Democracy for those that have no voting rights in the UK


How do those without voting rights – whether under 18s or migrant workers not eligible to vote, get involved in local democracy?

Just as we ask how it was that Women didn’t have the vote on the same basis as men pre-1928, My guess is that in 50 years time, people will be asking how it was that the Tories managed to push through an EU referendum that involved barring groups of people whose lives would be disproportionately affected by a vote to leave the EU – non UK EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens outside the country living and/or working in the wider EU.

There have been a number of posts I’ve seen recently of people describing in heartbreaking terms the impact that the referendum result had on them, even though they were barred from voting themselves. Hence the formation of the 3 million campaign.

‘No taxation without representation’ and all that

The phrase comes from James Otis just before the War of American Independence and was in response to the Stamp Act 1765. Which reminds me of this scene from a computer game I played lots about 20 years ago.

“Do you pay the Stamp Act or hold the Cambridge Food Party and refuse to pay the tax and never trade food with England again?”

If I recall correctly I was a rebellious type and threw overboard whatever they wanted to tax a la Boston tea party stylee on the grounds that we had no vote. I was 17 at the time.

“What democratic rights do citizens from other countries have?”

In terms of who can register to vote, the official line is here.

But it got me thinking about democratic engagement locally in Cambridge given all of the fun and games that is happening with house building and growth. They are covering in with the County Mayor on 28th March. See

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Strategic Spatial Framework (non statutory)

The full set of papers is here and the meeting is in Peterborough. A good hour by train from Cambridge. It’s a chuggington service. But at least there is one – Wisbech, Haverhill and Saffron Walden are all ‘off grid’ as far as decent rail services go.


From the meeting papers. Rail lines and major roads in Cambridgeshire.

In many a long discussion with people like Jon Worth , I can’t help but feel that migrant workers on low incomes have a much stronger right to vote (and participate in civic and democratic life) than say…picking out at random… offshore/foreign-domiciled tax exiles who happen to own large media organisations. The former pay tax, they work in our economies, they live in and are part of our communities. The latter? Russell Howard said this and it still applies.

“Bad stuff is happening and YOU”RE paying for it!!!” Read it in the papers so it must be troo.

In the run up to the local council elections across England in May (register to vote here), the Liberal Democrats are going after the votes of EU citizens from outside the UK, who can vote in local elections. It’s difficult to say whether it will make a difference – remember that the EU was a core part of the 2017 general election campaign for the Liberal Democrats and it failed to catch on with the voters. Local elections, while spun as giving an indication of the national picture by the London media, are notoriously complex and, ward-by-ward / council-by-council can be unpredictable and throw up more than a few surprises.

It’s not as if the barriers aren’t large enough as they are

I can’t recall ever having enjoyed a 3 hour meeting whether in local government, Whitehall or in the voluntary sector. The longest one I ever sat in was for a local trade union branch AGM which went on for nearly five hours. Stupid-crazy-stupid.

Spoofed by Monty Python.

…and that’s before we’ve read all of the papers in advance – and checked that meetings don’t clash. The county mayor’s meeting clashes with the city council’s planning committee that has over 600 pages of meeting papers in it. (Read them here if you can bear!) <- Yet to specific local neighbourhoods, particularly those on Mill Road (Romsey & Petersfield), Milton Road, and Newmarket Road, there are some very significant cases being decided at that meeting. But by the time locals find out about the Mill Road and Milton Road cases, it’ll be too late to comment on them.

A fence as an art project planned for new student accommodation in Newmarket Road. The cost of the project? About £110,000.

The dragon wasn’t impressed.

So…really an open question to everyone:

What good examples are there of towns and cities encouraging people without the right to vote but who are legally resident there, of participating in community, civic and democratic life? What can Cambridge and other places learn from them?


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