As a British citizen living abroad, my vote has a best-by date on it. After 15 years in Italy, I was disenfranchised; but now, thanks to a single-handed battle by an old soldier, I might get it back.

Harry Shindler arrived in Italy on Anzio beach in January 1944 and fought his way up the peninsula with the British Eighth Army. When he retired from his job in England he came back to Italy in the 1980s but hardly for rest and relaxation. He has continued fighting on many different fronts since then. A few years ago, he succeeded in persuading a reluctant Rome council to erect a monument in Piazza Venezia to the soldiers who liberated the city in 1944. Today he is the plaintiff against the British government in a court case to allow long-term British expatriates to vote in elections back home.

Italians registered as living abroad vote for 12 deputies and six senators to represent them in the national parliament; French expats already elect 12 senators and in the 2012 elections they will vote for 11 deputies too. Spaniards who live abroad maintain their vote in local and national elections for as long as they are out of the country. In the 1990s Brits resident abroad were allowed to vote in national elections for 20 years after they had left the country; ten years ago this was reduced to 15 years, with Gerald Kaufman, the Labour Party member of parliament for Gorton, Manchester, proclaiming