Coffee House

David Cameron must rule out votes for prisoners at PMQs

24 October 2012

The issue of prisoner votes has turned into a question of trust between David Cameron and his backbenchers. Most Tory MPs well remember that the Prime Minister’s initial intention was to comply with the Strasbourg court’s ruling; he only changed his mind after seeing how strong feelings were on the issue on the Tory benches and in the country.

For this reason, Cameron needs to scotch all this talk of a draft bill on votes for at least some prisoners at PMQs today. If he doesn’t, he’ll have just as large a rebellion on his hands as he did last time. The issue will also drive a further wedge between Cameron and his backbenchers.

Dominic Grieve, the attorney general and a passionate believer in both the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, has—in his usual lawyerly fashion—been warning about the damage that will be done to the United Kingdom’s international reputation if this country doesn’t comply with the Court. But this is an issue of who governs Britain and Cameron would be well advised to show that, in this case, he does.

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • chevronix

    from the abhorrence of the concept, votes for prisoners would raise the
    question of where they would be registered: a number of large prisons
    could easily influence the outcome of a constituency (think Durham, with
    its 3 .. Frankland, Low Newton and Elvet .. total pop. about 2500,
    similar to the Labour majority there).

    Surely the best solution would be to designate a Prisons
    constituency, with its own MP. None of the major parties would want to
    be associated with it, therefore they wouldn’t put up candidates. The MP
    would be an independent irrelevance, whilst technically providing a
    voice for the population and placating the ECHR.

    • Fergus Pickering

      I gather most burglars are Tories but paedophiles are more likely to be Socialists…

  • Andy

    He should just tell the ECHR to f*** off. When the convention was written votes for prisoners was considered and it was pointed out, and the fact accepted, that in the UK others did not have a right to vote either, namely members of the House of Lords etc. What the ECHR has done is driven a coach and four through the law by interpreting the convention in a manner and way it was never intended by those who penned the bloody thing.

    And in a democracy like the UK only Parliament may change the law, not the ECHR nor other judges.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    Sack Grieve!

  • ToryOAP

    12.32 He just did.

  • @PhilKean1

    Dominic Grieve: “been warning about the damage that will be done to the United Kingdom’s international reputation if this country doesn’t comply with the Court”

    Really? Let’s examine that assertion.

    Damage to Britain’s ‘reputation’ – as seen by who?

    Russia, China, India, Zimbabwe? Hey, what about America, who – though they would NEVER allow the situation to happen – would regard being TOLD what to do by a foreign quango as an indignity and the height of embarrassment?

    And further on the USA: A country which has a judicial, penal, healthcare and benefits system that would NEVER be tolerated in the UK, let alone in the EU.

    Britain’s reputation? What unadulterated rubbish! I suspect that this man is pro-EU, and would use any bogus argument to push the British people in that direction.

    • telemachus

      But what when we criticise the torture regimes of the former Soviet Union
      Moral credibility has its points

      • james102

        When we start a system of gulags and work and starve huge numbers of political prisoners to death then we will have to be careful not to sound like hypocrites.

  • Chris

    Why? Apart from the fact that the wing of his party that can’t tell the difference between the ECHR and the EU want him to say no to anything that might have the word Europe in it there’s no reason whatsoever for a blanket ban.

    • james102

      In a democracy the reason would be the majority of the electorate agree with a blanket ban.
      This is the issue that needs to be confronted. Does a law that conflicts with the cultural values of the majority have democratic legitimacy? Closely followed by: what do we mean by democracy.
      This is why I think it should be put before parliament so we can see who votes which way on the issue.

      • Chris

        In a democracy one group of people aren’t allowed to decide that another group of people don’t get the vote. If they are then it isn’t a democracy.

        • james102

          Yes it is.
          Unless we behave like Iran and pass laws to Ayatollah-judges to see if they conform to some God given set of rules then if the majority decide a certain category can’t vote then they can’t vote.

        • Fergus Pickering

          But we do. We decide that children should not vote and we decide that mad people should not vote. Voting is a civil right, not a human right, and all civil rights CAN be withdrawn by a government under certain circumstances.

  • james102

    He could confront the issue by putting a Bill before parliament exempting any claims from prisoners under any treaty agreement and removing the power of our domestic courts to hear such claims.
    Labour and the LibDems could then support or oppose it as could identifiable Conservative MPs.

  • Holby18

    I disagree. Prisoners sentenced to short sentences (under 12 months)should be able to vote as long as they demonstrate that they were on the voting register prior to imprisonment. I would suggest that 90% of such prisoners have never registered to vote so we are talking about a couple of thousand people only. They are the type of prisoner who are not repeat offenders and have been incarcerated for one offence such as death by careless driving or fraud. They generally have been contributing to society and will continue to do so on release. I loathe demonising of wrongdoers – we are all human and we are allowed to make mistakes.

    • HooksLaw

      I believe its the ‘blanket ban’ the ECHR is objecting to

    • Flintshire Ian

      The offences of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving and Fraud both have victims – usually innocent of any wrongdoing. Being locked up for these offences isn’t any less serious than for any other offence. Maybe you would feel differently if a member of your family was killed on the roads by some prick overtaking on a bend?

      • Victim Culture

        Death by Dangerous Driving is different to Death by Careless Driving, you idiot, and both are treated subjectively by the justice system according to the circumstances and in an environment where pedestrians and cyclists are being automatically treated as innocent victims regardless of whether their own carelessness contributed to their deaths. Maybe you would feel differently if you were banged up after an ACCIDENT because some authoritarian prick in the police considered you had acted carelessly. Unfortunately for Holby18 we are increasingly NOT allowed to make mistakes without the urge to throw everyone in prison taking precedence over common sense.

  • Swiss Bob

    Cameron will do what he’s told by the EU, or rather the Govt will.

    If he must do anything I can think of a few things that would come before ‘prisoner votes’!

    • HooksLaw

      The EU – is not this the European Court of justice which the UK set up after the war?
      Do you know what day of the week it is?

      • james102

        Zac Goldsmith is reported as saying:
        “It’s no longer a Q of whether prisoners should vote. It’s a Q of whether or not the UK Parliament still has the authority to make decisions.”
        And that is the issue.

      • Just Bob

        Look up Maxwell Fyffe, one of the originators of all this human rights garbage and then come back and say, “Yes, this is exactly what Max would have intended.” .

        I’ll give you a starter for 10 – he considered homosexuality an abomination and would never have countenanced making it legal.

        • Fergus Pickering

          And your point is what exactly? Who the hell cares what Maxwell Fyfe thought. Might as well go to Judge Jeffreys, a much more learned man.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here