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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:

Conservative bishops deliver blow to Anglican Covenant

rowan williamsConservative Anglicans have rejected a proposed landmark agreement designed to prevent splits in the worldwide Anglican Communion, just as the Church of England -- the Communion's mother church -- moved a step closer to adopting it.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the 80 million Anglicans worldwide, has invested much personal authority in the proposed Anglican Covenant, which aims to prevent disputes over divisive issues such as gay bishops and same-sex unions. He has said the Anglican Communion faced a "piece-by-piece dissolution" if member churches failed to undertake to avoid actions that upset others.

from Photographers' Blog:

A break in choreography on the campaign trail

On tightly-choreographed campaign trails there aren’t many photo moments that haven’t been carefully planned beforehand by spin doctors, so when Gordon Brown made an impromptu visit to a hair salon in Oldham, there was a ripple of excitement.

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown accepts an invitation from Sue Fink to visit her hair salon as he speaks at the Honeywell Community Centre in Oldham, northwest England April 28, 2010.  REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Such unscripted moments create great opportunities for photographers because they offer a glimpse of reality and inject a human element into often monotonous days of speeches, handshakes and platitudes.

Rate politicians on grassroots website


If you are among the 51 percent of eligible voters expected not to participate in the European elections you can still cast a ballot of sorts — online and from the comfort of home.

Rate Your Politician, billed as an “e-democracy” website for users in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales by its Belfast-based founders, provides a grassroots voting platform on politicians and political topics.

Reaction to Brown’s 42-day detention vote victory


armedpolicemanlondon-tobymelville.jpg Gordon Brown may have won the 42-day detention vote, but the victory was ”hollow”, ”shameful” or “tactical”, depending on which newspaper you read. 

Under the headline “Westminster for Sale”, The Times said Brown had humiliated parliament with a victory secured through bribery and bartering.

Media’s views on the abortion vote


embryo1.jpgAs MPs prepare to vote on cutting the time limit for abortions, the Daily Mail says the current system “shames our nation”.

Foetuses are being aborted at a late stage in their development when they would have had a good chance of survival outside the womb, the Mail says in an editorial.