Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 January 2020

UK election 2019: How British residents in the UAE see the polls and politics

Hundreds of British nationals living in the Emirates will vote in the UK's general election on Thursday

Emma Minett with son Arthur at their home in Silicon Oasis, Dubai. She voted for Labour this week and remain in the referendum two years ago, but believes the UK cannot pull out of its decision to leave the European Union. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Emma Minett with son Arthur at their home in Silicon Oasis, Dubai. She voted for Labour this week and remain in the referendum two years ago, but believes the UK cannot pull out of its decision to leave the European Union. Chris Whiteoak / The National

It is a familiar roller-coaster ride of claim, counter-claim, insinuation and bluster.

Yes, another UK general election is upon us, some two and a half years after former prime minister Theresa May announced a snap election in April 2017.

This time around, the UK appears to be equally if not more polarised on the key issues of the day.

The EU and Brexit, of course, still dominate the headlines. But the NHS, crime, the economy and immigration also remain at the forefront of debate.

So which parties appear to have their manifesto pledges in-hand and their best foot forward going into the last 48-hours of campaigning?

Could traditionally Labour-leaning supporters switch to Conservatives because they are pro-Brexit and consider Jeremy Corbyn too left-wing.

Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative leader Boris Johnson. EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA
Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative leader Boris Johnson. EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

And might there be the usual risk of spectacular volte-face in policy once power is secured?

Latest polls suggest the Conservative Party has forged a 10-point lead over Labour, indicating a possible majority in the House of Commons come Friday, the day after the election.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, continue to hover in the 11-14 percent range while the Brexit Party has slipped to low single digits.

In Scotland, key issues change again. The Lib Dems and Labour are both campaigning on a promise of opposing Scottish independence, while Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, has promised another referendum on independence in 2020.

Yet all things considered, Brexit and the UK’s departure from the EU still remains the biggest issue for voters on Thursday.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during a campaign event in Nelson, northwest England, on December 10, 2019. AFP / Oli SCARFF
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during a campaign event in Nelson, northwest England, on December 10, 2019. AFP / Oli SCARFF

And despite being thousands of miles from home, British residents living in the UAE have been far from immune from the protracted back and forth between Brussels and London.

The National spoke to residents to discuss if, how and why they plan to vote.

The firm remainer

Emma Minett, 34, from Gloucestershire, England, has lived in Dubai for 18 months:

"I lived in the UK during the [EU] referendum and voted remain. During this election, I am voting by proxy for Labour. My mother-in-law will vote on my behalf. It was a tough choice for me as there are so many points to consider. I voted remain and still want to remain, however I still think we should leave, as that's what the people voted - it's called democracy. But I don't want to leave crash, bang wallop, hence the Labour vote."

The ineligible voter

Suz McDonald, 47, from Aberdeen, Scotland, has lived in Dubai for 21 years:

"I am a remainer. I don’t think we should leave the EU. I’m not eligible to vote because I have been out of the country for 21 years.

Suz Mcdonald said it was important voters stayed engaged in this election. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Suz McDonald said it was important voters stayed engaged in this election. Chris Whiteoak / The National

I avoid politics as much as possible but I do think with everything that’s going on with Brexit, it is more important that you pay attention - more so this year because we have actually just bought back home. When we bought the property, a letter came through asking us who was living in the property was eligible to vote. That was really quite hard."

The tactical voter

David, 71, who asked not to give his full name, is from Norfolk, England. He has lived in Dubai for two years:

I am fervent remainer, so for the first time in my life I refuse to vote Tory. I am voting tactically for Labour, with a large peg on my nose. My wife is my proxy, so I trust her implicitly. In a previous existence, I worked in UK Customs where I saw first-hand the benefits of European co-operation.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage as he campaigns in Barnsley, UK, December 9, 2019. REUTERS / Jon Super
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage as he campaigns in Barnsley, UK, December 9, 2019. REUTERS / Jon Super

Apart from that, it just makes us look jingoistic and small-minded to want to leave the EU, which, in my mind, is generally a force for good."

The Scottish nationalist

Liam Gallacher, 33, from Aberdeen, Scotland, has lived in Dubai for just under two years:

"I was there for the Brexit vote and I voted to remain and encouraged everyone I knew to vote. I was one of those annoying people saying you need to do this. I have been registered to vote as long as I have been able to and I always vote, whether it is in person, by proxy or by post. I am a fully pledged, signed up Scottish National Party member. They are very anti-Brexit and a lot more progressive than the other political parties in the UK right now. I think the SNP party is going to do pretty well."

The abstainer

Liam Ketley, 29, from London, has lived in Dubai for almost three years:

"I voted remain in the EU referendum and I have always voted Labour. But this time I’m not going to vote. I can’t stomach the current state of the Labour Party and it thoroughly depresses me. If there was a remote chance of Corbyn winning I would say fine, but it’s just enabling another five years of a Conservative government, which is what I can’t get my head around.

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson (C) walks with Liberal Democrat candidates while out canvassing for the general election in Sheffield, northern England on December 8. AFP / Lindsey Parnaby
Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson (C) walks with Liberal Democrat candidates while out canvassing for the general election in Sheffield, northern England on December 8. AFP / Lindsey Parnaby

I admire what the Lib Dems have said, which is Brexit’s a terrible idea and we’re going to stop it if you vote us in. But I wouldn’t vote for them. There is no chance they would get in in my constituency. If it was tight I would maybe consider it, but it’s not."

The get-out-and-voter

Keith Strachan, from Aberdeenshire, Scotland, has lived in the UAE on and off for the last 13 years:

"I’m definitely a remainer. I’m going to vote for the Scottish National Party. I am aware there were some remainers who may have switched to support them because of their anti-Brexit stance, but I am a die-hard independence man. My daughter will vote for me. This is the first time I’ve voted from abroad and I’m voting because of the circumstances. I thought ‘I am not missing this. I’m not going to be the sort of person who complains about it but they never actually voted’."

Updated: December 11, 2019 03:52 PM

SHARE

SHARE