I should have added here: “I can get a card from the Queen, who I’m sure will still be alive then”) – “and I can never vote. That’s not fair, and you should change it!“
He asked for some specifics, so I reiterated the Indefinite Leave to Remain phrase for him, and told him that it’s called permanent residence in common parlance, and it’s the step before citizenship, and perhaps some other details. I didn’t note to him at the time, but “the step before citizenship” makes it sound like I need to go for citizenship – I don’t. I can stay at this status for the rest of my life. A few people actually can’t go for citizenship, so they’ll be deprived of the vote forever. And, of course, I can apply and pay the £1100+ ($1700+) for the citizenship application, but there’s no guarantee it’ll be granted.
He also asked such an odd question – which I’ll probably muse upon further in a separate entry: “You’ve been told you can’t vote?”
I was a bit flummoxed by this phrasing, and realized later I missed my opportunity: I should’ve said: “Well, Theresa May didn’t come knock on my door and tell me herself, no.”
I also missed my chance to tell him that I myself read the entire set of immigration rules at each step of the way (and its daily changes as I gather my application materials); that no, no one is there telling us immigrants what we need to know – what an incredibly odd concept!
Once I’d half-recovered from the bizarre question, I simply told him that it’s in the rules and regs. He offered to look into it and follow up with me, but I could tell he wasn’t getting it. Then he offered to take it to the party as a thing to think about changing, and that’s what I was after.
Chris said the poor bloke probably hung up and demanded danger pay. A friend said he’d have been a volunteer, who probably hung up and went for a stiff drink. Good thing the Glossop Labour Club has a bar.
Food for thought: even currently-held prisoners, as well as released ex-cons, all have the right to vote in the UK. It’s a human right. Shame that immigrants aren’t humans.