On the possible resurgence of right wing populism

If the ePetitions legislation passes, Guido will put all the resources at his command into a campaign for a vote on the restoration of capital punishment for child and cop killers.

It\’s always going to pop up somewhere in the system, even if not in the mainstream political system.

34 thoughts on “On the possible resurgence of right wing populism”

  1. As I understand it you can’t be an EU member with capital punishment on the statute books, which is not quite the sme as saying its an EU competency.

    Tim adds: Council of Europe, not EU. But you’ve got to be in the Council of Europe to be in the EU. Same as the Human Rights Act stuff: CoE, not EU.

  2. Guido of course is being every bit as political with his cherry-picked statistics to “prove” that the death penalty will work (with “work” being defined tightly enough to exclude the killing of innocent people).

  3. Philip Scott Thomas

    Yeah, of course. I should have wikied first. It’s in the ECHR, to which countries have to sign up if they wish to belong to the EU, as Tim says.

    That said, the Wikipedia entry also has this:

    “The European Union (EU) has long since been against the death penalty, supporting the European Convention, and its 2000 Charter of Fundamental Rights included a ban on the death penalty. The Charter has been made legally binding by the Treaty of Lisbon as it got fully ratified and effective on December 1, 2009.”

  4. Hmm. Why should my life be of lesser importance than a policeman’s or a teenagers? I see no reason to arbitrarily limit the death penalty to murderers of minors and cops. You either have it or you don’t, simple.

    Otherwise you just get anomalies. Does the killer of an off duty policeman get hung, or just if he’s in uniform? Kill a teenager one day before their 18th birthday, death penalty, a day later, life in prison.

    And what would ‘life’ mean then? How ludicrous would it be to execute some murderers, but let others out after 10-15 years?

    Far better IMO to campaign for ‘Life means Life’ than the death penalty. Easier to achieve, as it doesn’t require leaving the EU, and more likely to get the requisite number of votes, AND political support in the Commons.

  5. Go back & re-read what Guido wrote:

    “There are a number of issues where the political class refuses to carry out the wishes of the people. All polls show that there is majority support for capital punishment, yet there is no majority for it in parliament. It is not even an issue for parliamentarians yet the incidence of homicide is higher now than it was before the abolition of hanging.”

    What he’s talking about is the disconnect between politicians & the electorate. The capital punishment issue is a good example of this because it doesn’t separate on party political lines. There’s as many pro’s from the left as from the right yet he political class have made up their collected mind that they don’t want to discuss it let alone give way to the majority view. Maybe if it actually was properly debated there wouldn’t be the demand for its reinstatement but in the certain knowledge that public opinion counts for nothing no-one’s inclined to think it through.

  6. While it sickens me to see such enthusiastic support for a policy that’d (a) be an unseemly display of revenge and (b) necessarily end a host of innocent lives, it amuses me that a supposed anarchist places the lives policemen above those of other citizens.

  7. Why should killing a policeman be punished more harshly than killing anyone else? I don’t think someone who does this should be treated less harshly than someone who kills anyone else, either, but there is no reason it should be a special case. Of course, there is a long standing tradition of police getting special treatment under the law, but it is a deeply repugnant tradition.

  8. Philip Scott Thomas

    …there is a long standing tradition of police getting special treatment under the law…

    Quite. Anyone familiar with, for instance, American police procedurals will be familiar with the dedication devoted to catching “cop killers”. It’s not unlike the acres of newsprint given over to the misfortunes of fellow journalists.

  9. A few things spring to mind here:

    1. The EU actually has brought back the death penalty, in case of rioting and revolution, and as a penalty after the event is over. So it’s not like there is no death penalty in the EU statute books, it’s just that this is reserved for (ahem) important crimes.

    2. The reason people want cop killers punished harsher is that cops are more exposed and so their statistical likelihood of dying to a criminal is much larger. Whether it works or not is another point.

    Btw, the death penalty is not particularly ‘right wing’ in fact, the left has a spectacular when it comes to the culling of humans. Che Guevara, Mao, The SED (Now the Left) in Germany, and a quite a few others leftwing icons/parties all used the death penalty skillfully as a tool. There are a few rightwing candidates too, but they never managed to be quite as large as real life here when compared to our ‘death penalty stars’.

    To anyone who thinks that not applying the death penalty saves lives, well, there is a real cost to keeping the killer alive in jail, it’s not free and costs something like 30k a year (or more). Remember that when the NHS tells you there is no money in the kitty to pay for your cancer drugs. But at least you’ll dying knowing your sacrifice has saved a killers’ life.

  10. “But at least you’ll dying knowing your sacrifice has saved a killers’ life.”

    Or an innocent person wrongfully convicted.

  11. “cops are more exposed and so their statistical likelihood of dying to a criminal is much larger”

    Oh, as long as there’s a reason for the emotionally-driven ill-informed opinions. And the death penalty for killing a child is based on what? Higher risk for the child performing its duties?

    I assume, by the way, that you’re all up for executing foremen for negligence leading to death on a building site, since it’s risk we’re now all hot and bothered about?

  12. “It seems the police are increasingly taking the law into their own hands…”

    Yeah, shocking how the police are allowed to shoot back when some loon is firing at them, isn’t it?

  13. Yeah, I’ve always been annoyed at the idea that it’s somehow more heinous to kill a policeman than a general member of the public.

    The death penalty is problematical. I think the number of wrongful convictions we’d see were it re-introduced would be small. There’s always the “one’s too many” argument but against that it’s a surefire cure for recidivism, and surely by the same token someone killed by a murderer who’s been let out on license is “one too many”. And there are all sorts of perverse incentives going on. Juries used to regularly acquit in open-and-shut cases when even minor offences were capital. We might see a similar reduction in the willingness to convict.

    Where Guido is right, I think, is that there is a huge democratic deficit here. There was a bargain made at the time of abolition (an explicit one, too) that murderers would serve a whole-life tariff in place of being stretched. That compact was broken almost immediately. If there were a free vote today on restoration, and the overriding EU legal authority could be waived or circumvented, I think the vote would be to restore.

  14. I don’t have a problem with the death penalty being reserved for those that really deserve it, and when there is unimpeachable evidence that they are the ones that comitted the crime.

    For example, people who don’t stand to one side of airport travelators. In this instance, the penalty should be carried out by a fellow traveller.

  15. David G: a good summary of the issues. Well done.

    BenSix: “an unseemly display of revenge”. All punishment contains an element of vengeance. Though the death penalty is more vengeful than other punishments, this is only a matter of degree. If all vengeance is unseemly, then you soon get to the uber-liberal position that no-one should ever be punished (just rehabilitated). If, however, you are saying that only the vengeance of capital punishment is “unseemly”, why is this? Basically, I think vengeance is not the issue. The issue is the value of human life.

    KayTie/Bensix: The execution of the “innocent” could be reduced to vanishingly small probabilities by introducing relevant sentencing protocols forbidding a death sentence without DNA-evidence of specified quality/quantity, other forensic evidence of specified quality/quantity…. etc, etc.

    And, incidentally, we often tolerate the killing of the “innocent” providing the intention is to achieve an alleged greater good – eg in war, in abortion…

  16. paul –

    All punishment contains an element of vengeance.

    Punishment doesn’t have to be retributive, it can be to incapacitate, deter and, yeah, rehabilitate. What I find particularly noxious about the vengeful spirit I’m blithely asserting is behind many people’s will to execute is the belligerent self-righteousness: we’re so outraged about the destructive possibilities of human nature that we’ll, er – indulge it.

    The execution of the “innocent” could be reduced to vanishingly small probabilities…

    I don’t see how that would work. How would it be just for convicted men and women to receive varying sentences by dint of the nature of the evidence against them? Besides, it wouldn’t appease supporters of capital punishment. Imagine the outcry if an Ian Huntley – who, if I remember right, was never faced with DNA evidence – was spared. Hell, forget ethics, it’s just simpler not to institute it…

    And, incidentally, we often tolerate the killing of the “innocent”…

    Well, I’m not at all sure that abortion is moral and I’d only get behind conflict if I was pretty darn sure that it was necessary to avoid a far greater loss of life. Still, enough about what I think. What do you think about what I think?

  17. The most interesting point in Guido’s post, is the method by which governments and parliaments sidestep their duty of representation of the public . They simply ignore entire issues.

    While I am not sure about capital punishment, I do think we need a greater degree of direct democracy in the UK.

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  19. I don’t buy the “democratic deficit” argument. If most people were single issue voters on the capital punishment issue, they’d get their way under the present regime. It seems they think other issues are more important. Maybe they don’t really want to take moral responsibility for its reintroduction but want to complain about its absence. So the current situation is exactly what they want.

  20. Bensix:

    Mere temporary containment/incapacitation with rehabilitation thrown in is not punishment, which requires an element of vengeance. It does not have to be the principal element; but it is a part of the concept. All societies seek vengeance on transgressors: the important thing is that the vengeance is proportionate to the transgression. (If life for murder meant life, and not 8 years with good behaviour, I believe that would be enough vengeance for most people. )

    Any irreversible sentence (death, amputation, brain surgery) requires the highest standard of proof. In the absence of the highest standards of proof, I think the public would accept that an irreversible penalty could not be imposed. Yes, one can imagine messy scenarios, but we get those even now.

    Given your attitudes to abortion and war, your position looks internally consistent ; but many people with liberal views on both abortion and punishment are in danger of slipping into self-contradiction and inconsistency.

  21. Mere temporary containment/incapacitation with rehabilitation thrown in is not punishment…

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on that. I’ve no wish to be a dweeb and thus won’t start interrogating definitions but as I see it a punishment is the imposition of a penalty and incapacitation is a penalty. If a child gets sent to his/her room that’s a punishment but the parent needn’t gain satisfaction from it.

  22. Aren’t we really lucky to live in such certain times?

    Our science has not only proved past science to be inferior but we are so good we can be certain that no future generation will prove that we were ignoramiusus when it came to DNA or whatever else we use to prove that somone is so guilty we have a right to kill them.

  23. A few things spring to mind here: 1. The EU actually has brought back the death penalty, in case of rioting and revolution, and as a penalty after the event is over. So it’s not like there is no death penalty in the EU statute books, it’s just that this is reserved for (ahem) important crimes. 2. The reason people want cop killers punished harsher is that cops are more exposed and so their statistical likelihood of dying to a criminal is much larger. Whether it works or not is another point. Btw, the death penalty is not particularly ‘right wing’ in fact, the left has a spectacular when it comes to the culling of humans. Che Guevara, Mao, The SED (Now the Left) in Germany, and a quite a few others leftwing icons/parties all used the death penalty skillfully as a tool. There are a few rightwing candidates too, but they never managed to be quite as large as real life here when compared to our ‘death penalty stars’. To anyone who thinks that not applying the death penalty saves lives, well, there is a real cost to keeping the killer alive in jail, it’s not free and costs something like 30k a year (or more). Remember that when the NHS tells you there is no money in the kitty to pay for your cancer drugs. But at least you’ll dying knowing your sacrifice has saved a killers’ life.

  24. I would support the death penalty for recidivist offenders, but not first-timers. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence from very liberal, pro-rehabilitation people (who actually work with prisoners, not the pontificating classes) that working with a repeat offender is a waste of time.

  25. One of the basic building blocks of civilisation is a pact between ruled and rulers over crime and punishment.

    If a member of my family is killed, I wish to avenge their death, this is only normal. However, the pact says, give me (the ruler) the sole right to deal in justice and we can avoid bloodfeuds and those without the power to fight back will also be protected.

    The rulers no longer hold up their side of the bargain.

  26. I think Serf’s point is the most compelling.
    We surrender our “natural” right to punish those that injure us or destroy our lives (i.e. the murder of my wife would be for me, worse than my own murder but I would have to endure that loss because of my responsibility to my family) and in return, we get what?
    Mostly BS about how it isn’t the murderer’s fault, it is our fault for not ensuring a “just” society, not being nice enough to people of other cultures. In short, their crime, our fault; adding great insult to great injury.
    I believe that in the US, at least, this is because the elite are so decadent that actually like (and relate to) criminals more than the dull people who obey the laws, pay the taxes, and live honest lives. Certainly, that is how it appears from the cheap seats. Sad.

  27. Mindy,

    1. The EU actually has brought back the death penalty, in case of rioting and revolution, and as a penalty after the event is over. So it’s not like there is no death penalty in the EU statute books, it’s just that this is reserved for (ahem) important crimes.

    Please cite.

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