Vote again, Parliament, if you must, but do not vote differently


          Later this week the government will ask Parliament to vote again on the issue of  prisoner votes. I thought Parliament’s view was quite clear last time. Parliament voted against implementing the European Court of Human Rights requirement that we give votes to prisoners. The votes may be much delayed, as the draft Bill will need extensive scrutiny before coming to a vote.

         Apparently this time we will be asked to vote for a new law on the subject, which could be drafted to make it clear again that prisoners will not get the vote in the UK. The government has to avoid looking as if it is doing what is so often done in EU referenda, when a country votes against the views of the EU power brokers. They are asked to vote again, with the intention of getting them to change their minds. The new law must set out that Parliament decides, and the UK will not pay any fines if the ECHR disagrees on this matter.

         This issue is now about far more than votes for prisoners.  It is about whether Parliament can still make  laws without outside interference from foreign judges. Whilst this is not the decisive test of strength with the EU over jurisdiction, it is nonetheless an important moment in the evolution of our constitution. Parliament has to show itself resolute. Government has to show it meant what it said, when the Prime Minister said he was against giving prisoners the vote. This now is a fundamental constitutional issue.

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  1. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Some UK politicians are advocating leaving the European Convention altogether, a move that would put the UK in a unique category only shared by Belarus (within the Europe of 800 million people, wider than the EU). Treating the UK similarly to Belarus would imply reinstating visa requirements between the UK and the rest of Europe. It probably won’t come to that, but does the UK really want to be that isolated?

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      I certainly want out of the court and suspect most voters do too. It would not isolate the UK as you suggest. UK courts can deal with people’s rights perfectly well and they can also take note of decisions made in the ECHR and ignore them or take them on board as they see fit.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        @lifelogic: Although I can imagine some of the original anger (which made your PM feel physically sick) I don’t think this needed to have been made an issue of national prestige. If national prestige were to be put aside for a moment, what would be so wrong with e.g. the Dutch approach in which courts can restrict the voting both criminal offenders as well as mentally impaired persons (the two relevant categories to bar from voting). This is done at the time of sentencing, and just as sentencing happens separately for each individual, this barring from voting is also an individual assessment and verdict. The only problem rises with the blanket discriminatory measure and could easily be avoided by the UK in a number of ways if it chose not to make this an issue of national prestige.
        In your earlier comment you yourself suggested that voting might help certain prisoners as part of their rehabilitation. If I as a prisoner were allowed to vote for my Police Commissioner, maybe it would help me to respect law and order better “having had a hand in it” once released from prison?
        Voting might help me accept and respect the rule of law, because I’d I see that society needs rules but at least that I have my own little tiny influence on them.

        • Brian Tomkinson
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

          Prisoners over eighteen had the right to vote before they were imprisoned. Therefore to suggest that giving them the vote in prison might encourage lawful behaviour seems rather fanciful to me.

        • Mike Stallard
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

          You haven’t quite got the problem.
          It is an issue of sovereignty.
          We English have fought long and hard for our right to make our own laws. We are not arguing the point. We are restating our sovereignty.
          If you are going to get geographical,then remember that we never have been part of continental Europe and its political ideas of government.

          • uanime5
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

            Since when has being able to abuse human rights been an important part of sovereignty. We need more laws to prevent abuses of power by the Government, not less.

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

            @Mike Stallard: I would suggest that this restating your souvereignty is a recent development (maybe the last two decades?) and are (mis)using the ECHR in the process. Between 1952 and say 1990 there will have been a number of ECHR verdicts which didn’t go Britain’s way. The UK High Court would then still have to bow to the ECHR, as it was designed that way, and guess by whom? the UK, among others. I accept that your your system of law and traditions of government are different from the continent, but that was already the case in 1951 and in 1972 as well.

        • Jon Burgess
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

          The voting ban on prison inmates in Britain dates from 1870 and has been continued ever since. Parliament voted in favour of leaving things as they are in a non binding vote last year. So the elected representatives of the British people have made their position clear- and let’s hope they do the same again.

          This is about who makes the law in Britain – Parliament or a foreign power – I’d say that was rather an important principle to establish, wouldn’t you?

          • uanime5
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

            The more important issue is deciding whether the ego’s of politicians are immune to reason. Something doesn’t become right just because you’ve been doing it for a long time and just because something is foreign doesn’t make it wrong.

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

            @Jon Burgess: The why did you establish a higher court of appeal (ECHR). These “foreign powers” have been there since the start. It is a much more recent British “allergy”, probably brought on because as a country you are less used to not getting your way in the EU. I would always separate the two: leave the EU as you wish (article 59 Lisbon Treaty) but leaving the EUropean Convention would be rather more extreme.

        • Disaffected
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

          What a load of rubbish, prisoners respect law, part of rehabilitation. What world are you in?

        • lifelogic
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

          Give the current obsession of the state sector with equality, disability rights and anti-discrimination it seems far more likely that mentally impaired prisoners would be given ten votes each rather than be disbarred from voting.

      • Bazman
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

        Bartering is quite common in the Belarus police state and so are Porsche’s and mansions. Not be anything to do with money most of the population have none. Maybe you might to live there lifelogic and the rest of the fantasists? Geographically in the middle of Europe and absolutely politically isolated. A scandal the the EU has ignored for years. Some of it is to look at a middle class wet dream, but interestingly the population do not look you in the eye and NATO is seen as an enemy. Thats where we will be going.

    • Disaffected
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      According to a leading QC this is political posturing by Cameron and there is no prospect of a blanket ban on prisoners not getting the vote. The EU will ALLOW some prisoners not to have the vote, but not all.

      You might recall that Cameron was making noises about people wearing crosses in the workplace while the government solicitors were advocating the opposite at the ECHR- were they rogue solicitors ignoring their brief or was Cameron talking utter nonsense to keep people happy?

      Lord Tebbit analyses the voting last week somewhat different to you JR. Perhaps you are in denial or trying to stop the rise of Tory voters leaving for UKIP?

      • Jerry
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        @Disaffected: You seem a little confused, the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU, thus this is NOT an EU issue beyond the fact that one has to be signed up to the ECHR to become a member of the EU. The UK could leave the EU tomorrow and we would still be subject to the rulings of the ECHR.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

          Well, as far as I can see there’s no explicit statement in the EU treaties that every EU member state must be a signatory to the European Convention.

          However it would be very strange for an EU member state not to be a signatory once the EU as a whole had become a signatory, and I don’t suppose that Cameron could bear the opprobrium which would then be heaped upon him by his erstwhile chums in the EU “club”.

          • lifelogic
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

            Clearly we need to leave both the EU and the ECHR as they are both as daft as each other – whether they are directly connected or not.

            Why is there this blatantly racist assumption that the UK judges could not do the job as well if not better than these absurd European judges?

          • Jerry
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

            @Lifelogic: Your second paragraph says more about you than it does the EU or the ECHR… 🙁

          • APL
            Posted November 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

            Jerry: “Your second paragraph says more about you than it does the EU .. ”

            No, it simply shows that Lifelogic has learned to ues our enemies own weapons against them.

      • David John Wilson
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        This issue has nothing to do with the EU. The prisoners’ rights issue is with the ECHR. If the UK left the EU it would still be part of the ECHR and vice versa. Why do people keep confusing this and blaming the EU?

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

          Maybe it’s because they’re both to do with what the Tory party and its media supporters have always liked to call “Europe”, rather than delving into boring details about treaties and so on.

        • martyn
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

          David John Wilson:sbecause its all classified under the dreadful term “European” and some Brits are just too gormless to realise and too isolated to care.

      • BigJohn
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

        > The EU will ALLOW some prisoners not to have the vote, but not all.

        Simple solution, allow any prisoner sentenced to more than 100 years the vote.

        • alan jutson
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

          Big John

          Like it.

    • David Price
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      Aren’t you being overly simplistic?

      Of those countries signed up to the ECHR many have not agreed to certain protocols and even of those that do not all have ratified the protocol.

      To claim that there is unanimous and complete agreement with, and full commitment to, the EHCR appears to be either a gross misunderstanding or disengenuous. Given the threatening nature of many of your comments I would tend to suspect the latter.

      In any case not signing up to the ECHR would put us in the not so small group that excludes the EU, including USA, Australia, Japan …

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        @David Price: I believe I only suggested that leaving the European Convention altogehter, as some UK policians have suggested, would be a bit extreme. If the UK just wants to help reform the ECHR (of which it is a founding member) that would be a very positive approach.

      • Little White Sqibba
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        …overly simplistic.
        Simplistic is always by definition “overly”, so that silly word is not needed.

        • Brian Tomkinson
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

          Little White Sqibba,
          Aren’t you being overly pedantic?

        • David Price
          Posted November 21, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

          @LWS (whatever/whoever that is) It depends on which dictionary you use and how much the nit picking adds to the debate.

          BTW purely in the interests of pedantry and correctness of which you appear so fond, do you have the copyright owner’s permission to use that image?

    • Stephen Almond
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      “does the UK really want to be that isolated?”

      Peter, is New Zealand ‘isolated’? Brazil? China? South Africa?
      As far as I know, all these countries trade with Europe – but their laws aren’t made by Europe.
      They don’t pay to support the expanding European commission or its parliament. They don’t pay for its ‘foreign service to duplicate the similar service in sovereign countries. etc. etc. etc.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        @Stephen Almond: Of course the UK would only become (more) isolated WITHIN Europe. This isn’t about trade. Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Georgia, Turkey, even Russia, all 47 countries have signed the European convention and are part of the Council of Europe . . . except Belarus.

        • Jerry
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

          @PvR: Put it this way, are New Zealand, Brazil, China, South Africa any more isolated than any non EU member that has signed up to the ECHR (such as Russia), of course not. Funnily the EU can’t get enough of China even thought they still have both political prisoners and the death penalty?

          Anyway, anything that is good enough for the Vatican City is surely good enough for any other state. Or does the EU boycott the Vatican City too!…

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

            @Jerry: You’ve got a point there, the Pope probably can travel freely through Europe. 🙂

        • Leslie Singleton
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

          P van L–Try and absorb the simple fact that we Brits have tried Ever Closer Union but have decided after much painful experience that that phrase has been interpreted in too many ways we don’t like very much–in any event such that we, meaning a majority of us, have decided that we have had enough. We have the world populated by English speaking peoples thank you very much, the more so given ever improving global communication and travel. How long before we can fly to Australia by spaceship? Your use of the word “isolation” in any context is to misunderstand the issue given that so many of us are eager to get away.

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

            @Leslie Singleton: You sort of confirm my point, which is that your irritation with the EU has brought on this “allergy” about anything that starts with “E” (for Europe). The ECHR (Council of Europe) and the EU are really different, both in size and scope.

    • APL
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Peter van Leeuwen: “Treating the UK similarly to Belarus would imply reinstating visa requirements between the UK and the rest of Europe. It probably won’t come to that, but does the UK really want to be that isolated?”

      Because of the EU we need visa’s to enter Canada and Australia, Oh! and the USA but not because of the EU in that instance. So reinstating visa requirements would simply regularise our relationship with Europe with that of the rest of the World.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        @APL: I that’s what you prefer, so be it.

        • Jerry
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

          @PvR: Yes Peter, I think it is called self determination, funny how certain eurocrats (back in the heady days of the late 1980s, when the iron curtain was falling) were telling the the USSR that eastern European countries must be allowed to decide their own destiny but know many of the same eurocrats are telling (mostly) western European countries that they can’t decide their own destiny – such as leaving the not ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, leaving the Euro or even leaving the EU.

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

            @Jerry: These countiires, especially Poland don’t understand the UK behavior. They voluntarily joined the EU and with the Lisbon Treaty they can also leave the EU and the euro, if applicable. The same is true for the UK, it really can leave if it choses to.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      P van L–What is it exactly that you do not understand about Yes we do want to “isolated” if “isolation” means we make our own laws and foreigners mind their own business?

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        @Leslie Singleton: if you’re so happy about becoming more isolated, that is fine, I won’t even try to understand it, but please go back to splendid isolation

        • Mike Stallard
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

          Please do try and understand our predicament.
          We are the people who provided a home for Nazi refugees.
          We are the people who stood up to the big headed Kaiser.
          We are the English who defeated Napoleon. Under Marlborough we faced Louis XIV. Before that we stood against Spain in 1588.
          We are not and never have been “isolated” or ‘splendidly isolated”.
          We are the people who, like the Dutch, have valiantly fought for and preserved our independence against tyranny.
          We are beginning to fear that we are going to have to do it again too – very soon.

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

            @Mike Stallard: I respect what you state but would still call it your “perceived” predicament. I don’t believe that the reality is all that bad. I believe that your real predicament is having to change so fast as a country, from 80 years ago a power ruling over 25% to now less than over 1% of the world population.That is a major and very recent change. Maybe Britain should be given much more time to come to terms with this.

        • Jerry
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

          You call it isolation but actually it is the EU who is isolated, more countries in the world are NOT members of your beloved office block -run by people called eurocrats- in Brussels than are, that is what you and the rest of the europhiles do not understand. Countries all over the world trade with each other without ever thinking about the EU. The EU is fast becoming the equivalent of the Flat Earth, irrelevant.

          • uanime5
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

            Actually more and more countries have been joining the EU, so it’s becoming less isolated, not more.

          • Jerry
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

            @uanime5: Only those countries in Europe, and then only eastern Europe, when talking about trade what about the rest of the world and that thing called Globalisation? All you seem to be acknowledging is the overt political nature of the current EU institution.

        • Christopher Ekstrom
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

          Indeed it would be best: you have dead, musuem Europa. We’ll take the Anglo-Sphere & Asia. Splendid indeed!

        • APL
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

          Peter van Leeuwen: ” isolated ”

          By the way Peter, the British have never wished to be ‘isolated’ we have always taken every opportunity to trade with our neighbours.

          Some few years before the European Union you may be aware the merchants of the UK were enthusiastic members of the Hanseatic League. That wasn’t us being isolationist, now was it?

      • martyn
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        Leslie: Isolation leads to “foreigners” minding our business for us. Have you read any history at all? Ever?

        • Jerry
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

          @martyn: Then we must be “isolated” already, think about it, who is minding our business, who is telling our parliament what laws to pass, how many EU laws has the UK parliament had to ratify in the past 20 years…

          • martyn
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

            Jerry: NO because we were there when these laws were made. It is very simple. The UK went along with those laws and quite rightly so. Are we living under a dictatorship now? I don’t think so.

          • Jerry
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

            @martyn: Sorry, when have elected Westminster MPs started sitting in either the Brussels or Strasbourg parliament?….

        • APL
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:49 am | Permalink

          Martyn: “Isolation leads to “foreigners” minding our business for us.”

          What sort of perverted logic is this? Isolation leads to other people not leaving us alone? Clearly in those circumstances we are not isolated.

    • Jerry
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      When a court has become politicly motivated then why not leave, after all it’s not as though we are leaving the UN convention on Human Rights nor should it be forgotten that the UK was a founding member of the ECHR -at a time when many other countries in Europe had simply surrendered in the face of dictatorships, including the Dutch so please, no lessons are needed from you “PvR” – thus it just shows how far the ECHR has travelled down the wrong road in recent years…

      • uanime5
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

        Just because the UK doesn’t like that the ECHR is giving rights to people that other people consider pariahs doesn’t mean the ECHR is doing the wrong thing. More likely if means the UK is travelling in the wrong direction.

    • Mark
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      The US isn’t a member of the ECHR, yet there is visa free travel. Don’t be melodramatic.

    • Single Acts
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Many of us do, yes. It might mean that Bulgarians and Romanians would need visa’s before coming over and if I have to get a visa to visit Paris, c’est la vie.

    • martyn
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Peter: It is of course completely absurd. UK and Belarus. Some UK people have a very low opinion of their own country and are apparently content to live alongside the likes of Lukashenko.

      China and South Africa? Countries with enviable human rights records. Really.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        @martyn: I agree it would be absurd, so why do a few UK politicians take this view that rather than try and help improve the ECHR (no institutions are perfect), it would be better to just leave the European Convention. From some of the reactions here you must have seen that some of your countrymen want nothing less than isolation.

        • Sebastian Weetabix
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

          No, we want to be sovereign. We want our laws to be subject to democratic control, not imposed on us by unelected former (? Let’s they are ‘former’) communist apparatchiks from erstwhile eastern bloc countries with no tradition of freedom and are not part of our demos.

          If that is “isolation”, then so be it.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

            Isolated from jobs? What do you do Seb?

          • uanime5
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

            Given that Parliament officially has unlimited powers and the people of the UK don’t have a constitution to protect them from Government abuses of power the UK is far closer to the Communist countries that you hate than most of the former Communist countries.

          • martyn
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

            Communist Apparatchniks?

            Do you mean Radoslaw Sikorski? I think you will find that he got asylum to the UK (yet another immigrant) from the Polish Government in 1991 and went to Pembridge College Oxford University and read Philosophy Politics and Economics. He even became a member of the Bullingdon Club (so definitely a communist then). He renounced his UK citizenship and subsequently became a member of the Polish government or Foreign Minister to be exact.

            You see I have to explain to a good Dutchman on this blog as to why some people from the UK want to be isolated. I will direct him to your post and the facts as you see them.

            Facts can be a bit of a bore can’t they?

          • Jerry
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

            @Bazman: Please don’t start the “Jobs will be lost if the UK leaves” lie again, EU member states has far more to loose in the way of jobs if the EU decide in a fit of peak to start a trade war between the EU and an ex-member state called GB&NI (even if Scotland decide to try and go their own sweet way in the world). The UK ‘exports’ less that 40% to the EU, on the other hand the EU ‘exports’ in excess of 60% to GB&NI, companies like BMW will still want to sell their cars to the British, BOSCH will still want to sell their range of products etc. etc.

        • uanime5
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

          Sadly too many people in the UK are immature and demand everything their own way, and the second they’re refused they throw a tantrum and threaten to leave.

          The UK needs more diplomats and less whiners.

          • Jerry
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

            @uanime5: “Sadly too many people in the UK are immature and demand everything their own way

            Yes and the political left are practically well versed in doing just that, to the extent that because they can’t get their own way in the UK parliament any more they trot off to Brussels and demand action them there…

        • martyn
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

          Peter. Yes I know. I see the current Polish foreign minister is described below as a communist apparatchnik. Maybe a bit too isolated this one.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      Don’t worry so much, Peter, although it’s not our preferred position we’re quite used to standing alone in Europe when necessary.

      And we hadn’t done that before there wouldn’t now be any European Convention on Human Rights with a court handing down increasingly crackpot decisions, some of which make our beloved Prime Minister feel physically sick.

      So don’t try lecturing us, or threatening us, because it won’t work.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        Denis, I only asked a question! You might think it a loaded question, but I only applied some logic – outside the convention you’d be alone with Belarus (I applogize for not being 100% honest here, the Vatican isn’t part of the convention either!)
        I’m so releaved that you love your PM! Keep it up.

        • David Price
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

          Apply your logic a bit further, you might also considered the alternative case that the judgements may be mistaken or even that the ECHR has gone beyond it’s remit.

          The thing you really need to worry about is the ECHR being devalued or brought in to disrepute by questionable or political or bizarre judgements that do not reflect public opinion or needs. You should really be concerned that the ECHR could be made a laughing stock and worthless.

          Or, do you think it the height of civilization that the demands of someone who has broken the law outweigh those of their victims?

    • Andy
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      Actually I would leave the Convention. What to know why ? Simple really. The ECHR has begun to ‘invent’ things that are not in the Convention and never were intended to be. Votes for Prisoners is a classic example. Prisoners have never had the vote in the UK at least since the Forfeiture Act of 1870. When the Convention was drawn up the issue was considered, but it was pointed out that in the UK certain people were excluded from the franchise and that is why the topic is not in the convention. But now the ‘Court’ has interpreted the convention in such a way that they think it is a ‘right’. Well it isn’t and never was.

      Another area is extradition law where the ECHR is getting rather grand for itself with its sweeping judicial imperialism. Some of its rulings are no better than knitted porridge.

      The ECHR should have far more respect for the laws and customs of member states like the UK.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        @Andy: The ECHR was not designed for just respecting laws and customs, …., by its own founder members I would think. What would the ECHR achieve if it had respected everything that happens and happend in Russia, what if it had respected the secret rendition flights to torture prisons etc.
        My case for assessing barring prisoners from voting on a more case by case basis I have set out above in reaction to Lifelogic.

        • Sebastian Weetabix
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          My case for barring all prisoners from voting is very simple. They knew before they committed crimes that they would forfeit their freedom and their right to vote when caught and sentenced. They carried on regardless and volunteered for prison. We should therefore keep our end of the bargain.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

            Maybe they logic could be applied to anything else they have ‘forfeited’?

          • uanime5
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

            You can’t forfeit fundamental rights, therefore your logic fails. I also doubt that any of them volunteered for prison and that most of them probably resisted going to prison.

            Another problem with your argument is that you can’t explain why people should be allowed to vote after being released from prison but not while in prison? Doesn’t their crime count once they’re released.

          • Jerry
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

            @uanime5: Having the vote is not a fundamental right, if it is then not only prisoners should have the right but the mentally ill and children and infants! Never mind the fact that across the ECHR member states there are different ages at which suffrage is obtained and not a single age, thus this along is a nod by the ECHR that suffrage is a matter for domestic law.

            Also even the ECHR accepts that it is not a fundamental right because what they have actually told the UK government is that have to allow some</b< prisoners the vote, hence the three options mentioned by our host in his blog.

        • Andy
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

          The thing is that losing your right to vote if convicted of a custodial offence was something well established since 1870. When the Convention was drafted it was considered and forfeiture was considered acceptable from 1951. So how can it have changed now ? It can only be against the Convention if the Judges are themselves rewriting the Convention.

          Now we have a position where the Law of the United Kingdom is that prisoners lose the right to vote. Parliament has already refused to amend that Law, and I would predict that it will do so again this week. So if Parliament says No that’s that.

          • uanime5
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

            If prisoners weren’t meant to be allowed the right to vote then it would have been included the in the ECHR. Since it wasn’t included it is up to the judges to decide whether the right to vote can be removed by being sent to prison.

            By your logic homosexuality and abortion shouldn’t be protected by the ECHR since both were illegal in the UK when the ECHR was drafted.

      • uanime5
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

        In other words rather than have the ECHR protect the rights of people you want it to essential be worthless so that Parliament can do whatever it wants. You don’t understand what rights are do you.

        By the way just because people have been doing something for a long time doesn’t make it right. Centuries of slavery don’t make slavery moral.

    • Nicol Sinclair
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink


    • Christopher Ekstrom
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      This really is the ultimate expression of Euro folly: if we allow this to be imposed (when by, virtual, acclamation it would be defeated on a ballot) then it’s going to be ever so clear what began at Runnymeade has ended.

    • pete
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      The EHCR was established for the good reasons which we all know, the trouble is that it has somehow been allowed to become intertwined with the EU and has been filled with judges many of whom without adequate experience it seems.

      In my mind things like this should be off limits to the EHCR and left to national governments to decide.

      Their focus should stick to the prevention and prosecution of torture and real human rights issues like we saw in Kosovo etc, not dictating to legitimate govts what they can and cant do – especially in cases like this where there has been consensus.

      Other issues like preventing known terrorists being deported because of their human rights is unbalanced madness whilst the Abbas of this world bleed taxpayers legal aid (what about the rights of the people they have affected?)

      There are probably plenty more serious things in Eastern Europe and Russia for them to look at rather than meddling with national issues like this which have been decided in a fair and balanced way using our own democratic mechanisms.

      On thing the govt should do in my opinion is legislate so that EHCR is an advisory court and primacy should be given to the UK Parliament and judiciary

    • Bickers
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      Isolated!! As usual this is the Europhile’s stock in trade scaremongering tactic.

      Yes, we’ll be as isolated from the EU as are Switzerland, Norway, North America, Asia, Russia and the Middle East.

      We buy more from the EU than vice versa, therefore I doubt the EU will want to jeopardise one its key export markets.

  2. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    The problem we all have is that the PM says one thing and does another.

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Well one expects that of a politician to a degree, but Cameron has done it far, far too often, ever to be taken seriously again. He clearly cannot lead the party into the next election for that reason.

      • Nicol Sinclair
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        He clearly cannot lead the party into the next election for that reason.

        He couldn’t lead the party to the nearest pub (where you might find his daughter…)

        • Jerry
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

          Why is spite and bluster all that UKIP (supporters) seem able to offer these days?… 🙁

    • Disaffected
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Absolutely. But he fails to recognise people will not believe a word he says. He has entered the fantasy world of Nick Clegg.

      The Lib Dems could say anything before the last election in the knowledge that they would not get in government. Unfortunately, in some respects, Cameron gave them the opportunity and they were expected to deliver. Tuition fees smacked them straight in the face and caught them out, no turning back with their credibility from that point. Then we had Cable’s gaff caught with his vanity making claims that he should not have. Laws resigning from cabinet within days when he knew what he had done and all the controversy surrounding expense cheats. However, Cameron is is making a name for himself with all his bad judgement calls.

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:37 am | Permalink

        Indeed Laws clearly knew what he was doing as he was making the expenses claims and this was after all the expenses scandal. Why on earth is he still in parliament let alone government?

    • APL
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Johnny Norfolk: ” PM says one thing and does another.”

      That’d be because he isn’t a Tory trying to lead the Tory party. Consaquently, he has to lie.

    • Jerry
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      @Johnny Norfolk: Only those with no political power, what so ever, never have to compromise…

  3. lifelogic
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Clearly it should ultimately be a decision for parliament and not some foreign court which seems to have an agenda of grabbing more and more power to itself. Cameron should leave the court or if he likes the court (as he seems to) he should stay in an obey it. He should grow up and make up his mind.

    Having said that I tend to think that giving some prisoners the vote would be a good thing, perhaps helping with their rehabilitation and with MPs understanding of how prisons work or fail to work.

    • APL
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      lifelogic: “Clearly it should ultimately be a decision for parliament and not some foreign court which seems to have an agenda of grabbing more and more power to itself.”

      There is as good a reason as any revoke our obligations to the court. When Parliament first agreed and the Monarch signed the treaty of accession to the ECHR, Certain very specific ideas of the areas of competence the court should have, it might be a good idea to review Hansard. Now if the court has exceeded those limited parameters, then the treaty obligations have been abrogated and the court may have exceeded it allocated authority according to our treating terms.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        As a mildly interesting aside, I’ve looked carefully but I haven’t been able to find any measure through which Parliament approved the UK’s original accession to the European Convention. I’ve found some measures to approve later protocols to the Convention, but I’ve never found a measure in or around 1950 when the UK originally acceded. As there was strong cross-party support for the Convention I’ve no doubt that if the government had proposed a Bill to approve accession then it would have passed very easily, but unless somebody (maybe JR?) can come up with such an Act then I assume that the treaty was ratified after being laid on the table in both Houses for the 21 day period required by the old Ponsonby rule:

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      I think giving some prisoners the vote would lead inexorably to giving all of them the vote. As soon as the dam has been breached there will be a multitude of more claims of discrimination.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Lifelogic–You miss the point which has nothing to do with what’s right or wrong or a good or a bad thing, but rather whose opinion decides this subjective matter–and I see no reason why we shouldn’t decide for ourselves. It always comes back to whether we “need” harmonisation across Europe and I for one see no reason why prison systems should all be the same–rather the opposite in the sense that with disparate systems we at least have more chance of discerning which system works better. For about the millionth time this is an example of the EU (expensively) butting in where there is no need–fed by lawyers looking for the fees involved of course.

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

        I agree, it should be a decision taken by the UK government, but I do think some prisoners should be allowed to vote. It will not make any significant difference to the outcome anyway but does have some peripheral benefits.

      • pete
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        this isn’t the EU – EHCR is supposed to be a separate body to the EU but they have somehow got intertwined

    • uanime5
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      How about letting prisoners with less than 5 years left on their sentence vote, since they’ll be released while this MP is in power.

  4. oldtimer
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I agree.

  5. Derek
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    In the event that prisoners get to vote will they be voting by post or will they demand the right to visit the polling station in whatever constituency they are voting for? Would they vote in the last constituency they lived in and not the constituency where their prison is? Wouldn’t it be degrading for prisoners to be denied the opportunity to vote in person and a breach of their human rights?

    • uanime5
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      You could easily solve this problem by putting a polling station in the prison. Though you’d need separate boxes for each constituency.

      • Edward
        Posted November 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

        I will put you forward for the job of organising the logistics of that unaime5.
        Best of luck !
        Every prison in the UK sub-divided into every prisoner’s home consituency with the ballot box for each prisoner’s constituency to be first delivered then collected to each prison and then sent for counting to the correct constituency all within a short period of time so as not to delay the election result.
        Thousands of boxes being moved to and from prisons all over the UK to random constituencies all over the UK, all in the space of one or two days.
        And how do you decide a prisoners home consitiuency, last known address? prison address? place of birth? home town?

  6. David
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    John, hasn’t the issue been clouded by the inclusion of some ‘third way’ options (eg. giving votes to prisoners with < 6 month sentences) – so that both 'sides' can achieve their goals?

    • APL
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      David: “so that both ‘sides’ can achieve their goals?”

      It would not be a compromise, but a concession.

    • stred
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Would it be possible for UK prisoners to have a single MP? This would keep the Human Rights industry out of the picture, while making certain that their wishes were unlikely to be satisfied. The prospective MP would have to visit prisons along with others in order to put forward a manifesto, so the possibility of escape from polling stations would be avoided. This manifesto could include such policies as reductions in sentences to perhaps a month for murder, the fraud victim having to compensate the fraudster or, possibly, community service in a maternity unit for paedofiles.

      The MP wouild be free to campaign, put forward private member’s bills and enter into coalition with main parties. His salary could be paid for by the proceeds of confiscation of criminal assets. Other MPs would be able to be as horrible to him as they liked and no political party would wish to be seen to be voting on the same side.

      Problem solved.

  7. Alan
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I agree with lifelogic’s point that it would be a good thing to give at least some prisoners the vote.

    I don’t see why some people get so upset over this, and wish they would explain it rather than just say they are so upset they can’t tolerate it. Someone feeling sick about something isn’t, in my view, a good basis for public policy.

    I can see some logic in some of the objections – for example would prisoners be allowed to vote for Police and Crime Commissioners? But none of those who oppose prisoners voting seem to give any reason at all except that they personally don’t like it.

    • Acorn
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      We still let benefit cheats vote for expenses cheats for Westminster. So, obviously, prisoners with fraud convictions should get the vote. It would be hypocritical so to prevent them, surely!!!

    • martyn
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Alan: I agree with you.

  8. David Price
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I agree – it will be interesting and illuminating to see how the leaderships of all parliamentary parties deal with this.

  9. Martin Ryder
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Surely the question is not about whether prisoners should be given the vote but about whether it should be taken away when they go to prison. My view is that a vote is a very important thing, which is why I vote whenever I can, and it should only be taken away for a very important reason. Committing a crime that results in a voter being imprisoned for more than three years would seem important enough for me.

    As for our friendly Dutchman’s concern about our being cut of from Europe; it is nice of him to worry but we have been cut off before and have always survived. It is the poor Europeans who would have to get a visa to visit the UK that I feel sorry for.

  10. Phil P
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Yes please. Give another little piece of my country. Well so promise promise hmmmm how about you gave up your rights when you broke the law end of.
    Better still how about only if you have been to prison can you vote not sure of the figures but im sure there is a lagre portion of foreigners in our prison so lets give them a vote so they can help rip our home apart England and “Great” Britian are names of the past we have been sold out then with promise of repair sold again. No party can fix this mess as they dont have the power or minerals to do the job. I thought the vote was clear but now lets do it again till they get the answer they want.

    • Henry
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      Any chance of some punctuation? It depends where you put the commas etc, as to what you mean! A sample of our education system, or what!

  11. Acorn
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Can we establish that ECHR is not connected to the EU. The ECHR is a Council of Europe creation, 47 States. It is not connected to the ECJ which is an EU institution.

    Here is your starter for twenty points. Name the 18 UK members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe? The Council of Europe is not the Council of the European Union (the “Council of Ministers”) or the European Council. These belong to the European Union not the Council of Europe; but, they have the same flag nowadays for the vision of the European super-state.

    “This now is a fundamental constitutional issue”, you say. Are we talking Magna Carta here? Dave is not too hot on Magna Carta. In the absence of any actual written Constitution, we have a situation where the law is whatever the government of the day says it is. Please please, can we just have a vote on in or out, of any or all of these supranational organisations we have treaties with. I am getting pissed off with the whole soap opera; and that, is when I tend to vote against incumbents, just for the hell of it.

    • Acorn
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      “””””India v England: Alastair Cook pleased by England fightback”””””

      Question. Does the declining empire of the UK still have a Pollyanna complex? You couldn’t make it up; we certainly know how to lose.

      Talking of losers, Cam and Millipede excreted a ship load of rhubarb fertiliser at the CBI today. Does anybody actually believe this crap?

      If the CBI represents the cream of British business management; god help us. It is patently obvious that the CBI does not have a clue how an economy that issues is own floating fiat currency, actually works.

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        Does anybody actually believe this (nonsense-ed)? No one sensible does.

        Did you hear Clegg on Woman’s hour talking about father’s joint maternity leave and “enlightened employers” – he is clearly (wrong-ed) and could not even run a whelk stall.

    • Mark
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

      I noted the lack of support for any new commemorative structure at Runnymede.

  12. BarryS
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Could we give the vote to prisoners convicted of treason or a similarly rare offence. This would mean there is no blanket ban yet there would be no votes as I believe there are no (or very few) prisoners currently serving a sentence for treason.

    • Jerry
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

      @BarryS: That would be novel! First [1] the UK repealed the death sentence for treason and then allowed them the vote, we could actually get the perverse situation of a terrorist doing what Guy Fawkes failed to do and then become the only prisoner in the country allowed to vote for the new parliament!

      If the ECHR has got to be placated, just give all prisoners sentenced to less than 12 months (and perhaps prisoners with less than 12 months to serve in open prisons [2]) the vote, on the law of averages the majority of 12 ‘monthers’ are unlikely to miss an election whilst for the latter group of prisoners it would be part of their reintegration into society.

      [1] in 1998, as party of the Crime And Disorder Act.

      [2] bar those convicted of murder, these people should also be prevented from having a vote even if given licence (parole).

    • APL
      Posted November 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      BarryS: “Could we give the vote to prisoners convicted of treason or a similarly rare offence. ”

      No room in the prisons for a significant fraction of our representatives.

  13. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I read that you are to be given three options, only one of which maintains the ban on voting. This doesn’t auger well for a clear and decisive vote by Parliament to reassert its authority, but rather suggests succumbing to the dictats of the ECHR. If voting is a human right which is presumably why the ECHR is involved who can I sue because I am not allowed a vote to elect that very same ECHR which is apparently making our laws, or the EU Commission, or the EU President …..?

    • uanime5
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      The ECHR is a court so it doesn’t make laws, it determines whether a county’s law is compatible with human rights.

      Regarding the UK’s EU Commissioner and the EU Presidents you’d have to sue the UK Government as they elected them on your behalf.

  14. English Pensioner
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    They don’t require us to give all prisoners the vote, just some.
    So why don’t we give prisoners the vote when they are sent to prison for such offences as using small boys to sweep chimneys, or failing to practice one’s archery, both of which crimes are apparently still on the statute book?

  15. martyn
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Ironic isn’t it. ?

    In July 2013 Croatia, a country with a questionable past to say the least, will join the European Union and presumably become more integrated with Europe and the ECHR and comply with the votes for prisoners rule.

    Meanwhile the United Kingdom, with one of the best records for tolerance and human rights, will be on the way out of the European Union and will doubtless duck out of some of the ECHR rules as well.

    What a travesty.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

      Actually the UK had the second worst history on human rights until the human rights act was introduced. So only Turkey has a worst record on human rights.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted November 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        Don’t you think that should acknowledge Cherie Blair as the source for this nonsense?

  16. Richard1
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Is this issue really worth the fuss? Lets fight the battles we need to win. Why not just say judges should say when sentencing whether or not a prisoner is deprived of a vote, and Parliament should set down that anyone sentenced for certain crimes (eg violence) or for longer than eg 12 months automatically doesnt vote. Sentencing is so arbitary in any event – a distinguished soldier is in gaol now for 18 months for a technical infringement of gun laws, a first offence, but every day we read of violent thugs who have been left to run riot by the courts despite a string of convictions.

  17. Wilko
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Prisoners are Her Majesty’s legal opposition. They deserve not only to vote, but to have their own Government.

    If the existing Governor provides only Champagne & chocolates, surely they should be entitled to vote for one who enables a more healthy bread & water ethos.

  18. adams
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Surely our laughable sham Parliament must be getting on your nerves John ? Ever thought of rose growing ?

  19. Roy Grainger
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    What Parliament is really voting on is whether they wish to obey the law or not. Parliament voted to ratify the European Convention so to refuse to obey a ruling from ECHR is absurb – no ordinary citizen is allowed to pick and choose the laws they will or will not obey so why should MPs ? Only a vote to leave the European Convention entirely makes any sense.

    • David Price
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      I think you will find that a number of countries have not signed up to various protocols or ratified those they have signed up to. For example, it appears Germany and Nederalnds, like the UK, have not signed up to protocol 7 (rights of fair trial and spousal equality) while France hasn’t sign up to the prohibition of the death penalty.

      There is no such thing as the law, countries pick and chose which ones they will comply with. So why shouldn’t the UK parliament continue to deny voting rights to prisoners?

      The question really is why parliament is being told to vote again.

  20. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I think prisoners should have the right to vote.

    Politicians should be listening to what they have to say. If they listen to prisoners prisoners are much more likely to say intelligent things.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink


      • uanime5
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

        Well there was a prisoner who had so many interesting things to say that he wrote three books. I believe he was called Lord Archer.

    • martyn
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Yes quite right. Some prisoners could teach us all a thing or two.

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        Lots of people try to fix the least attractive bits of society.

        If people are serious about doing this they need to listen to the people who understand what it is.

        • Jerry
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

          No Rebecca, these people need to listen to Society, not the other way around. It really is this simple, if they don’t then they will once again find themselves in a 10ft x 8ft cell (probably sharing with someone they would not wish to meet in a dark alleyway) for 2ohrs plus each day and every day (unless working in the prison workshops etc.) of their sentence…

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

            I think prison should not be just about punishment. It should also be a place where people are given opportunities to prepare to lead normal lives after leaving prison. History and research shows this dual approach is more effective in preventing future crime than an approach which relies entirely on the idea that the more you punish people the better they will behave when they come out of prison.

          • Jerry
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

            @Rebecca Hanson: Yes rehabilitation is a big part but prisoners don’t need the vote to do this, even more so any prisoners that either still have to complete their rehabilitation or those who (due to their crimes) may never be rehabilitated.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted November 21, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

            We are shockingly bad a rehabilitation. What do you suggest we do to improve things? I suggest we look for advice to the countries which do it better.

      • Jerry
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

        Some prisoners could teach us all a thing or two.

        Indeed, probably how to pick the padlock on the ballot box or hack the on-line voting machine!…

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

          Or how to wear stripy jumpers and carry bags with SWAG written on them in large letters.

          • Jerry
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

            Can’t do the time, don’t do the crime…

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Well of course you do!

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        Have we chatted about my interested in ECHR judgements post Cadder before lifelogic? I don’t remember.

    • a-tracy
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      Rebecca, why are prisoners much more likely to say intelligent things?
      Do you know many prisoners or how have you corroborated your statement?

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        I’ve worked with people on the fringes of society in many locations and contexts and have been a voluntary prison visitor. In all such situations I find that if you engage people in intelligent conversation some of them will rise to the challenge and be the better for having had that opportunity. Just like in the rest of society.

        • alan jutson
          Posted November 21, 2012 at 7:14 am | Permalink


          Ever thought that some of those prisoners may just be playing you along for entertainment ?

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted November 21, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

            If they’re playing along by engaging in intelligent discussion about serious issues in society is that a bad thing?

    • Jon
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

      Do murdered people get the right to vote?

    • Jerry
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

      @Rebecca Hanson: Pity then that the prisoners didn’t use their (apparent) intelligence BEFORE finding themselves in court and “sent-down”…

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        I’m @cyberrhetoric Jerry.

        I do pity some prisoners. So would you if you engage with the reality of their lives unless you’re very strange.

    • zorro
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      Why would prisoners say interestings things because of that…..?


  21. Glenn Vaughan
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I admit that I don’t undertsand fully this issue of prisoners’ voting rights.

    For which constituency is the prisoner voting for in the first place? Is he voting for the MP in the constituency in which his prison is located (where he is a captive resident) or is he voting for the MP in the consituency in which he lived prior to his incarceration? Can anyone enlighten me on this point?

    When that question has been resolved, will prisoners receive campaign literature from the candidates? Will they be canvassed actively by candidates visiting them on prison premises seeking their votes?

    Frankly I don’t understand the process under which prisoners’ voting rights would function.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      Where they live in general. They can use a postal vote.

      • Jerry
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

        No they can’t as there can be no certainty that the person named on the postal ballot will be the person filling in the ballot, this problem has been bad enough in general society as it is.

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

          Surely that’s much easier to ensure in a prison environment than in the rest of society?

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        Or by text, Rebecca !

    • Bob
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      The constituency where the crime was committed.

  22. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    If a new law gives the vote to prisoners on remand (who have not yet been convicted) and to no other prisoners, it will satisfy natural justice and should get everyone off our backs.

  23. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    If we want to pick a head on fight with the EU, the budget is a far bigger issue. There is ample scope for a real terms cut – elimination of corrupt programmes so that the accounts can be signed off, the end of unnecessary EU aid, a thinning out of the top heavy bureaucracy, abolition of the permanent presidency and the EU foreign office, and the long delayed reform of the CAP.

    The trouble is, it is said that the votes are currently lined up 26-1 against us, a coalition of the basket cases and the power mad. In exercising a veto, we need to line up allies PDQ. The starting point is to go into Germany, into Finland, into the Netherlands etc. and tell the people that their heads of state are actively campaigning against their interest. And also offer Club Med countries a route out of the Euro zone. Nobody who believes in a European federation can possibly object to us interfering in the internal affairs of Member States. It’s high time that Perfidious Albion rose again.

    • John Doran
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      Makes sense.
      More than can be said for much on here.

    • Jerry
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

      @Lindsay McDougall (& John Doran): Except that this is not a head on fight with the EU, it is a head on fight with the ECHR, please feel free to put both terms into Wikipedia at your conveniences!

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted November 21, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        I changed the subject; it’s allowed.

      • John Doran
        Posted November 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        The real issue is the assault on this countries sovereignty, which the EU is orchestrating.
        The ECHR is a minor diversionary attack, & is best seen as such.

  24. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    What are the arguments against any prisoners having the vote?

    Are they ignorant, simplistic, ‘the people in prison are the baddies and the more we punish them the better society will get’ arguments?

    Or are they ‘Europe wants it and everything European is bad’ arguments?

    Or is there actually anything coherent?

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Our own Parliament should decide. It is as simple as that.

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

        If our parliament decides against giving prisoners the vote it should be because there are coherent reasons why they decide not to give prisoners the vote, not because they want to stick two fingers up at Europe.

        • a-tracy
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

          Why do you believe we should give a vote to select our lawmakers to a group of people who actively break and ignore those said laws and rules?

          People that choose to live outside of the constricts of society shouldn’t expect to influence laws on those of us who do endeavour to live within rules.

          Under our current elective system we’re ruled by the majority decision so why would we need to pander to this minority group, why should the majority of people living respectfully and responsibly together pander to a group who choose to stick two fingers up to us and our rules.

        • Electro-Kevin
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

          Rebecca – Votes for prisoners were not mentioned in any party manifesto at the last general election.

          Perhaps a major party might wish to include this policy next time. This would be especially bold seeing as there is no public clamour for it in the first place.

          This is being brought upon us against the democratic will. That no party would dare say “Vote for us and we will enfranchise prisoners” rather proves my point.

          • Electro-Kevin
            Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

            Perhaps Europe knows what is best for us. In which case why let us vote on anything at all ?

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

            The behaviour of some or our ministers gives some relevance to your point Kevin.

            As someone who works in state education can I make the point that it seems that pretty much any system of oversight would be better than having Gove in charge?

        • David Price
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

          Parliament had already decided some years ago and those who break the law and go to prison have since then lost the right to vote as a consequence. I suggest there must be coherent reasons given by those who wish to change that law. It is not enough to say the ECHR has decided and there is an end to it, we rely on parliament to look after our interests when they consider ratifying such things.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink


            But given the situation we are in it’s wiser to examine the arguments for and against giving prisoners the vote before deciding whether to oppose this judgement or not rather than opposing it simply on the grounds that it’s come from Europe.

            I don’t have any respect for people who deem things to be bad just because they’re related to Europe. I have respect for people who oppose aspects of the EU which are actually worth opposing.

    • Bill
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Surely the arguments are that (a) these people have forfeited the right to vote by disobeying laws made by the rest of society – it is part of the cost they pay for crime – and (b) if the prison vote became significant, it could influence the making of the law – for instance, presumably most of the criminal population is in favour of the legalisation of drugs and the shortening of sentences.

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

        Do you think losing the right to vote is a deterrent against crime Bill? I don’t although if you have any logic or evidence to suggest it is please say. Surely crime deterrence is the purpose of prison?

        Prisoners, like everyone else, would have to influence policy by participating in a political party. They’d have to argue and win their point within a party of sufficient size to have a say in government. So it’s unlikely they would influence policy unless they convinced other’s that they had a genuinely positive reason for doing so. And if they have that shouldn’t they have the right to say so? And if they haven’t but they through they had wouldn’t it be helpful if they found out why?

        • a-tracy
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

          If its not a deterrent Rebecca why do prisoners want it? If they don’t care what are we spending time on it for?

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink


            If losing the vote is not a deterrent to crime why are we wasting time and effort preventing prisoners having the vote?

        • Jon
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

          This is about the ECHR making it a human right to vote. How can a prisoner make a considered judgement on casting a vote for a society to which they are imprisoned from?

          Should voting become a human right then the means to make a considered judgement becomes a human right. Therefore no imprisonment from the wider society.

          The ECHR would accept a term limit now but that would be reversed at the first case taken to them.

          Your argument is one for when and if a private members bill is passed to discussed. Its not in relation to making this a human right rather than a civil right.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for this post Jon.

            Can you explain in any more detail why the right to vote should not be a human right?

            Did the UK challenge this decision in the ECHR?

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

            I don’t know if you’re aware of the Peter Cadder case and the changes which that brought to the Scottish system of justice in 2010.

            Most people thought that ‘the crims didn’t deserve it’ and it ‘would just be an extra cost to society’ but then most people didn’t understand what was actually happening to people who were unlucky enough to be arrested for things they hand’t done.

            The ECHR can do very good things most people don’t understand the value of. Because I’ve seen this in action I’m more open-minded to the possibility that this may be a good ruling than most contributors here.

        • Mark
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

          The purposes of prison are several. To protect the public from dangerous offenders; to punish offenders by reducing their freedoms and excluding them from participation in wider society; to give them time to consider the consequences of their actions; to provide time and space to attempt to reform them. We have moved away from prison being a deterrence: conditions inside are for many rather better than their disorganised lives outside.

          Of course, objectives are one thing, and what is achieved in practice is another. Many would claim that prisons are universities of crime, rife with drugs that many of the inmates were incarcerated for supplying or stealing to fund.

          Foreigners are not allowed to vote (at least anyone from say the USA). Think of prisoners as being exiled: they do not have the rights of full citizens. Perhaps because we are so lax in voter registration these days, with postal votes of foreigners abroad being registered and not queried in some cases, it becomes tempting to drop standards for prisoners.

          Prisoners do retain the right to communicate to their MP. That has proved a far more fruitful avenue for some than having the right to vote ever could be.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

            I believe there are two purposes to prison.

            Punishment and preparing people to reintegrate into society and live decent lives when they come out of prison.

        • Bill
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

          Well actually I think that prison has a double purpose. It is intended to rehabilitate but it is also intended as a punishment, and sometimes these two things overlap. There is a sense in which prison is ‘aversion therapy’.

          As you probably know we exclude two other categories of people from voting: those who are certifiably insane and Members of the House of Lords. The former because they cannot act as responsible citizens by virtue of their condition and the latter because they already influence legislation by virtue of their seats in the upper chamber. There are about 80,000 prisoners and I don’t think that giving them a vote would benefit the rest of society any more than giving the certifiably insane would benefit the rest of society.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

            Giving prisoners the opportunity to vote do two things:

            1. It would give them them a change to engage with society and an opportunity to make good use of the responsibility which goes with that.

            2. It would get our politicians engaging with the prison community and I think that would be good for both prisoners and politicians. Too many of our politicians know naff all about the realities of those on the fringes of society.

            Think what it did for Elvis!

      • uanime5
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

        By your logic we shouldn’t allow anyone convicted of a crime to vote. You haven’t provided any reason why they can’t vote in prison but can vote once they leave.

        • Bill
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

          Oh, come on. The removal of the right to vote is similar to the forfeiture of freedom: it is part of the punishment…but the punishment does not last for ever.

    • Edward
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      Coherant? Well, it is said as an argument for disqualifying prisoners from voting that, people who break the law should not have a say in making the law.

      This is perhaps where we get the word “outlaw” from, meaning a criminal.

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

        “people who break the law should not have a say in making the law.”

        Why not?

        Anyway as I’ve explained above it’s unlikely they’d be involved in making the law. There are many other reasons why poeple should be allowed to vote.

  25. Bernard Juby
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    What annoys me is the fact that Parliament has to enshrine in law the fact that prisoners cannot vote while they are in prison while at the same time there are millions of ex-patriots who have been and are still being disenfranchised for living away from the UK for too long – despite that they may have homes and relatives back there.

    • John Doran
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Obama has used a similar underhand trick to disenfranchise US soldiers.
      They are fighting for their country abroad & are being deprived of their votes.

      We prosecute & sentence to imprisonment for 18 months an exemplary member of our armed forces, who has invented a new battlefield dressing which has saved hundreds of lives, for a technical offence.

      & we seriously consider giving convicts the right to vote?

      Truly Kafka rules.

  26. Alte Fritz
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Although I do not know much how our adherence to the Convention works, if we have entered into a treaty which accepts the jurisdiction of the Court, surely the answer is either to observe the Court’s order or abrogate our treaty obligations.

    The issue of prisoner votes has been blown out of all proportion. In truth, this country’s treatment of prisoners and approach to rehabilitation is not enviable and not the subject on which to take a stand.

    • Mark
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

      The court is not offering a judgment about the rehabilitation of prisoners. Nonetheless it will be interesting to see whether those privately run prisons whose remuneration is in part based on recidivism rates find ways to be more successful at rehabilitation.

  27. Graham Hamblin
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    JR I don’t really care if they get a vote or not!

  28. Electro-Kevin
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I think this is a great issue for the Euro sceptic cause – as were the problems with Abu Hamza and Abu Quatada.

    It will spike the public consciousness on the otherwise boring subject the EU and will cause major discomfort for federalists in Parliament.

    As with call centers and manufacturing Parliament has found itself outsourced. It’s a pity that democracy has been outsourced too.

    Who on earth thought that this was a good idea ?

  29. Bert Young
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Ours is a democracy ; we make the laws the electorate stand by . The system we have has been tried and tested over many generations – 100s of years ; it must not be changed or interfered by outside bodies such as the ECHR .

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink


    • Roy Grainger
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes. We make the laws. And the law we made was that we would abide by ECHR judgements.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        So now we repeal that law, or more accurately Parliament does.

        • lifelogic
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

          Indeed – repeal that silly law.

        • uanime5
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

          How is this repealing laws that give people rights which are inconvenient for politician a good thing?

  30. Denis Cooper
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    “This now is a fundamental constitutional issue.”

    It is, and that’s why I don’t particularly want this Bill and would much prefer a Bill that:

    1. Authorised and instructed the Foreign Secretary to derogate just from Article 46(1) of the Convention:

    “The High Contracting Parties undertake to abide by the final judgment of the Court in any case to which they are parties.”

    2. Set out a Parliamentary process for dealing with adverse judgments.

    A national law of that sort, passed by our sovereign Parliament, the supreme legal authority for our country, would relieve ministers of the present legal obligation to take steps to comply with the increasingly barmy and unwelcome judgments from the court, while making sure that adverse judgments were not simply disregarded but were given proper consideration by Parliament.

    • John Doran
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes please.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

      Expect the ECHR to fine the UK for refusing to continuing to abuse human rights. Parliament should not have the right to ignore people’s rights based on a political whim.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted November 21, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        Expect the UK not to pay any such fines, once it had withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the court by abrogating Article 46(1).

    • sm
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

      Sets a marker..and as you said lay out a sovereign process of dealing with it.
      Letting our judges decide with reference to other opinion (also external to the UK) but with due regard for the actual law & will expressed by parliament.

      Or will it be bread & circus and more huffing and puffing and melodrama before not asserting sovereignty?

  31. Normandee
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    The following question remains unanswered from yesterdays blog.

    “And how can I help ? do I vote for an openly pro European Tory or for UKIP ? where in this situation does my “duty” lie? Or do I spend time encouraging people who can do more, to do more. I have told you before I am not a natural UKIP voter, but given the situation I am in and the state of affairs generally in Parliament what do I and people like me do ???”

    Reply: We need more Europsceptic members in the Conservative party, to help choose sensible candidates for election and to send strong messages to the leadership about the direction of policy, as already happens in some Associations.

    • Normandee
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Still not an answer, do I vote for a pro Europe Tory or UKIP ?
      I guarantee I’m not the only one waiting for this answer.

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        I am afraid that’s all we will get from our host. He won’t endorse voting for UKIP against a pro-EU Conservative. His party loyalty comes before all else.

      • Bob
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

        Mr Redwood
        Would you advise us to vote for a pro EU Tory candidate in preference to a UKIP candidate?

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted November 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        I hope that you are not faced with this dilemma. As I am a member of the Conservative Party who has just received a letter from David Cameron requesting a donation, here is what I am going to do.

        I am going to write back to him saying that any money I have to donate will be applied within my own constituency and in Wokingham. If he wants a donation to Conservative HQ, he must purge it of all known Europhiles and announce a policy that only Eurosceptics will be accepted as Conservative candidates.

        I suggest that all of you who have received such a letter do something similar. There’s nothing like hitting Conservative HQ in the pocket for them to sit up and take notice.

  32. Nicol Sinclair
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    “Later this week the government will ask Parliament to vote again on the issue of prisoner votes. I thought Parliament’s view was quite clear last time. ”

    A bit like the EU then? Govt doesn’t agree with the first vote, so vote again until you/web get it right…

  33. Barbara Stevens
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    So now if you break the law you can, hopefully, now vote as well. If you go against the law of any land you go against those who uphold the law, therefore you should not have a vote. Freedom has responsiblities, and that means not breaking the law, obeying the law gives you the right to protest, and vote according to your wishes. No, prisoners should not get the vote, they have that right returned once they’ve paid for their crimes. I don’t want to see such laws inposed here, in fact any laws coming from over the channel. We have parliament to make our laws, that should be good enough. The EU is trying to create a United States of Europe, making laws and having them implemented is the beginning. Getting states to obey without arguement is nothing other than surrender of nations liberty. I hope ALL Tories can see this arguement for what it is, a debate and vote on OUR freedoms and choices. I hope all of them vote for a NO.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      You put it very well. Unfortunately too many MPs have surrendered more and more of our Parliamentary sovereignty with impunity and seem determined to continue e.g. Ken Clarke.

      • John Doran
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        Ken Clarke’s views on soft sentencing & early release could be seen as encouraging crime.

        Giving prisoners the vote could be seen as encouraging crime.

        Such views could be seen as traitorous to this country.

        Who am I to judge?

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      Same comment as above. It is the law of the land, ratified democratically by Parliament, that we obey ECHR judgments. You are proposing we disobey that law, and so according to your argument none of us should have a vote ? Your position is illogical – there cannot be laws that we have to obey and laws that we don’t have to obey. Parliament cannot pick and choose, they should just withdraw from the treaty entirely (my preference) or obey the law.

      • Edward
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        Roy, The big argument is, just who is supreme?
        The UK Parliament voting now with a big majority, or the ECHR and its current rulings.
        As I never voted for anyone on the ECHR panel of judges, I would prefer the UK Parliament to rule supreme, where I at least can cast my vote.
        We indeed signed up to the convention, but if we always have to obey their every rulings then we are only slaves to them now and in the future.
        Will you promise to always be obedient to their rulings whatever they may be?

        • uanime5
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

          The issue isn’t who is supreme but who is right. So far Parliament hasn’t be able to justify why prisoners shouldn’t be able to vote other than by saying “we don’t like it, therefore it’s wrong”.

          • Edward
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

            “………but who is right”
            That is decided by the votes of our elected representatives in the House of Commons
            If there is a majority and there is a large majority on this issue then the vote is carried.
            If you disagree on moral grounds or on your views on human rights, then you have the chance at the next election to vote your MP out and put in one who agrees with you.
            That shouldn’t be too difficult as you regard yourself right on just about everything.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        Parliament is sovereign, and has the right to make or unmake any law whatever; as mentioned in another comment, I can’t actually find any law passed by Parliament to approve the original Convention; but no matter, because with or without any such previous measure Parliament can now pass an Act authorising and instructing the Foreign Secretary to derogate from what is now Article 46(1) in the Convention, and then it will no longer be the law of the land that ministers must obey ECHR judgments.

        • John Doran
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

          Yes please. Again.

        • uanime5
          Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

          And why is refusing people their human rights meant to be a good thing?

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted November 21, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

            You consistently ignore the right of the British people to govern their own country through their national democratic system.

        • Roy Grainger
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          I agree, my point really is that Parliament is bottling the issue by voting only on whether they will obey one specific ECHR judgement and thus making themselves look illogical (at best) – they should instead be voting on whether to derogate from the entire treaty.

  34. Barbara F
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    You mention that the Conservatives need more Eurosceptic MPs in parliament. I understood that membership associations can only chose candidates from the official list
    Anyone who has Eurosceptic views are unlikely to be approved. Therefore at each election there will be fewer and fewer Eurosceptic MPs and the party will become more keen on staying in the EU

    Reply: Many of the 2010 intake are good Eurosceptics who have already shown they are prepared to vote against EU measures and argue for exit or a new relationship on very different terms. Associaitons choose the candidates,and CCHQ could not enforce an anti Eurosceptic policy on the list, even if they wanted to.

    • Chris
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      I think of Liz Truss and Swaffham Conservatives. They really did not have much choice, and were demeaned for their resistance – Turnip Taliban and so on. If the leadership disapproved of the mocking they did little to show their disapproval.

  35. forthurst
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    What makes me sick in the stomach are politicians who refuse to leave organisations such as the ECHR having promised to do so and then continuously posture about the adverse consequences of remaining in. The EU is another organisation whose membership brings many adverse consequences and continues to offer opportunities for deceitful politicans to posture about beng ‘tough’. What makes me sick to the stomach are politicians that solicit votes on a prospectus they have no intention of following.

    English law having been refined and improved over the centuries is now subject to the inclusions of alien concepts such as ‘thoughtcrime’; furthermore, habeus corpus is under attack by those who like to lock people up without charge or to lock people up without bringing them to trial within a reasonable period or to give them bail when they are not remotely dangerous. English law does not define peoples ‘rights’, an absurdity, but merely proscribes those activities which materially infringe the rights of others, and further prescribes such penalties that are appropriate for such infringements, including the removal of rights.

    Parliament exists to make our laws; if it cedes such authority to other competences, then it no longer has a function. The English people should insist on their right to rule themselves and, if necessary, take condine measures against those who would cede that right to foreigners.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      Despite being refined over centuries English law continues to be abusive. For example habeas corpus was ignored for anyone accused of being a terrorist and they were held without charge until the ECHR ruled this illegal.

      English law also didn’t recognise the right to free speech and allowed libel claims to protect the egos of the wealthy until the ECHR forced Parliament to reform the law.

      It would be supreme arrogance, if not outright xenophobic, to assume that Parliament is always right because it is in the UK while the ECHR is always wrong because it is “foreign”.

      • Edward
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        Given there have been very few issues where Parliament has voted against the rulings of the ECHR, your last paragraph is not correct; especially when you say that we in the UK feel the ECHR is always wrong “because it is foreign”

  36. Paul
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Parliament must, indeed, once again vote for a blanket ban on any prisoners getting the vote. On the issue of votes for prisoners, I do not have a strong view either way. I believe there is a case for prisoners sentenced to less than a year to have the right to vote. Politicians who say the thought of prisoners having the right to vote makes them sick to their stomach need to remember that not everyone in prison is a psychopathic axe murderer. However, this should be debated and decided in our country, in our parliament, by our elected politicians as opposed to some unwanted, unelected and pointless European court which has no right whatsoever to impose this on nation states. My guess is that some MPs believe some prisoners should have the right to vote but are voting against to stand up for our sovereignty. Quite right. Pity they don’t go further and fight for an In/Out EU referendum.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      Parliament agreed to be bound by the judgements of the ECHR so it have every right to tell Parliament when the UK’s laws aren’t compatible with human rights.

  37. Bazman
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Could always have a riot instead of the vote. Or maybe a vote for a riot? Or a riot for a vote? Haven’t thought this one through have we? Usual hang em’ an flog em mentality they also applies to every other policy that everyone in the country is supposed to just accept. The ones putting forward the views, again detached for whatever usually financial or social reason. Ram it.

    • Edward
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:50 am | Permalink

      There is a huge majority against giving the vote for criminals in prison, both in Parliament and in the country, as found in various opinion polls.
      Even the Labour party is against it.
      Its not a right wing thing.

  38. Jon
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    I hope there is not a shift to the 6 month prison term. The EHCR on the one hand seem to say this is a human rights issue (rather than a civil rights issue). Then on the other are happy that it doesn’t apply to all prisoners? How can that be a human right if its not to apply to all?

    I think the future ramifications of this will be grotesque. If voting becomes a human right then would it later follow that the means by which to make an informed opinion to vote become a human right. That requires full media access and internet. Cost of living can be a vote issue so should a prisoner be allowed out in order to exercise their right to aquire an informed opinion.

    The answer has to be no largely because the link made by the ECHR to a human right.

  39. graham
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    I don’t really care much, one way or the other, but if the prospect of prison doesn’t deter criminal activities then I doubt not being able to vote will do much.

    However, having signed up to the wretched thing, how are we able to choose al la carte what we don’t want to follow? Are we allowed to opt out of the laws passed by our parliament, just because we don’t think they suit us? The things politicians get excited about never ceases to amaze. With all the problems of this country, that they should seize on this to spend time agonising over is ridiculous. The total prison population is less than 100,000, so is it really a big issue? Generally, I take the default view that if Cameron is in favour, it is probably wrong.

  40. uanime5
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Given that even Russia and Azerbaijan allow prisoners to vote I wonder how long it will be before human rights groups start campaigning for the UK to let prisoners vote. It will also make it harder for the UK to criticise countries that abuse human rights when the UK flagrantly breaches them as well.

    Fines from the ECHR will be the least of the UK’s worries because if the UK fails to uphold the ECHR ruling every prisoner will be able to sue the UK for human rights abuses; now that will be expensive. Time for the politicians to get off their high horses and admit that they were wrong. Human rights aren’t something you can ignore when they become inconvenient.

    In other news fracking isn’t a license to print money as most wells have their capacity reduce by 90% after 1 year.

  41. John Doran
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I agree this is now a fundamental constitutional question, who governs this country?
    As Denis Cooper so ably points out, no law has been passed approving the original Convention, our parliament is sovereign.

    A convict having offended our society deeply enough to lose his liberty, it is surely reasonable that he lose his right to guide our society through his vote. It seems to me both perverse & unreasonable to suggest that retaining his vote may be rehabilitative.

    Our forefathers have fought & died that we might retain our democratic voting system. Therefore I feel that this precious vote might more justly be seen as a hard won privilege than an automatic right.

    As part of this new law parliament will be voting on, may I suggest , to make this point, that convicts will lose their vote for twice their sentence, with the condition that they will regain their voting privilege only if they do not re-offend.

    Let us also keep this law as simple as possible. Our legal aid costs are, ludicrously, more than 4 times the EU average, I believe.

  42. Jerry
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    How about this for a slogan outside every police station, court house and prison;

    “Want the vote, don’t do the crime!”

  43. Rick Hamilton
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Never mind prisoners, what about the voting rights of expatriates?

    Having lived abroad for more than 25 years, representing British companies, I have been deprived of my vote in UK elections. Most other countries give postal votes to their expats. I wrote to Cameron to complain and after a suitably leisurely wait was informed by his minion that British citizens living abroad for more than 15 years are considered to have broken their links with the UK.

    Considering that I – and probably thousands of others – have a home, family and friends in the UK whom I visit as often as I am allowed by tax laws, and that I pay UK tax on my pension, how can I be considered to have broken my links with my home country?

    I asked Cameron why my human rights were of less importance to his government than those of axe murderers, but predictably received no reply to that point.

  44. David Langley
    Posted November 21, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Why not do just plain nothing. Do not give this the oxygen of publicity and just disallow prisoners the vote. Recent events appear to show that most of them would not be interested anyway and would probably spoil their vote.
    Any rebuke from the ECHR can be ignored and slung in the round filing tray. No cost no trouble, job done. Any moans from trouble stirrers can be ignored, same tray.
    There is of course a quid pro Quo to all this. MPs should make sure their leaders do what they promise in their election statements, should stop stealing expenses, and start to learn what being a member of the EU project really means. We need a new kind of politics where policies not MPs are important, and votes mean something, so perhaps its policies we should be voting for, not unknown and unremarkable individuals with their own bag of needs.
    By the way in wartime 24 hours a day is worked and individuals give their mental and physical all. Decisions are made and acted on in the best interests of all not a lobbying few. Mistakes are made and reputations built. We need a cabinet and a leader that can drive our country forward and not whine from a platform, platitudes and flashes of the “bleedin obvious”. Get on with it Cameron man.

  45. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted November 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Germany has state debt that is approximately 80% of GDP. It simply does not have the resources to bail out all of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy by making transfer payments, even if it wanted to. Even if the Netherlands, Finland etc chipped in, it still wouldn’t be enough.

    Eurobonds and the printing of additional Euros would lead to the Euro becoming a soft currency. German assets and remuneration would depreciate with no compensating advantage. Again, Germany would be the loser.

    Never forget the reason that Germany wants the UK in the Euro zone. It is that the EU would have a second paymaster, easing the burden on Germany.

    The IMF now believes that Greece is past the point of no return, that it has to default, and that European Member states must accept “haircuts” on what they are owed by Greece. Christine Lagarde is a Europhile who is trying to protect the IMF’s interests; she wants to avoid a “haircut” on the IMF’s loans to Greece. And Greece is only one of five.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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