Thursday, 10 February 2011

This Vote Won't Count

Today was the Parliamentary debate and decision on prisoners' right to vote and as expected there was a significant victory to maintain the ban (234 to 22 - a majority of 212) in defiance of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

But will it matter? No not really. Firstly the House of Commons' vote is not binding. Although it will undoubtedly exert some political pressure on ministers to go against the ECHR's decision, ultimately the vote does not change our international obligations to honour the European court’s judgments.

Instead matters have become somewhat complicated. It’s now not clear how the government will be able to satisfy both the ECHR and Parliament - who must approve any change in the law. A fight between Europe and Parliament? Well on experience we all know which way that will eventually go, as Attorney General Dominic Grieve has indeed hinted:
...he anticipated “a drawn-out dialogue between ourselves and the court” over the issue.

In other words how can we amend or implement a European law / ruling that will be able to get rammed through Parliament against the electorate's wishes. We've been here before.

And today's scenes in Parliament give an illustration. On a debate that was supposedly reasserting Parliament's authority, the green benches were empty; far fewer than half bothered to vote - 394 out of 650 MPs were absent. Of those that took part in the debate, there was plenty of passion, and references to voters' anger and indignant claims of "laws should be made in this place". Well, where have they been since May? Especially when this coalition Government has passed more laws over to the EU faster than you can say Cameron is a liar. Indeed only 12 voted against approval of the Lisbon Treaty.

Despite all the talk in Parliament, and Cameron's carefully worded PR dog whistle sound bite that it made him; “physically ill to contemplate giving the vote to prisoners”, Parliament or this Government has no intention of repatriating powers back to the UK. As Mary Ellen Synon argues:

All I can say to the Commons over this votes for prisoners dispute is: just shut up and pull the trigger and get out of the Council of Europe. Or admit you are too timid to pull the trigger, so shut up anyway and submit in the manner that suits men who are cowards.
Exactly, if we really wanted to stand up against Europe (EU or otherwise) we would threaten, or take, the nuclear option. Otherwise, the mantra; "we're fighting for Britain's interests by standing up against Europe" is what it's always been;

bollocks...on stilts.

Update: Witterings From Witney has the latest that Cameron plans to overrule Parliament's / our wishes. It's oh oh so so predictable.


  1. Hear, hear. Our MPs are beyond contempt. Not only are the cowards they are traitors.

  2. @jic, they are traitors, and ones that will have a Ceauşescu moment when the time comes.