Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Give Soldiers the Right to Vote Too

North Thanet’s MP, Roger Gale, has described as "modest progress" measures passed by the House of Commons last night to extend the rights and voting facilities for those serving, particularly overseas, in the armed forces.

Gale, who found the issue raised with him by Naval and Royal Marine commando personnel when he recently visited HMS Bulwark in the Middle East, said following the debate:

"We know that during the last general election and during the recent local government elections very many of the men and women of the armed forces currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, in other overseas locations and on prolonged deployments (HMS Bulwark will have been deployed at sea for seven months by the time that she returns home) on warships were effectively denied their voting rights.

That they are required to pay council tax while away is a sore point: that they were unable to vote for their local councils makes matters worse!

The government has now accepted a house of Lords amendment that gives ministers the right to extend the electoral registration from twelve months to up to five years and that should help to maintain the voting rights for people who may be abroad during annual re-registration times."

Speaking during the debate Roger Gale supported amendments (defeated by the government) to make the Ministry of Defence take responsibility for registering and facilitating the voting rights of service personnel.

"The Minister says that one of the reasons for rejecting these amendments is `resource implications` " said Gale. "I suggest that there are very considerable `resource implications` for the men and women who are prepared to put their lives on the line for this country. Frankly, if we cannot provide those boys and girls - for that is what many of them are - with the resources to enable them to take part in the democratic process then we bring shame upon ourselves and do no justice to them.

We have not sought to undermine the government’s position but to strengthen that of our armed forces and to send out a very clear message to those men and women who serve in extremely difficult and dangerous places overseas: "We respect you, We admire you, we understand your needs. We recognise your democratic rights" and in this House of Commons we are prepared to vote for them".


Anonymous said...

No taxation without representation? Not in BB any more? I am fed up of seeing minister's of the Crown making half baked excuses on issues. It's dead easy for a service unit to promote involvement in local democracy; is there a fear that 1400+ adults (service & families) on a base could gang up and outvote permanent residents or is it the traditional view of apolitical armed forces being a good thing (remember Cromwell?).

Nethercourt said...

So what's wrong with postal voting? When I was in (twenty years ago) we registered to vote in our own chosen constituancy for general elections. Surely it's not beyond the wit of man to expand the system to include local's as well?
Can't see it doing Roger much good though, our atitude was always vote labour for a pay rise and Tory for equipment, so generally it was turn and turn about....:)

Anonymous said...

It's truly amazing the extent to which Roger Gale always jumps on bandwagons, particularly if there's a uniform (police or military) around. He doesn't have a sizeable military presence in his constituency, so why is HE raising this issue? Wouldn't he be using his time to better effect trying to sort the many problems of Thanet - problems which his party, at national and local levels, have done so much to create?

James Maskell said...

If I recall correctly, troops in Iraq have died who have had links to Thanet. Also, as Roger Gale is a Member of Parliament, he needs to be aware of, and be able to respond to, national issues, including defence issues. If he didnt comment on national issues, there would be complaints that he isnt aware of whats going on outside Thanet. Roger Gale is able to vote on national issues in Parliament whether they affect Thanet directly or not. So why are you complaining that he takes an interest in them?

The accusation of bandwagoning is missing the point.

Anonymous said...

It's not missing the point, Mr Maskell, it's making a different point. Just as you are in referring to troops dying in Iraq - which has nothing to do with voting in elections.

Anonymous said...

Caption - "Roger Gale, Thanet North's MP, refuses to get into a helicopter piloted by his wife, Suzy. He remembers her car driving and says there's no call for a victory roll!"

Anonymous said...

That's not very nice. Why pick on the man's wife and I suppose you're joking about her car crash? Never mind politics, I think that is just plain nasty and I'm sure you wouldn't want some person joking about a member of your family if they'd been in a road accident.

Anonymous said...

Anon of 7.34, LOL! 10.21 get a sense of humour. The fact is we CAN joke as fortunately, Susie was not seriously hurt or killed.