Dear Mr Stoltenberg,
Let me start by congratulating you and your colleagues on your election victory. It was hardly a surprise that the sexiest man in European politics* (I’d say the world, if it weren’t for the delectable and evermore powerful President Obama) was last night elected to a second consecutive term as the Prime Minster of Norway. Not that I think the Norwegian electorate voted for you based on your looks; they are far too sensible for that. Or are they? I don’t know, actually, not being one of them.
The fact is Mr Stoltenberg that as a 38-year-old with more degrees than some thermometers, an excellent credit rating, a clean driving license from two nations (the ones with the ‘special relationship’ in case you are interested) and a shared tax bill over the past five years residency in your great country that runs into millions of Kroner, I am not considered trustworthy enough to be a member of the Norwegian electorate.
My 17-year old neighbour, who turns 18 next month, is still at school, dates a long-haired boy with trousers that never conceal his Bjorn Borg underwear, never reads a newspaper, dresses exactly the same as every other 17-year-old girl in the country, and thinks the word 'fuck' is Norwegian for 'cool', was able to vote yesterday, but I suspect didn’t bother. This, while I, a former preschool board member, Year 2 class representative and all around upstanding member of the international community, who persists in reading Aftenposten everyday despite the absence of anything interesting to read, avails gratefully of your excellent public childcare system and feeds her daughter brown cheese on a daily basis (this alone makes me practically Norwegian by naturalisation), has no right to vote. Why is that, Mr Stoltenberg? Can it really be because the front of my passport says the word ‘Eire’ and not ‘Norge’? Isn’t that a tad petty in these times of globalisation?
You are not alone of course in denying me my democratic right. The US, Singapore and the Philippines had the same attitude towards me. Only the UK gave me a vote as a tax-paying long-term resident, a right I exercised on the day Tony Blair swept to power in 1997. Well, we all make mistakes, don’t we?
My own country doesn’t allow me to vote either, by virtue of my absence, as there is no overseas voting system for Irish citizens. However, as I haven’t lived there since 1993, the only government policies likely to affect me are taxes on airport travel and inheritance, and possibly third-level education for non-residents, I don’t feel this is in anyway unfair. I do think however, that having half my income taken in taxes in Norway (not to mention the other non-income based taxes I pay everyday while working on my considerable shopping habit) while being denied the right to vote in how these taxes are deployed within the society I live in, is frankly taking the piss.
So Mr Stoltenberg , once your victory hangover has cleared, and you have a little time on your hands, I wonder if you might consider the plight of the tax-paying foreigner so that when the next election comes around, in 2013, I might get to vote (online if news reports are to be believed). It could then be, for both of us, a case of third time lucky (assuming in the meantime that age doesn’t rob you of your good looks and I don’t decide to go pay my taxes somewhere else).
The Irish Nomad in Norway.
* I realise that Carla Bruni might not agree with this statement but I am willing to go stiletto to stiletto with her over it.