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Daily View: Parliament votes against prisoners' votes

Clare Spencer | 09:54 UK time, Friday, 11 February 2011



Commentators discuss Parliament's rejection of the proposal to give prisoners the right to vote.

In the blog Political Betting David Herdson predicts the vote's result will be popular with the electorate:

"In the short term, asserting parliamentary rights against a foreign, unelected and unaccountable body will be a popular move, especially on an issue such as votes for prisoners. It's as close to sticking two fingers up at them as it tends to get. However, it's unlikely to be the last move in the saga."

But he goes on to warn it could lead to lots of court cases:

"The ECHR ruled back in 2005 that it is for the national legislature to determine whether franchise restrictions should apply to prisoners and if so, to what extent, that it couldn't find any evidence that it had considered the question (despite it being a clause in the 1983 RPA), but that it was unlawful to deny the vote to all imprisoned criminals as a blanket application. The Straw-Davis motion obviously addresses the point about parliament not having debated the matter but the main substance of the judgement still stands, presenting the government with a problem.
"If it now proposes legislation to comply with the ruling, there's a good chance it will fail given the vote yesterday. Alternatively, if it doesn't act, there's a strong probability that compensation cases will be brought on the basis of the ECHR ruling and be upheld by the Court."

In the Daily Mail Quentin Letts notes the absence of a lot of MPs:

"The House was not full. Labour, being pro-European, stayed away. During the debate its benches seldom held more than 15 bodies. The Lib Dems huddled like girls at a disco...
"Mr Grieve, whose sentences had more phrases than a tourist's language guide, argued that it would be 'tyrannical' if our Government broke its treaty obligations and thus ignored the rule of law.
"Would there not be a different sort of tyranny if a foreign court ignored the wish of our elected House of Parliament?"

Also in the Daily Mail Mary Ellen Synon, who writes the column Euro Septic, asks politicians to be consistent about Europe:

"All I can say to the Commons over this votes for prisoners dispute is: just shut up and pull the trigger and get out of the Council of Europe. Or admit you are too timid to pull the trigger, so shut up anyway and submit in the manner that suits men who are cowards."

Benedict Brogan says in the Telegraph Parliament has spoken so now David Cameron must act:

"The 234-22 vote is thumping, but also tells us that that roughly half the House - mainly Labour - abstained, which can hardly be presented as the Commons speaking with one voice. But it has spoken, and now it is over to Mr Cameron. Dominic Grieve spoke as a lawyer rather than a politician, and if it were up to him this vote would be ignored. But Mr Cameron has titillated his Euro-sceptic troops by urging them to rise up. As I said earlier today, he can hardly now sit back and do nothing. Labour are calling on him to make a statement. He has tried to exploit this confrontation and must now accept the consequences: the Government must say what it will do to withdraw Britain from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, and soon."

The Conservative MP Steve Baker's explains his reasons in his blog for voting against giving prisoners the right to vote:

"The debate was of a high standard and members who wish to give prisoners the vote were able to make a strong case. I did not agree: I believe that it is reasonable for a person to lose the right to vote along with their liberty on conviction. The motion was carried convincingly.
"I have repeatedly heard the argument that giving prisoners the vote should be part of a package of penal reform. I am all for penal reform, but I am not persuaded that it is necessary to give prisoners the vote in order to achieve a high quality of reform: there is much else to do if offenders are to be helped to make a positive contribution to society."

The Sun is also jubilant but says this is not the end of the issue:

"Thursday, February 10, 2011 was the day Britain's Parliament finally stood up to Europe over human rights madness...
"The vote settles nothing. There will be months of wrangling over what happens next, with threats of heavy fines if we do not cave in. "But Westminster has sent a clear signal to Europe's unelected dictators."

Links in full

Quentin Letts | Daily Mail | A gaseous smile and plenty of legal gibberish
Mary Ellen Synon | Daily Mail | Votes for prisoners: how David Cameron is hiding the truth about European power over 'human rights'
Benedict Brogan | Telegraph | Parliament has spoken. Now David Cameron must act
David Herdson | Political Betting | What are the implications of "votes for prisoners"?
Steve Baker's blog | Votes for prisoners - motion carried
Sun | Do Us Rights



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