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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.

from FaithWorld:

British police avert clashes at Luton anti-Islamist rally

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(An English Defence League supporter with effigy of Osama Bin Laden mask during a rally in Luton, February 5, 2011/Paul Hackett)

About 1,500 far-right protesters marched through the centre of the British city of Luton Saturday to rally against "militant Islam," requiring a heavy police presence to avert clashes with 1,000 anti-fascist demonstrators. A sixth of Luton's population is Muslim, and past marches by the English Defence League have led to conflict with their opponents. The city centre turned into a virtual ghost town before the rally, with shops boarded up and pubs closed.

The private sector vs. definitions of fairness

– Ingrid Smith is Business Planning Editor,  Reuters Consumer Television –

Sitting in the auditorium of the London School of Economic’s Old Theatre earlier this month, I listened to Lord Turner pose the question – in rich societies is there a clear correlation between increased wealth and human well being?

from Breakingviews:

Britain’s unkind cuts may help growth sprout

It was billed as a bloodbath, and it is. By slashing public spending by 81 billion pounds over five years, Britain's coalition government is reversing the big increases of previous years. The plan is billed as necessary pain to secure the country's financial future, but it is also ideological. The aim is to move from unaffordable levels of public employment and welfare to private employment and a balanced budget. The danger, however, is that the economy stalls.

The cuts to the civil service are drastic and will cause distress, even though most departments' budgets over the life of the parliament have been reduced by a fifth, not the threatened quarter. The BBC, the foreign office, the police, even the royal family: none have been spared. The government wants services to be delivered more cheaply -- which means by fewer people.

Best of Britain: Power players

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Whether they’re pumping up the crowd, or getting ready to cut people down, this week’s Best of Britain photos are about power players. Whether it’s bodybuilder-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joking with David Cameron, Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton greeting excited fans, or defending WBA heavyweight champion David Haye training for his next bout, these are people that mean business.

Also included are photos of a re-enactor at Hastings posing as if to cleave off the photographer’s head, smoke bombs at a demonstration, a soldier’s homecoming, and the Queen looking at a painting of her likeness as she tours a new liner, also bearing her name.

Best of Britain: In the lead

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This week’s Best of Britain photos are about people in, or trying to take the lead, whether it’s David Cameron laughing during the Conservative party conference or a streaker proudly strutting through the greens of Celtic Manor. There’s also photos of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf talking about his potential return to Pakistani politics as well as European team captain Colin Montgomerie proudly displaying the Ryder Cup after his team’s win.

Also included are photos of a paper Buckingham Palace model, tourists watching the changing of the guard at Clarence House, and the tragic suspected arson fire which destroyed much of Hastings Pier.

Is there a Plan B for the government?

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Our Reuters/Ipsos MORI poll is likely to make cheery reading for Britain’s Labour party.

For the first time since January 2008, they are level pegging with the Conservatives in terms of popular support; for the first time since May’s general election, more people are dissatisfied with the government than are pleased with it, and – perhaps most heartening of all for the opposition – three-quarters of the public would rather see slower public spending cuts than swift ones. And all that without Labour even having a leader.

Best friends in the whole world, at least for now

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Prime Minister David Cameron has spent the last few days playing down expectations of just how special Britain’s “special relationship” with the United States is.

He was afraid of being seen, like Tony Blair, as another American “poodle”, well aware that some aspects of the alliance have not played out in Britain’s best interest and also worried that the UK has to concentrate on forming strong ties beyond the U.S. to maintain international influence.

Best of Britain: Fakes and spills

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This week’s Best of Britain brings us everything from highs and lows to fakes and spills.

Prince Harry falls off his horse as he plays polo in the Veuve Clicquot Manhattan Polo Classic on Governor's Island in New York, June 27, 2010.   REUTERS/Stephen Lovekin/Pool

Prince Harry falls off his horse as he plays polo in the Veuve Clicquot Manhattan Polo Classic on Governor’s Island in New York, June 27, 2010. REUTERS/Stephen Lovekin/Pool

Cameron: British patience with the Afghan mission is not limitless

OUKTP-UK-BRITAIN-ARMY-STRENGTHNew British Prime Minister David Cameron is not giving a timetable for the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan but during his first visit to the country as premier on Thursday he was already looking ahead to a time when the British have left the country.

“Even after our troops have left Afghanistan — and I believe that they will — the relationship between Britain and Afghanistan, just as the relationship between Britain and Pakistan, are vitally important relationships for all of our countries,” Cameron said at a press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

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