POLITICS

Lose a Vote, Gain a Vote

Reflections on the political rights and feelings of a lifelong British emigrant

Matthew Clapham
The Peregrine Journal
4 min readJun 13, 2024

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A person draped in a red and white flag observes a group of demonstrators in a city square, from a distance. The demonstrators are out of focus — only the observer, viewed from behind, is sharply focused.
Photo by Jana Shnipelson on Unsplash

The sense of democracy going backwards is a familiar one of late, with populist demagogues and would-be despots elected from New York to New Delhi, and from Buenos Aires to Budapest. In my own case this week, the reversal in the normal flow of democratic process has taken a less dramatic but still unsettling course.

Last Sunday was European parliamentary election day, the second-largest such event in the world, with over 400 million voters. I was not among their number, for the first time. As a British citizen resident in Spain for over two decades, I have now lost my right of suffrage since the absurd and petulant decision of my compatriots to leave the EU in the collective act of national self-harm known as Brexit.

My Spanish wife voted, my Spanish children will vote next time around, in 2029, but I cannot. I have never been able to participate in national elections here, as I am not a citizen, though as a permanent resident “under Article 18(4) of the Withdrawal Agreement” I can still cast my ballot in local and regional polls.

Just not in choosing the 61 parliamentarians that Spain sends to Strasbourg and Brussels.

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Matthew Clapham
The Peregrine Journal

Professional translator by day. Writer of silly and serious stuff by night. Also by day, when I get fed up of tedious translations. Founder of Iberospherical.