The prisoner voting issue is threatening to bring the whole issue of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights to a head. It is almost impossible to see how the Strasbourg court can be satisfied without the ending of the ban on all prisoners voting, while it is hard to see parliament ever agreeing to that. Cabinet Ministers concede that the government’s current efforts are about buying time more than anything else. (For more on the legal questions that arise from this matter, see David’s post on the subject.)
Leaving the jurisdiction of the Court is fast becoming the mainstream position in the Tory party. In an interview with The Spectator this week, Nick Herbert—the former Home Office and Justice minister—warns that the current Tory position of remaining under the court’s jurisdiction but with a British Bill of Rights will change little as there’ll still be the individual right of appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Instead, he wants to leave the jurisdiction of the Court. As he puts it—not unreasonably, ‘We’ve created a Supreme Court in this country, why can’t it be supreme?’
There is, though, a human roadblock to this reform: Dominic Grieve. The Attorney General is a passionate defender of the Strasbourg Court and as long as David Cameron keeps him in place it is hard to believe that the Tory party really is preparing to be radical about this.