Tim Aker blogs that Ken Clarke should be sacked as Justice Secretary and that we should ignore the demands of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to allow prisoners the right to vote. Searching the blogosphere brings to light other postings on the subject of prisoner votes: Benedict Brogan in the Daily Telegraph; Stephen Glover in the Mail; Dominic Raab with a comment piece in the Daily Telegraph; and a short article from Associated Press.
The ECHR may not have the power to enforce its own judgements, likewise to impose payment of any fine levied - however it is worth remembering one or two factors. The European Union (EU) states:
"Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are core values of the European Union. Embedded in its founding treaty, they have been reinforced by the adoption of a Charter of Fundamental Rights. Countries seeking to join the EU must respect human rights. So must countries which have concluded trade and other agreements with it. The European Union sees human rights as universal and indivisible......."
The EU, in the Treaty of Lisbon, asserts that it is founded on the values of, amongst others, respect for human rights. It is also the case that Member States must respect human rights, as stated above. In which case, if this is so, then there has to be a court that decides on any infringement of human rights, which sort of presents a conundrum for the EU and Member States regarding acceptance of ECHR rulings.
Anyway, leaving that to one side, let us look at the reasons behind this latest example of political assertion - what Benedict Brogan refers to as an important question, namely who rules. Whilst on the subject of who rules, let us consider Raab who ends his comment piece thus:
"And finally, on the issue of who is in charge, this backbench-initiated debate – a mechanism put in place by the Coalition to give ordinary MPs a greater say – will strengthen Parliament as a check against the executive. If MPs can use this procedure to influence Government policy, then Britain’s elected lawmakers will have acquired some real clout."
If backbench-initiated debate is a procedure that can be used to influence Government policy, why cannot it be used to initiate a debate on something that really matters like a referendum on EU membership for the British people? The right to legislate on votes for prisoners is but part of the right of this country to decide its own laws, which is what a referendum on EU membership is so one has to ask Raab what is the difference? Of course Raab is not really interested in giving the people a say on anything as witnessed by the fact he voted against Peter Bone's amendment just two days ago.
It is also worth suggesting that Cameron's decision to release his MPs from the stricture imposed by him of supporting the Government in any vote is no more than an attempt to bolster his standing with the public in the hope they may be fooled into thinking it an example of his "Eurosceptism". It is also worth noting that Cameron is quoted as saying the thought of prisoners having the right to vote made him "physically ill". Why only the right of prisoners to vote? Why not, for example, the right of people who continue to live off the state on the pretext that to be sent home would place them in danger? Whilst Cameron and Raab are guilty of political chicanery, so too is one of the other co-sponsors of the prisoner-vote debate, namely Jack Straw. Who was it that incorporated the Human Rights Act into British law in 1998? None other than the Home Secretary at that time; that same Jack Straw.
Stephen Glover writes that:
Err, the first occasion? Note also that it is a case of MPs standing up for their rights against Europe - which is all they seem interested in, namely their rights. What about the people's rights against Europe?"If the rebels win next week’s vote, as seems certain, it will be the first occasion in modern times that MPs have stood up for their rights against Europe in any shape or form."
Those who consider themselves to be the elite amongst the political detritus that inhabits Westminster, as with the detritus, truly do have neither honour nor principle.