Forward to next post: How to lose a war
One of the areas of ongoing controversy in the UK is whether prisoners should be allowed to vote whilst incarcerated. The EU says they should, and the UN has just weighed in to agree. The British government has promised a consultation (the traditional means of kicking an issue into the long grass), but hasn’t got round to saying when they’ll have it. In other words, no action any time soon.
The latest salvo in the discussion is an article by convicted murderer Ben Gunn. He wanted to post it onto his blog (which he can only do by sending snail mail text to friends). In this case, however, the Ministry of Justice blocked the text sent as a blog entry but permitted another copy to be go through as a letter.
The fact that Gunn is subject to these labyrinthine, inconsistent and political restrictions (as opposed to straightforward, consistent and impartial restrictions) would normally be a matter for him to take up with his Member of Parliament. Unfortunately, of course, he can’t, because as a prisoner
he hasn’t got one. I stand corrected; he does. However, his MP has no vote from him, or other prisoners, to chase. I contend that this makes him less well-represented than a free citizen.
Having lived a good decade and a half in Britain, I think that Gunn has a telling point about the reason external pressure is not only ineffective, but possibly counterproductive in this affair. The introduction of concrete human rights legislation into British law hasn’t led to the kind of affirmation of Traditional British Wonderfulness that many people expected.
Britain has one of the worst records before the European Court of Human Rights. And that disturbs us, for we are not used to having our liberality questioned. Instead of using these realities to wonder about the nature of our political system and the power of government we prefer to complain about trivia - foreign judges, for instance. Rather than embracing our new rights we handle them as if they are an unexploded grenade.
Comparisons to the US are left as an exercise for the reader.