Wednesday 23 May 2012

Strasbourg Flips the Bird

I flip the bird right back!  

Is the lottery a disappointment to you?  You’ve played for an age, for years, perhaps, and those big bucks are always just beyond your reach.  Ah, but, you see, luck is such a fickle and elusive thing.  Rather than waste your money on its uncertain embrace you might very well be on to a surer bet if you have yourself sent to prison, there to demand the right to vote. 

I know; it’s only a 50-50 chance; a chance that you may end up with a right that you don’t really want, a chance to send powerless placemen to our powerless Parliament.  But, there again, there is always the possibility that the worm will turn; that David Cameron will reject the latest diktat from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and, in accordance with the will of Parliament, refuse to extend the franchise to jail birds.  In that case millions and millions in compensation is in the offing!

Yesterday the ECHR confirmed its earlier ruling that it was a breach of the human rights of paedophiles, arsonists, rapists, murderers and other criminals to deny them the right to vote, this in the face of an overwhelming vote by MPs last year to maintain the 140-year ban. 

Once again this alien court has challenged the sovereignty of Parliament, the sovereignty of this nation. It raises all sorts of issues over the nature of democracy itself, when a decision made by our elected representatives can be dismissed in such a cavalier fashion by unelected judges. 

Ah, cavalier; now there’s word, recalling past battles over parliamentary sovereignty. Charles I once entered the chamber of the House of Commons, a breach of all established protocol, in an attempt to arrest some of his most trenchant critics.  But all his birds, as he observed at the time, had flown.  Now this rabble of Strasburg judges has, in a similar sense, shown their contempt for Parliament, entering the chamber metaphorically speaking, only to give the honourable members the bird. 

In remarking on the latest development, Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, once a member of our benighted coalition’s own human rights commission, said that 'The principal issue is not whether prisoners are allowed to vote but whether the rules are set by a directly elected parliament or a group of European judges.”

David Cameron once said that the very idea of prisoners voting made him ‘physically ill.’  Yes, that’s fine; there are a lot of things that seem to upset the poor man’s constitution, the usual remedy for which is a liberal dose of words and no action.  The Tory back benchers, Cavaliers ironically following the path of the Roundheads in 1642, have made it clear that they will not give up the fight. 

But Cameron is no John Hampden, no John Pym and certainly no Oliver Cromwell.   I don’t even think he is in the mould of Prince Rupert.  Rather, in his present state of Babylonian Coalition captivity, he reminds me of nothing more than a damsel in distress, waving forlornly from the top of the Tower.  Priti Patel, a Tory backbencher, said: “The public will be demanding that the Prime Minister now stands up for British interests and refuses to give convicted prisoners the right to vote.”  Well they might demand but I rather think the poor dear may very well end up drowning, not waving.

Yes, the whole thing appears risible and the temptation is to dismiss the ECHR with amused contempt.  But it's worth stressing the constitutional seriousness of the whole thing, worth stressing the ignorance of these absurd judges, their ignorance of our history, our traditions and our institutions.  Their challenge to parliamentary sovereignty is serious enough to warrant a new Grand Remonstrance.  Charles I was not a quarter so tyrannical or stupid.

In the meantime franchise lottery tickets are selling well, with some 2500 inmates having already lodged claims.  It’s a reasonably safe bet.  I rather think Cameron hath no stomach to this fight.  Let him depart. His passport shall be made, and crowns for convoy put into his purse …and he can take Clegg, Cable, gay marriage, House of Lords reform, windmills and all the rest of the fashionable nonsense with him.  Maybe then we will get a genuine Conservative Prime Minister and not this supine heir to Blair and poodle to Clegg.  


  1. Ana while Cameron utters his latest tired demotic cliche, we are encouraged to celebrate the rise of the Eminence grise. This insipid vacillating pandering catamite of a prime minister is a self caricature. He is not a Conservative prime minister, not even a statesman, but a sick little joke in the footnote of history. He is only capable of running one thing: his mouth in all the wrong places, while he runs the country into the ground, and realises his position as Obama's lap dog.

    1. Oh, Richard, what expectations I had; what a let down he is.

  2. Off with their heads, problem solved!

  3. However annoying it might be to be dictated to by the ECHR, Westminster did, at some point, agree to abide by its rulings. Those responsible for this folly should, of course, be convicted of treason and locked up for life. But is there really any good reason why mere murderers, thieves, and lunatics should not be able to select the murderers, thieves, and lunatics who will ignore their interests and wishes at Westminster? Why should they escape their fair share of culpability, simply because they are living off the proceeds of tax-banditry like public servants? No. Not only should convicts be allowed to vote, they should be forced to watch parliamentary debates and party political broadcasts.

    1. And endless repeats of the Andrew Marr show!

  4. What has Europe ever done for the UK? It ought to be a rhetorical question, but generation after generation of UK politicians has conceded more and more authority to the centre of that absurd institution, the EU.

    The "slippery slope" is a standard fallacy of logical argument, but in the case of the EU, the slippery slope is real, and the UK is already doing a passable imitation of a toboggan.

  5. We voted to go in, we voted to stay in, and we whine about everything that goes on: in.
    How strange.
    Yet, the EU was always about political union and central control.
    Mr Cameron, as with all the political "leaders", is firmly under the EU thumb.
    Even the leader of UKIP is dependent upon the EU for his daily bread (and whine).
    The best we can hope for is economic Armageddon within the EU, leading to its death. But even then I just know it will live-on, as a shining beacon leading ships of state onto the rocks.

  6. John, I'm twenty-five years old; I will be twenty-six this summer. I have never had a vote on the EU, even though it has an impact on so many areas of my life. Mother and Father did when they were students. That was in 1975. Then they voted yes; now they would vote no. I agree with you; they were deceived; the people of this country in general were deceived. Things cannot go on like this.

  7. Ana, after seeing your response, it occurred to me that we in Virginia once had a similar problem. In the June of 1788, our legislature narrowly voted (89 to 79) to join the USA. In the May of 1861, our legislature voted (88 to 55) to "unjoin" the USA. The NEXT day the US Army occupied Northern Virginia, and within 3 days the US Navy blockaded our coast (have you EVER heard of a national military that moved this fast?). Over the next four years our farms, towns, and cities were looted and burned. When our men and boys opposed this, they were shot and/or killed (on a more personal note - in my father's family, 4 of the 5 boys died (during a single battle) defending our city - later all of their land was taken. Their mother died in the rented basement of what had been HER mansion).

    Virginia felt that being a member of the [American] Union was no longer beneficial, as the heavily populated (w/recent immigrants) Northern states voted for tariffs (call them sales taxes) that disproportionately benefited the North at the expense of the South. Let's hope that if the UK decides that being a member of the [European] Union is no longer beneficial, that it won't be destroyed as we were.

    1. CB, yes I know what a terrible tragedy Virginia suffered in what some of my Southern friends are pleased to call the War of Northern Aggression. My romantic sensibilities have always led me to identify with the Confederate cause at a level going well beyond the vexed question of slavery.

      So far as the EU is concerned I would be delighted if my country took on the role of South Carolina, the devil take the consequences!