One can at times feel almost sorry for David Cameron, especially when one contemplates his Coalition “partners”. The feeling evaporates as one recollects that it was his misguided election strategy which deprived him of a majority, and his own choice to enter a coalition. At that time the Labour opposition was still stinking of its monumental incompetence and would not have dared to bring him down and face another election. None the less, he certainly deserves both sympathy and support as he faces the judicial imperialist of the ECHR and the power-hungry European Commission in Brussels.
Just over a year ago the House of Commons was the scene of a robust debate on prisoner voting rights. By a majority of more than 200, MPs from both sides voted in favour of the current law that convicted prisoners cannot be on the electoral roll.
Regrettably, this emphatic statement of Parliament’s will did not stop the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) from declaring on Tuesday that Britain’s ban on prisoner voting is unlawful. The Court has ordered us to legislate to give prisoners the vote within six months. We should do no such thing.
On a visit to Britain in 1997, the former German president Roman Herzog was asked what would happen if there was a conflict between the ECHR and the German Constitutional Court. The president replied: “I think the German people would support their own court.” On prisoner votes, we believe the British people will support their own Parliament.
Of course, the UK Government should not defy Strasbourg judgments regarding serious breaches of human rights, such as concerns that a deportee may be tortured. Such cases are precisely what the Court was set up to do; its conclusions in such cases ought to be respected by Britain in accordance with our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Prime Minister said Britain should be able to decide whether its tens of thousands of prisoners vote, rather than a “foreign court”.
He backed MPs for last year deciding to keep the 140-year-old ban on prisoner voting, even though the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that this must be changed.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: “I have always believed when you are sent to prison you lose certain rights and one of those rights is the right to vote.
“Crucially, I believe this should be a matter for Parliament to decide, not a foreign court.
“Parliament has made its decision and I completely agree with it.”