Thursday, February 10, 2011

‘Votes for prisoners’ is about our liberty, not their human rights

When the Archbishop of Canterbury waded into this euro-muddle yesterday, coming down decidedly on the side of the axe-murderer-manslaughterer John Hirst and the Lord High Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, there was a breath of despair brooding over His Grace’s ashes.

He is all in favour of clerics pontificating on matters of politics in exactly the same fashion as he exhorts politicians to mouth on matters of morality. But why, O why are bishops and archbishops so pathologically inclined to the left and congenitally disposed to believe that all that comes out of Strasbourg is divine writ?

His Grace wrote on the question of votes for prisoners last year, and he hasn’t changed his mind one jot or tittle.

The European Court of Human Rights (not an EU body) ruled back in 2004 that the blanket prohibition of prisoner voting was discriminatory and breached the European Convention on Human Rights. Labour kicked this issue well and truly into the long grass, and the Coalition has simply inherited the inevitable. The issue now is whether the Government will comply with the ruling, or face compensation claims of tens of millions of pounds from prisoners whose human rights have been infringed (according to the ECHR).

As His Grace said months ago, it is not a breach of a prisoner’s human rights to be denied the vote because to vote is not a human right. If it were, babies would be given a ballot paper at the breast, and schoolchildren would not be deprived of their inviolable pursuit of democracy. Voting is an entitlement of privilege granted to members of a democratic society which forms part of a social contract. When that contract is broken, as it undoubtedly is by the law-breaker, it is not unreasonable for the entitlement to be removed.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was supported by the Rt Rev Dr Peter Selby, the former bishop of HM Prisons, who said: "Denying convicted prisoners the right to vote serves no purpose of deterrence or reform ... It is making someone an 'outlaw', and as such has no place in expressing a civilised attitude towards those in prison."

This is bizarre. It is a little like saying that depriving someone of communion makes them a heretic, when the heresy manifestly precedes the excommunication; indeed, it is causal.

But this is not about votes for prisoners; it is about ‘Who governs Britain?’. It is about our democracy, or traditions and our liberty.

If, as is widely reported, the mere thought of enfranchising convicts makes the Prime Minister ‘physically sick’, then his nausea must be abated.

It was a sovereign Parliament which placed in the Statute Book the Forfeiture Act of 1870, which was debated by a sovereign House of Commons and a sovereign House of Lords and granted Royal Assent by no less a sovereign than Queen Victoria. This Bill was itself based on the traditional English 14th-century understanding of the concept of ‘civic death’, and has been sustained right up to the sovereign Representation of the People Act 1983.

It is not for a bunch of unelected and ill-qualified judges civil servants in Strasbourg to dictate to Parliament and a nauseous Prime Minister what they must do.

As odious as the ‘jailhouse lawyer’ John Hirst may be (and that ‘may’ is not an expression of vague possibility, but an assertion of an undoubted depravity), he is only playing the game enjoined by all lawyers on behalf of their criminal clients: to milk the state and impoverish the public purse to line their own pockets. If there be no means of achieving that within the British judicial system, they are compelled to pursue their grievance to a higher court - all, of course, at the cost of the taxpayer through legal aid.

And that higher court is not the ‘Supreme Court’, which is manifestly not supreme, but the European Court, which has been getting ever more supreme at the same time as the nations of Europe have been getting ever closer.

In British tradition, voting is an entitlement of the law-abiding, not a right of the lawless. To convert our entitlements into rights dispenses with the need for a social contract, for our rights become inviolable while the concept of duty and responsibility is negated, the rule of law is undermined and justice perverted. Parliament has been subsumed to alien powers; the Queen has been usurped by foreign princes and potentates; and our politicians have been emasculated by unconfined judges. That is the issue before Parliament today: are we free to determine our laws and live in accordance with our customs and traditions and rights which go back to Magna Carta and include the Bill of Rights 1689 which declares the supremacy of Parliament over all courts? Or are we now unavoidably and irrevocably subject to a deficient court with designs on European domination through judicial activism?

The Attorney General Dominic Grieve has previously said it would be ‘ludicrous’ to give prisoners the right to vote.

Today he will not oppose the Convention, for he holds that it is not at fault. Along with Kenneth Clarke, Mr Grieve is one of the Conservative Party’s foremost proponents of the ECHR. The fault, he avers, is in the interpretation.

But unless he offers today a mechanism by which the Convention may be interpreted in accordance with a British understanding of jurisprudence – that is, a mechanism by which the UK’s Supreme Court may override the European Court of Human Rights – he will be seen to be standing in support of the loathsome John Hirst. This is not an issue upon which one may remain neutral: there is no via media. If the Attorney is not against it, he is for it.

Parliament must be the final arbiter of our laws. It is time to revisit the Human Rights Act 1998 and the UK’s adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights, irrespective of whatever pussyfooting occurs today in Parliament. In the (highly) unlikely event that the UK is suspended or expelled from the Council of Europe (and so the EU) as a result, so be it.

Of course, that will not happen. Like the Prime Minister, His Grace is nauseous. But his nausea results from being marched to the top of the hill (again), only to be marched all the way down (again).

It is one thing to have a Supreme Court that isn’t supreme and a democracy that isn’t democratic. But it will not be for much longer that people will put up with a Conservative Party that isn’t conservative.


Anonymous Elmo said...

Is the Conservative Party not conservative? Maybe that's why some of us on the Left find themselves agreeing with lots of what they are doing...

10 February 2011 at 10:32  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

Cranmer said

Parliament must be the final arbiter of our laws.

YES I agree 100%

10 February 2011 at 10:48  
Blogger Tom said...

Or as it was once put: "The bishop of Rome has no jurisdiction in this realm of England"

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose!

10 February 2011 at 11:00  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

Just imagine, despite being physically sick, Cameron and Co. gave the European Court of Human Rights the Glasgow Kiss – then we could all stop singing ‘No more heroes anymore…’

10 February 2011 at 11:04  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

I have to say I find the whole thing quite exciting.

10 February 2011 at 11:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

His Grace is correct.

One tries-one REALLY tries-to construct a logical,eloquent argument in support.
One realises,however, that a simple truism is sometimes wholly adequate.
And that truism is :
Most problems we face are caused by left-wing morons.

Marcus Foxall

10 February 2011 at 11:35  
Blogger English Pensioner said...

"But why, O why are bishops and archbishops so pathologically inclined to the left and congenitally disposed to believe that all that comes out of Strasbourg is divine writ?"
Its a throw back to the days when they listened to Rome! They don't do that any longer, but Strasbourg is a suitable compromise.
They don't understand that the objections to Strasbourg are in many ways similar to the objections to Rome at the time of the Reformation. Perhaps it is time for a New Reformation.

10 February 2011 at 12:29  
Blogger Span Ows said...

D. Singh, now that would be a sight worth seeing!...

10 February 2011 at 12:52  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

Sounds like the debate in Parliament is going well anyway. It's annoying really that the Court appears to have over-stepped the mark and caused this.

The Council of Europe and the Convention are important things to promote democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental human rights.

If we refuse to recognise the jurisdiction of the Court then we need to have some other means of encouraging adherence to the Convention.

Perhaps we already have that, I don't know. The Council is an inter-governmental body and I suppose trade, investment, treaties and the like are influenced by one's reputation there.

10 February 2011 at 13:42  
Blogger English Viking said...

Your Grace,

(I'm trying to be well mannered and respectful)

What is it that you think the Conservatives are trying to conserve?

They have not, in my opinion, been conservative for over 40 years. The last time a Tory tried to conserve the UK, he was buried under ' a chorus of execration'.

BTW The reason that the ABC is pathologically left-leaning is because he is a Druid and not a Christian.

10 February 2011 at 14:15  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

… and our politicians have been emasculated by unconfined judges.

The politicians have emasculated themselves and, by doing so, they have emasculated Parliament and democracy itself. The process began with the traitor Heath and it continues to this day.

Even if we left, or were expelled from, the ECHR we would not escape its clutches because the European Union plans to accede to the ECHR in its own right, as Open Europe explains:

❛EU accession to the Convention would therefore mean that, if the UK were to withdraw from the Convention, it would still be bound by the Convention in cases falling under EU law and jurisdiction. The huge number of areas now falling under the powers of the EU makes this a significant caveat and prisoners’ voting rights is an example of how these issues could cause conflict in the future.❜

10 February 2011 at 14:16  
Anonymous JayBee said...

The right to vote should be linked to good citizenship. Convicts should be denied the right to vote while serving custodial sentences. But there are surely other instances where the right to vote needs to be examined.

Now that state multiculturalism has officially failed perhaps it is time to address those groups that have no intention of adopting British core values, are deliberately undermining British social cohesion and threatening British democracy by authoritarian religio-politics and a draconian legal system. Why should these fifth columnists who are committed to building exclusivist communities and an ever larger state within the State be allowed to vote and ultimately subjugate our nation through the ballot box?

Once again its about our liberty not their human rights. Voting is a privilege based on belonging, contribution and good citizenship. Surely those who will not integrate into the nation should not be allowed to shape the nation?

10 February 2011 at 14:27  
Anonymous Mike Spilligan said...

Wonderfully well reasoned, YG. There should be no dispute to this by anyone with any integrity.

10 February 2011 at 14:57  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

If this was about severeignty I would agree, only you are still happy to be subserviant to the EU.

I believe political prisoners like Simon Sheppard and Steve Whittle should have their liberty, never mind a vote.

Lock the treasonous politicians up who criminalise the truth.

10 February 2011 at 16:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cuckoo behaviour: the brazen cuckoo steals the nest ("values of compassion commended by Scriptures"), throws out the true chicks ("righteous, obedient") and lays its own hugely inflated eggs ("human rights legislation taken to extremes"). Nevertheless, it is quite clear to all other birds that it is a lazy, brazen, imposter (albeit with a moody, plausible, but repetitive call) which has no idea how to build a basic nest e.g. cannot survive, breed or function without the hard work,self-discipline and viable relationships of other "less advanced" birds.

10 February 2011 at 16:14  
Anonymous graham wood said...

Your heading sums up the position. "

‘Votes for prisoners’ is about our liberty, not their human rights"

Exactly so, and perhaps it is as well that the question of "Who governs Britain"? should come to a head in this way.
It is about our liberty, and it will be interesting to see later today whether MPs have discerned the essential issue and the challenge to the historic right of a British Parliament ALONE, to make our law.
Of course that right has been surrendered already to the EU, but notwithstanding this is an important test case which will have huge political repercussions.
I cannot think that Cameron has backbone enough to do the right thing and vote the proposal out of sight.
Mary Ellen-Synon in the Mail on line has also written a superb piece on this.
Congratulations on a very good and perceptive comment Cranmer

10 February 2011 at 16:49  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

The Beeb has a link on this:

"Human rights lawyers say it would be unprecedented for the UK to withdraw from an international convention having once agreed to it. There would be implications for the standing of the country. After all, we remind other nations of their human rights obligations."

One of the comments underneath also talked about the Lisbon Treaty and some effect that has all this and our membership of the EU. I need to look into that a bit more I think. I confess I love knotty legal and constitutional problems like this.

10 February 2011 at 17:30  
Anonymous Gerard Tibercross said...

Your Grace

The European Court for Human Rights has simply pointed to the illogicality and randomness of the current system. It has not said we cannot restrict the voting rights of criminals - just that we need to think about how we do it.

Currently somebody serving a very short sentence can be deprived of a vote in a general election and a local election, while somebody sentenced to a much longer term - 4 years say - might slot in conveniently between elections. And what about those fruadsters who so often escape the immediate custodial altogether. What about suspended sentences? Why should the restriction on voting rights simply refelect the length of the custodial term. Those former MPs currently serving, or about to start, custodial sentences for expenses fraud will be entitled to vote in the next general election.

That makes me a lot more sick than the prospect of some witless ned being able to vote despite the fact his 2 months happens include an election date.

10 February 2011 at 18:45  
Anonymous Gerard Tibercross said...

That said, I am less than convinced the court was acting within its competence/jurisdiction/powers. It is a highly technical argument, but nevertheless extremely important. In the USA the extent of federal powre is debated in the courts routinely, and the EU courts have to establish jurisdiction before considering a point. It seems the Strasbourg court is not in the same habit.

10 February 2011 at 18:51  
Anonymous len said...

Human Rights are the Humanistic Societies 'moral code'which endeavours to replace the Ten Commandments with the Humanist version.
The first assumption of this(Human Rights) theory is seriously flawed,it assumes that man is basically 'good'even though all the evidence points otherwise.
And from this first error all the other errors flow.
It is a pack of cards which the gentlest of pushes will see the whole thing collapse.

10 February 2011 at 19:50  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"It assumes that man is basically 'good'even though all the evidence points otherwise."


10 February 2011 at 20:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if they "win" damages - send them a bill for their accommodation - after all if someone that is released on appeal can have their damages reduced to account for their costs of detention don;t see an obvious objection to sending existing prisiners bill if htey come into some monry

10 February 2011 at 21:16  
Anonymous bluedog said...

Excellent commentary, Your Grace. Sadly the EU, the Council of Europe and ECHR continue to undermine the British values and way of life that Dave is so keen to protect.

When will the penny drop?

When will a majority of the parliamentary Conservative Party demand exit from the EU and all its works?

10 February 2011 at 22:12  
Anonymous Petronius said...

I agree with you, Len. Basically, there is no such thing as "human rights" (at least, not in the sense in which that phrase is commonly understood and applied today). A "right" traditionally means "a privilege, granted to a person by a higher authority, in reward for, and/or recognition of the performance of a duty". It does NOT mean, and has never been intended to be interpreted as "something that everyone automatically possesses merely by virtue of their existence, and which no-one can deprive you of".

At the end of the day, there is Right and there is Wrong, and that is the only concept that the law ever needs to address. Instead of declaring, for example "You have a 'human right' not to be tortured" (and once you think about it, what a meaningless, ineffectual statement that is, without effective law enforcement in the first place), the only thing the Law ever needs to state is "It is Wrong to torture a person, and the punishment for doing so is such-and-such".
Now, to the casual observer, these above two sentences might appear to be saying exactly the same thing in practise, but they are worlds apart in theory. The false concept of "human rights" seeks to put mankind 'in the right' from first principles. (This is precisely the story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden: "You don't need a 'god' as an authority; you can be your own source of 'righteousness' "). It's the old lie, re-interpreted for the modern age. And our whole society seems to have fallen for it: Every legal and moral debate these days, seems to be argued from within the false framework of 'rights', rather than the simple notion of 'Right versus Wrong'.
This fundamental fallacy needs to be attacked and discredited right to its very core.

10 February 2011 at 23:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DanJo said 10 February 2011 20:06


"It assumes that man is basically 'good'even though all the evidence points otherwise."

Crikey, Len's right!

A Friend of Dorothy's

11 February 2011 at 00:51  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

Petronius: "At the end of the day, there is Right and there is Wrong, and that is the only concept that the law ever needs to address."

The beauty of the concept of universal and fundamental human rights is that they are framed as ethics. As such, people can subscribe to them and promote them whatever moral framework they hold. In a diverse world, that's really important.

11 February 2011 at 06:19  
Anonymous len said...

Nice to see that you are in agreement( in principle) with parts of Gods Moral Law.
We Christians call it the conscience, wired into the human condition( although many seem to override it or pretend that they cannot hear the small still voice which tries to guide them).If you disregard the conscience long enough you can with some effort totally silence it!.
The attempt by many in our Humanist Society today is total denial of the Conscience and the replacement of it with 'reason'with which man picks and chooses what he considers'good' and rejects what he considers to be opposed to His fallen nature.

The trouble with this man made morality is that it is open to interpretation and whoever can put the most pressure on this system will be able to shape and conform it to their own ends!

11 February 2011 at 08:11  
Blogger Revd John P Richardson said...

You gotta love bishops: "Denying convicted prisoners the right to vote ... is making someone an 'outlaw'". And there was me thinking it was committing a crime that did that.

As to the main issue, why do we think we need a European Court to keep as honest, and why do we think a court of 'Europeans' will be more honest than we could manage ourselves?

The buck must stop somewhere. It might as well stop here, unless we have a fabulously low opinion of ourselves.

11 February 2011 at 08:30  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

Len, I think you are mixing up conscience and moral intuition with moral reasoning. For me, they're separate things.

As an atheist, I have a conscience just like you and I have no intention of trying to silence it. Afterall, it's part of my being human and it is very useful too.

I use my moral intuition to react to things in the moment. My moral reasoning is used to create my personal ethics, to validate society ethics, and to argue for outcomes in new situations based on shared moral principles.

I have no fallen nature and I reject what I see is the hideous and depressing philiosophy you appear to hold. We are simply what we are. You can keep your guilt ridden distortions of that, I am not interested in adopting it. In truth, I find it creepy and it disgusts me.

The simple fact that you view atheists and humanists the way you do shows just how inadequate your interpretation of your religion is and how poorly you actually see the world.

We are self-aware moral agents working through real life situations just like you, and just as interested in having strong, reliable ethics which we can apply to our lives.

11 February 2011 at 08:59  
Anonymous Englishman said...

There is a lot of talk of this "social contract",though i do not recall ever having signed one,and in essence this is to put the administration on a par with the people,which can not be,since the people are soverign,we did not inhabit a land the was already occupied by an administration,who gave us leave to reside here,any administration is a product of the people,never an equal,it exists to manage the affairs of the people,nothing more,and especially not to introduce three and a half thousand new laws to persecute us with,or to sell us lock stock and barrel to a foreign cabal of vicious criminals,whos ony agenda is to eradicate the English people,and replace them with illiterates from the boonies,whos respect for democracy comes somewhere between raping our women and beheading those they regard as offensive,it is time for civil war 2 to reclaim our rights to OUR future,and propell this commie garbage back to the abyss from whence it crawled.

11 February 2011 at 09:29  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

Despite the vote yesterday this is not a time for celebration.

The next convict will merely lodge a case with the Court of Justice of the European Union under the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights which became legally binding on the 1 December 2009 on this State.

Every prisoner must be thinking there is more than one way to skin the British demos.

The Charter clearly indicates that insofar as the rights correspond to rights in the European Convention on Human Rights the meaning and scope of those rights shall be the same.

In other words even if Parliament gave the European Convention on Human Rights the Glasgow Kiss the imperial power of the EU will step into the ring.

Once more we must stand shoulder to shoulder against the Continental system:

‘We must recollect … what it is we have at stake, what it is we have to contend for. It is for our property, it is for our liberty, it is for our independence, nay, for our very existence as a nation; it is for our character, it is for our very name as Englishmen, it is for everything dear and valuable to man on this side of the grave.’

On the rupture of the Peace of Amiens and the resumption of war with Napoleon, in Speeches of the Rt. Hon. William Pitt (1806) vol. 4, p. 262 (22 July 1803)

Let there be no mistake and mark this well; the time will soon come when every Englishman must pace to and fro before his log fire and ask the question: What is my duty?

The duty of every Englishman since time immemorial is a duty to our ancestors, to those who are living and to those who are yet to be born:

To resist tyranny.

11 February 2011 at 09:33  
Anonymous non mouse said...

Mr. Englishman @09.29 - I like that sentence; and I agree with every word in it.

Mr. Singh -- Hear, Hear. (I was going to say Bravissimo, but that's too euro.)

The way is, right clear, ahead of us; and in full view of the irony by which etymology produces .. 'right' = 'straight.'

11 February 2011 at 15:26  
Anonymous len said...

Not at all surprised (again)that you disagree with me.My whole point in posting is not a desire be in agreement with the secular World.The World I belong to is a total antithesis of this World and its opinions!.We shall never be in agreement.
If you find the truth'creepy'well that your problem not mine.I think the word you were looking for is perhaps'disturbing or maybe'unsettling?

Is we are as you say'self aware moral agents' why is there so much crime, white collar and blue collar, detected and undetected.Why so many Wars,corrupt Governments,starving children, etc,etc.Perhaps you should take a closer look at humanity without your 'rose coloured'spectacles?

Your assumptions are false, naive,and with no understanding at all of the human condition.I assume you are very young.

11 February 2011 at 18:34  
Anonymous non mouse said...

O yes, Len (@ 18:34); I think the boy is young. Or, at least, he's indicated that he's not very old: As it happens, I took a Sociology A Level at nightschool some years ago for interest, having had a science background, and the teacher was a very vocal Marxist who studied at the LSE. [[Wednesday's strand, 11/2 @ 06,58]]

One indication of immature thinking is failure to recognise parallels, or connect dots - in this case between the writer's own indoctrination and that of those who presume to lead and teach us all.

Having 'read' simplistic metawriting about marxism then, he believes what it says; and he thinks that's all there is to it. That is a sign of today's young - they hadn't the benefit of teachers who required them to 'inwardly digest,' rather than parrot the message. In fact, he betrays another case in point - he thinks that there's only one form of marxist criticism. Oh my. And he deems himself cynical.

Dear God. That wouldn't be because the marxists have all but banished every other form. Would it?

In short - I admire the patience and understanding with which you and others here respond to this child's demands! If he were interested in answers, of course, he could research His Grace's blog. That way he'd find them for himself; and he'd value the results all the more because he'd worked to acquire them.

11 February 2011 at 19:29  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

Gents, I've been on forums and the like long enough to recognise attempts to patronise and join forces for what they are.

11 February 2011 at 20:11  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

Len: "Is we are as you say'self aware moral agents' why is there so much crime, white collar and blue collar, detected and undetected."

That's really not what 'self-aware moral agent' means. It's not even close. But nevermind.

When I say I am optimistic, I am not saying that I think we are perfect moral beings. We are a gregarious species but we are individuals too. That tension in nature inevitably has consequences.

I don't think we are inevitably heading to a moral utopia but neither do I think we're doomed to become 'evil' without Christianity to 'save' us. I am happy for Christians to hold their beliefs but I'll be damned (no pun intended) if I let them try to control our lives again.

As for wars, crimes, and so on, in what way were England and the other countries in historic Christendom moral utopias? In what way were they paragons of social justice? In what way were they New Jerusalems huh?

The intra-Christian wars, systematic murder by the Catholic Church, autocrats masquerading as Princes in the church, and so on; all the products of Christianity when it had temporal power.

11 February 2011 at 20:36  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

^ By the way, that's an argument about the effectiveness of Christianity as a moral compass. I realise that one might argue that it's a consequence of mankind's so-called fallen nature.

11 February 2011 at 21:58  
Anonymous len said...

Danjo, Fact1, Christianity(do not confuse that with religion which you appear to be doing)is not responsible for even one war)in fact Christians throughout History are the persecuted not the persecutors!I might add that one of the greatest persecutors of Christians is the 'church'.

Christianity in the form preached by Jesus has no intentions of controlling your life.In fact if you study the life of Jesus He appears to be putting people off!
Jesus tells them there is a price to pay for being a Christian and not to consider being a Christian unless they are willing to pay it!
Jesus present Truth and facts, what you do with them is entirely up too you.
I will not try to 'forcibly convert you 'as in other religions just present you with the facts.

12 February 2011 at 08:33  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"Christianity in the form preached by Jesus has no intentions of controlling your life."

Good. Then we can have secular law in the UK, justified in a rational way and non-religious way, under which Islam, Christianity and other religions can exist and co-exist. Please tell your fellow Christians the good news. Thanks.

12 February 2011 at 10:21  
Anonymous len said...

The you WILL have Islam, and Secular Humanism fighting for control of your life.Whichever wins will be your master(for a while)We Christians will be gone!

Good Luck!

12 February 2011 at 16:55  

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