And yet, I'll be there at the polling station to cast my vote at 7am.
I can vote in three countries, and have been doing so in all three, in every election (local, state, national, and referendum) since I've been eligible. In most, I've been voting against the tide; usually my chosen candidate got in, but frequently their party did not win office. It's not been a good decade for politics in my countries. And still, I vote. In one of my countries it's against the law not to, but even without this incentive I would still vote, as I do in the other two countries in which I vote. Over the years I've come to see my vote less as a marker of tribal affiliation and moral purity, and more as a shield, the last line of defense I have available to protect those more vulnerable than me, including those who live in my countries but cannot vote. I would urge all my fellow UK voters who feel ambivalent about the choices put before them on the ballot paper tomorrow to try to view their vote in the same way.
I want to turn from fellow voters for a moment to address a group with whom I feel a great deal of empathy, and whose plight weighs on my mind: the vast majority of migrants in the UK who live here, but cannot vote. Although I am a British citizen now, before I became I citizen I was a migrant who could vote, as Commonwealth and Irish residents of the UK are allowed to vote in all elections here. However, my partner is an EU migrant, as are a great many of my friends, and still more are non-EU and non-Commonwealth migrants, and it has been awful for them to sit out election after election in which decisions are made that have monumental and terrible effects on their lives. My fellow migrants, I am so sorry. I am so sorry we have had to endure yet another election campaign in which we are painted as thieves and parasites whose motives for wanting to be in this country are suspect and illegitimate. I am sorry that the Tories have been campaigning on a platform of anti-migrant hysteria, and that the result tomorrow may have an impact on people's migration status. I am sorry that EU migrants have now lived for close to a year with no clear certainty about their ongoing right to live, work and study in this country. I am sorry that non-EU migrants are facing the prospect of even more restrictive, expensive and cruel immigration rules that will separate families, possibly permanently. I'm sorry that while Labour has been bold in offering a genuinely social democratic alternative to the Tories' vile austerity, this welcoming welfare state doesn't appear to have any room for migrants, unless you read between the lines, where Labour pledges to leave the single market, and thus free movement. I'm sorry that whenever we raise these concerns, talk about how unwelcome and afraid we're being made to feel, we're met with either open hostility from the Right, and accusations of being divisive from the Left (minor parties notwithstanding). I'm furious that the future of the NHS can be a major part of this election campaign with barely any mention of the fact that a drastic limiting of immigration will cause the NHS to cease to function.
I want to say to my fellow migrants that you are wanted. You are loved. I am voting for you. I beg any reluctant voters who cannot muster up the enthusiasm to vote for themselves to do the same. Vote for those who live and love and give and contribute so much here, but cannot vote themselves. Convince others to do the same. Please. Vote.
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