A surprising number of British migrants have gone on to take the top job in their adopted country. What are your chances of being elected?
2019 is a year of multiple elections across the globe – including in many regions and countries popular with British migrants. There are elections in Spain, South Africa, Portugal, India, Canada and notably the surprise election result in Australia this month.
Now, perhaps not so surprisingly, with Theresa May resigning, the top job in the UK is now up for grabs.
This set us wondering – what countries as a British migrant could you be elected leader of and have many British migrants been elected to the top job in their adopted country?
Indeed, the heritage of world leaders is often discussed and debated – remember the arguments over Barack Obama’s passport and Australia’s dual citizenship crisis in 2017 with 15 sitting politicians being ruled ineligible or being forced to resign.
There’s often a real feeling of patriotism when it comes to those elected into positions of power, but that’s not to say that people don’t recognise (and appreciate) a good leader when they see one. In 2014, Zambia’s Interim President was Scottish national, Guy Scott.
Canada boasts four ex-Prime Ministers who were born in the UK; France, Germany and Israel will all allow anyone with a second passport of their country to run to be Prime Minister. Whether you’re intending on being your new home’s future leader or not, maybe your British-born children could be!
We investigate where may be best for you to make home if you’re looking for a new career in politics…
The UK’s only foreign-born Prime Minister
Rules and regulations vary from country to country, but the UK takes an enlightened approach, and you don’t need to be born here to become an MP or even Prime Minister. This is largely down to the colonies the country used to hold, as so many citizens are of descent that was considered at the time to be British, but would not be now.
That said, as of yet there’s only been one foreign-born PM: Bonar Law, who sat as Conservative Prime Minister from 1922 to 1923, and was born in the Colony of New Brunswick, which is now Canada.
Of course, it’s well known that many British and English monarchs hail from overseas – going all the way back to William The Conqueror in 1066. Although the current Queen was born in Mayfair, London, the family from which she descends are not British: the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’s are actually from Hanover in Germany, and changed their surname to Windsor in 1917 to appear more local.
Australia is certainly one country that has had more than its fair share of British born Prime Ministers. For example Tony Abbott, born in Lambeth, moved to Sydney at the age of two: he was Prime Minister from 2013 to 2015.
Julia Gillard was born in Barry, South Wales. Her family migrated to Adelaide hoping the warmer climate would be good for her bronchopneumonia. It obviously worked as she went on to become Australia’s first female Prime Minister, serving from 2010 to 2013.
However, the Land Down Under was hit with political turmoil and controversy when in 2017 it was alleged that 15 sitting Members of Parliament were ineligible for their positions due to their dual citizenship. This threw Parliament into confusion as members were forced to either give up one of their nationalities, enter a long period of appeal, or resign. The final verdict was that anyone holding dual citizenship between Australia and another nation could not work as an MP.
This means that, should you move to Oz and decide to run to office to contribute to your new country in a new way, you’ll need to have your British citizenship revoked and become just an Australian citizen to do so.
The next Australian federal election takes place on May 18th and happens every three years. Australia can be tricky to crack politically, but it’s the perfect place for your children or grandchildren to start their careers in politics, with many British-born role models to look up to and follow in the footsteps of!
Historically a British colony, Canada has previously had four Prime Ministers (John Macdonald, Alexander Mackenzie, Mackenzie Bowell and John Turner) and numerous MPs who were born in the UK – but no one other than British-born and Canadian-born candidates has ever contested the seat.
To run for office in Canada, you’ll need to become a Canadian citizen. This will first require you seeking the immigration status of ‘Permanent Resident’, within which you cannot vote or run for political office, and then applying for full citizenship when you are eligible.
The next Canadian federal election takes place in October 2019, and these happen every four years. Canada is a really popular destination for British expats, with an excellent history of career success for Brits, both politically and otherwise. Could this be your big break?
In their history, the Kiwis have had 40 Prime Ministers, with many of them foreign-born, including 19 from the UK, 2 from Australia and 1 from Portugal. However, since 1960 all leaders have been NZ citizens by birth-right.
New Zealand’s voting rights laws are more lax than most, allowing for citizens and permanent residents who have lived in the country for a year or more the right to cast their vote. Unlike their neighbours Australia, NZ is open to anyone applying for office as long as they hold at least dual citizenship for the country; but if they apply for their second nationality after working in parliament, they must resign.
The next general election in New Zealand is in November 2020, so there’s plenty of time to sort out your residency first. If you have children born in the Land of the Long White Cloud, they’ll be granted automatic citizenship… so there’s a very real possibility that they’ll be future country leaders!
Spain is a huge draw for expats from all over the world, and rightfully so. Any EU citizen with a residency in Spain is able to vote in their municipal elections, including European Parliament elections.
In Spain, you’re able to run as a candidate for municipal office as long as you hold residency, have no criminal convictions that would bar you from voting, have never been disqualified from standing as a candidate in any other country, and are not running for office in any other country at the same time. This means that as long as you’re focused on Spanish politics, you’re good to go!
Spain’s most recent election was in April 2019, so they’re not due a fresh round of the polls until 2023. This makes the country an attractive prospect for politics students, as there’s the opportunity to witness history in action alongside studies whilst also offering the chance to get involved first-hand. Living in Spain in the run-up to an election is an educational experience second-to-none.
There has never been a British born Prime Minister – but perhaps, if you acquire Spanish nationality, you can be the first.
Whilst technically the first seven American presidents were born as British citizens in America and many are of British descent, unfortunately those moving to the US will be unable to run for the top job unless they were born on American soil.
The ‘Natural Born Citizen’ clause in law dictates you must hold natural citizenship at the point of birth, although this does not necessarily mean you need two American parents.
Realistically, if you’re interested in entering American politics, you’ll need to take on board lots of advice and may be better working in a behind-the-scenes position where there is no leeway for debate. Don’t let us put you off though – Arnold Schwarzenegger was very famously Governor of California and maintains his Austrian citizenship… not that we’d dare tell him he couldn’t, of course!
The next US Presidential elections take place in November 2020, but don’t be disheartened: there are still ways to get involved – Immerse yourself in campaigning, contact your local authority office to work as a Poll Clerk, or take up volunteer work in a party regional HQ. Presidential elections are always global news and being immersed within the campaigns as they happen is an experience you won’t find anywhere else.
Will you go for the top job?
So no matter what your ambitions when you move, if you’d like to contribute to your new home in a practical, political way, the opportunity is there.
However, we suspect that most British people moving overseas are only too happy to escape British politics and pursue other interests!
Whatever you decide, when you’re ready to move we hope you choose to elect PSS International Removals as your moving company. After all we have been the UK’s leader in international removals for nearly 40 years!