The Great Debate UK
-Clive Stafford Smith is the founder and director of Reprieve. The opinions expressed are his own.-
It may be the most mean-spirited thing that David Cameron has yet said since he assumed the mantle of Prime Minister: “It makes me physically ill even to contemplate having to give the vote to anyone who is in prison.” It makes me physically ill to hear an elected official say such a thing.
On which tablet that Moses carried down from Mount Sinai does it say that prisoners should lose the right to vote? The European Court ruling condemning our practice does not pull its conclusion out of thin air: countries across Europe and around the world allow prisoners to vote. Even China only takes the right away from those condemned to life in prison, or to death. Because a prisoner is so often a person who has dwelt on the margins of society, he is the person who most needs the franchise.
Felony disenfranchisement — as the practice is called in the US — has ever been employed to take power from the powerless. When slavery was abolished, some states rushed to deprive convicts of the vote, as a proxy for race. They similarly imposed literacy and property requirements. Only the felony rule survives, and it serves its original, racist purpose. Whites make up 74% of drug users, but only 19% of drug prisoners – nationwide, African-Americans are seven times as likely to lose their right to vote. George W. Bush would never have been president, but for the racist removal of the vote – fully one third of black citizens cannot vote in Florida. The rule in Britain is similarly discriminatory against minorities. Perhaps the Conservative PM was well aware of this when he made his comment.
Has this been dullest German election campaign in decades or the most exciting? Has the battle for power in Berlin between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that concludes with Sunday’s election been a memorable showdown or a forgettably boring contest?
Many journalists, pundits and voters have complained it’s all been a merciless bore compared to the high-octane battles of the past with little action and precious few highlights.
There has been widespread questioning of what precisely it is many non-execs actually do, other than take home a sometimes handsome reward for attending a scattering of board meetings.
Europe rarely features highly in European election campaigns in Britain. In the 2004 campaign the word Euro more often than not referred to a football tournament rather than the single currency. And for at least two reasons, we shouldn’t expect European integration to be much discussed.
- Professor Colin Pritchard is a Research Professor in the School of Health & Social Care, Bournemouth University, whose research is increasingly linking problems of deteriorating human health and the wider environment. The opinions expressed are his own. -
One reason to vote in the EU elections is that on June 6, 1944 Europe was a slaughterhouse – the second time within 30 years. The EU may be imperfect but in the last analysis is one of the greatest progressive achievements of the 20th century, as it seeks to achieve the great political trilogy of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, and, albeit hesitatingly, seeks to implement the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Opinion polls predict a record low turnout in next month’s EU-wide European Parliament elections. The Strasbourg-based assembly was once regarded as a toothless talking shop, but that has long ceased to be true. Indeed there are many reasons for Europeans to cast a vote.