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08 April 2013 @ 11:44 pm
the politics of being abroad or What's Left for Me?  
If you're from Slovenia, you're Slovene for life and you will never have difficulty voting in an election.

If you're from the UK, after 12 years' living outside the country you become 'disenfranchised'. I'm not too sure of the full implications of this process - you never relinquish your passport, for example - but one thing I know is that you no longer have a vote.

To be honest with you, much as I'm proud of (the things I love about) my country, support a British football team and watch British news, I'm starting to realise why they do this disenfranchisement. I have a permanent job in Luxembourg and I've started a family here; in short I'm putting down roots here. It is definitely coming to the stage where, whilst I have opinions on the current government in the UK, I no longer feel entitled to have a say in what happens there.

Most of my friends on facebook are left-leaning so my 'newsfeed' contains a fairly regular digest of what is wrong with the Cameron government and the press that supports it. The UK is my country, it's where I was born and raised, where I went to school, where I learned to love music, where I acquired my attitude, where I gained a feel for politics, and so on, but who the hell am I to sit here and cast my vote and have my say on who runs the place?

I asked Mateja about her relationship with her native Slovenia, a country that is currently going through a fair amount of upheaval, with the recent removal of a deluded prime minister still living in the past, still thinking that pinning the blame for all his wrong-doing on the Communists will play well abroad. He sounds like a nasty piece of work and we're praying that his replacement will steady the ship and somehow cope with all the crap she's been left to deal with.

Note '...we're praying...'. Mateja is Slovene, our little one is half-Slovene and, especially in times of trouble, it's only natural to care about what goes on back home. Her family and friends are all there, of course. Which goes for me and the UK, too, but whereas a lot of Slovenes we know say 'I'm going home' to mean they're going to spend some time back in Slovenia, I don't think of the UK as home any more. I find it interesting that my passport does not ask me to list a UK address as my permanent residence whereas even our son, who was born in Luxembourg and has spent precisely ten days of his life in Slovenia, has a permanent Slovenia address in his passport and id card.

And... halfway through writing this, Margaret Thatcher has died... there's no doubting that a chapter has ended with Margaret Thatcher's death. I never liked the woman, her politics or her legacy but I'm not rejoicing right now. As much as she defines the era in which I became aware of politics and in which I aligned myself broadly with the left, she was an old lady who had a stroke and the line is now drawn under her controversial, divisive life.

I mention my left-of-centre sympathies. I couldn't vote conservative even if I had a vote. That whole ideology of market forces (ahead of people) leaves me cold. However, there are some things that wind me up about the left and one is the notion that if you're not with us you're against us. I hate that. Those who said to me, back when I knew some fiercely left-wing people, that I should raise my head above the parapet because by keeping a low profile I'm handing victory to the oppressors can get lost. Certainly now, living abroad, I have less and less reason to get agitated about politics and raise my head above the parapet, whatever that actually means... putting the world to rights over the dinner table? screaming about the government on social media sites?

That's not to say I don't think about politics. It was Enoch Powell, of all people, gawd help us, who said [I'm paraphrasing] 'a mouth not speaking is not necessarily indicative of a mind not working'. The point being that, whilst I have opinions on general ideology - despite the above reservations about the left, I am clearly left of centre and that isn't about to change - and, occasionally, more specific political matters, and whilst the current UK government is capable of appalling me (witness that recent crass attempt to eke political capital out of the Derby fire), the difficulty these days is that I don't quite know who my politicians are, i.e. which ones represent me, these days.

I take a passing interest in Luxembourg politics. Take the smoking debate, for example. But it's dear old England, where I grew up and where I get most of my media from, that is the focus of my political attention, such as it is.