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from The Great Debate UK:

Taking power from the powerless

-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.

Coalition talks – a Liberal Democrat explains


David LawsTalks between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives about arrangements that might lead to the two parties forming the next government took place on Friday (May 7) and will continue on Saturday. Little is being said about the talks by either side, so it seems a good time to revisit a blog and video interview with the Lib Dems’ David Laws on the subject of coalitions I published last September from the party’s autumn conference. Laws is reported to be part of the Lib Dem team negotiating with the Conservatives. BBC’s Newsnight ran an extract from the video interview on Friday evening.

Here’s the article repeated below. The video is at the end:

A senior Liberal Democrat has lifted a lid on the murky world of coalition politics – a touchy subject for the party which last tasted national power in Britain in the brief Lib-Lab pact of the late 1970s.

Porn to politics – Lib Dems get really liberal



Anna Arrowsmith, 38, has directed 300 porn movies for women under the pseudonym Anna Span to counterbalance the overwhelming male dominance of the adult film industry.

Now she wants a fresh challenge and is running as a Liberal Democrat candidate in Gravesham in Kent.

Ming, coalition plans and the election that never was


Menzies Campbell at the Liberal Democrat autumn conference in Bournemouth, September 21, 2009. Picture: Tim Castle/Reuter

For many observers it’s the key question for the Liberal Democrats — who they would support in a hung parliament — Brown’s Labour or Cameron’s Tories?

But ask the people at the top of the party at their conference in Bournemouth (and I have) — Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, David Laws, even new party chief executive Chris Fox — and they all deny they are considering the issue, let alone discussing it.

Vince Cable says life will be difficult


Vince CableDifficult – that’s how Liberal Democrats’ treasury spokesman Vince Cable sums up the outlook for Britain’s economy as it comes out of the recession.

He spoke to Reuters during an interview at the LibDem autumn conference in Bournemouth.

Liberal Democrats and the balance of power


David LawsA senior Liberal Democrat has lifted a lid on the murky world of coalition politics – a touchy subject for the party which last tasted national power in Britain in the brief Lib-Lab pact of the late 1970s.

Leader Nick Clegg says he is not wasting a “millisecond” speculating on the outcome of the coming general election, expected next May.

Labour MPs reprieve humble Brown – for now


Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meetings are usually drab affairs. The leader turns up, listens to a few grumbles from backbench MPs, a few reporters hang around outside hoping to grab a half-decent quote and in the end a Labour apparatchik puts a rose-tinted spin on proceedings.

Not so on Monday night, one of those rare “crunch time” events for a party leader that creates such a frenzy inside and outside the venue. Parliament’s committee room 14 was so full one MP of robust stature tried to force not one, but two doors in an attempt to get in, and ended up with a sore shoulder. Veteran party member Greville (now Lord) Janner, a member of the Magic Circle, gave up trying to get in and instead entertained reporters with a couple of magic tricks. His skills may have been of more use on the other side of the door.

What next for the government?


Reuters UK Chief Correspondent Keith Weir assesses the European election results and the challenges facing Prime Minister Gordon Brown after support for the Labour Party plunged to its lowest level in a century in European elections.

The collapse in the Labour vote in the European Parliament election, which followed a dismal showing in local government elections last week, helped the far-right British National Party win its first two seats in the European Parliament.

from Funds Hub:

In the brown stuff

The unfolding crisis in British politics makes for fascinating viewing for the populace and great work for journalists, but it also of course has potentially far-reaching implications in the financial sector.

rtr248cnAs cabinet ministers resign and Labour MPs call for Gordon Brown to step down, several outcomes now distrinctly possible -- Brown stays, a new Labour prime minister emerges or a general election is called and (if polls are correct) the opposition Conservatives win. The future direction of UK government policy is far from clear.