Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 10 February 2011

Sometimes you just have to take a stand, or better still go on the offensive. Our society is assailed by forces over which we sometimes feel we have no control. We wring our hands and feel powerless; never more so when the Court of Human Rights hands down a decision that offends our sense of fair play. This week your Parliament took a stand. I was one of those who voted against implementing the judgment of the ECHR that convicted criminals who were denied the right to vote whilst in prison should be compensated by the British government.
The European Convention of Human Rights was drawn up after the Second World War to protect people from suffering the kinds of outrages that were inflicted on some during that conflict. The Brits were very much a driving force for this important new idea. The Court of Human Rights was set up at the same time (in Strasbourg) to implement the Convention. So far so good. (By the way, this is all completely separate from the European Union.)
In 1978 a decision was made by the then judges on the court that the Convention was "a living instrument" which they could interpret to reflect social changes and modern day conditions. A steady trickle of daft decisions have followed ever since, none more so than when axe murderer John Hirst successfully won his case in Strasbourg for compensation for being denied the right to vote whilst inside. Nice man, he made himself a cup of coffee while the lady he attacked lay dying in the kitchen.
The court decision is flawed. The original wording of the Convention was intended to give different countries the ability to make different rules about voting rights and it has long been the case over here that prisoners should not vote. I suggested in the debate that we should now seek to renegotiate the Convention to prevent this kind of unintended mission creep ever happening again.
Why should prisoners get the right to vote? They are paying for wrongdoing they have inflicted on others and during that period should be denied a number of privileges that we in a free society take for granted. The right to vote, the building block of our democracy, is one of those rights.
I hope this is just the beginning of a reinvigorated House of Commons standing up for the people who put us there in the first place.

posted by Gary @ 09:41