How I became actively involved in politics aged 45.
I’ve been a British expat for all of my adult life. I never registered to vote in the UK because I left the UK at the beginning of 1983 to start life as a student in Madrid and I ended up staying here. So although I am a British citizen, born in London, and both my parents and all of my family are or were British citizens, I have effectively been disenfranchised for all of my adult life, at least as far as National General Elections either in the UK or Spain have been concerned.
I was in fact most surprised when in 1992, I was enfranchised by the Spanish government to vote in both the local and European Parliament elections and later regional government elections, because I had begun to think that my situation was “normal” for someone who was not living in their country of birth but would not give up their British citizenry. In other words I felt that in fact I deserved to be punished for having moved abroad but not having become a traitor.
For a time I became fairly enthusiastic about my new found status as a voter in Spain, but was put off the idea of getting more involved in politics here because on the one hand I didn’t feel identified with what was going on in the small town where I lived (some thirty kilometres outside Madrid) nor did I feel that it made sense to try to collaborate with the Partido Popular at a European level, because I was a “foreign guest” with hardly any political experience at all, even as a voter.
As time went on, although I always enjoyed political conversations with my friends, it seemed as if there would be no place for me in the political scheme of things.
When I found out that Conservatives Abroad had founded a Branch in Madrid, I began to think about what it might mean for me. I imagined meeting up with what I thought would be a bunch of gin swigging expats reminiscing about the “good old days back in Blighty”.
I finally took the plunge and made contact with Lesley Taylor at CCHQ who immediately put me in touch with Leandro Busto, our Branch Chairman, who in turn called me and invited me to join the Branch at Partido Popular Headquarters in Madrid for British General Election Night. It didn’t take me very long to realise how poorly I had conjured up a vision of what the Branch was all about, when I met both Leandro and Ben Harris-Quinney, the Founder of the Branch, in person and discovered that they had a clear sense of purpose as well as an incisively intellectual approach to politics. On Election Night, we discussed the relationship between the UK and Spain, the problems facing Britons living in Spain and the importance of getting those British citizens who were still enfranchised to register to vote in the UK as well as getting them involved in politics with the Partido Popular on a local, regional and European level.
I was even more impressed by the support I could see from the Madrid Regional Government, presided by Esperanza Aguirre, and from the “think tank” founded by José María Azanar, FAES.
By the time I left the PP building in the wee hours of May 7th, after living in Spain for nearly 27 years, I realized I had finally found my home.
I’m sure there must be many other Britons all over the world who feel this way. With major electoral reform now on the table for the first time in my lifetime, it’s clear that in this day of a globally mobile society, all British citizens must have the same rights, wherever we are in the world and our Government should protect our interests. There is no doubt in my mind that no organization is better equipped to do so than Conservatrives Abroad.