Despite David Cameron again outlining his personal abhorrence at allowing prisoners to take part in elections, it became clear that Downing Street and the Ministry of Justice accept that the measure will, in some form, have to be adopted because Britain is bound by European human rights laws.
The Daily Telegraph first disclosed in November that the Prime Minister had been told by Government lawyers that he faced a welter of compensation claims from inmates if he did not agree to abide by the European ruling. Mr Cameron reluctantly admitted defeat.
After a six hour debate MPs voted by 234 to 22 to reject a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that Britain must let some prisoners vote.
Doesn\’t matter what our elected representatives say, there\’s a higher power that has the final say.
As Mary Ellen Synon pointed out (via EU referendum), it gets worse than that. Currently, we\’re part of the Council of Europe as a country, and thus under the ECHR. We could pull out of course, but being part of the CoE is a necessary precondition of being in the EU. Still, we could do it and thumb our noses if we wished.
However, the Lisbon Treaty gives the EU full legal personality: and they\’re going to join the CoE as soon as they can get it organised. So instead of being in the CoE directly, we\’ll be in it as a result of being in the EU.
The only way out of this at all is to leave the EU.
Now, I\’m actually in favour of prisoners getting the vote. I\’m also quite happy with the idea that there\’s a set of rules, rights, which our elected politicians cannot trample over: you know, constitutional rights sorta stuff.
But I\’m distinctly unhappy about the specific manner in which these appear in English law. For they bring with them all the other baggage about what we cannot do: we cannot have free trade for example, because we\’re part of the EU, etc, etc, etc.
So, can we leave yet?