Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Right to Vote

The latest piece of politico/law orientated insanity has my head turning 360 degrees.  What can the mere man/woman  in the street do to change EU edicts which are apparently designed to overthrow all the most carefully constructed legal systems in Europe.

As a life-long socialist I would never normally condone the infringement of anyone's 'human rights' but what exactly do we mean by human?

Just how far outside 'normal' behaviour does an individual have to go before he/she becomes a social pariah, and at what stage can they be deemed to have forfeit the right to take part in everyday activities?

While I would never try to remove the 'comforts' obtained - often after quite a struggle - which make the daily life of those incarcerated for the good of the community, there surely must be some level at which such "goodies" reach a peak.

The right to vote was won by enormous and sustained effort and suffering by dedicated individuals of both sexes and is in my opinion one of the greatest privileges available to British citizens,  Not ever to be casually taken for granted by anyone, in or out of prison.

Has the concept of earning or deserving a privilege disappeared from our way of life?

At the same time, are we now to reward even the most evil of offenders rather than punishing their crimes?

3 comments:

  1. A further thought, having just watched TV News; Burma and "Free" voting is I think a nice illustration of just how much of a privilege the 'right to vote' actually is.

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  2. A few years ago we read about crowds attacking paediatricians on the grounds that they must be child abusers. In fact, of course, paediatricians care for sick children.

    What brought this to mind is your question about what the man and woman in the street can do to change EU edicts. Well a good start would be to get their facts straight before they start protesting. They are unlikely to do that if they rely on the popular media as the basis for their understanding of what is going on around them. Red-top newspapers and many other media outlets are more concerned to whip up emotion and prejudice than to enlighten or provoke reflection.

    In this particular instance, as I understand it:

    # there is no EU edict regarding voting rights for prisoners

    # the UK government is giving voting rights to prisoners as a result of a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR was created by the Council of Europe, membership of which is open to "all European states which accept the principle of the rule of law and guarantee fundamental human rights and freedoms to their citizens". With 45 states belonging to it, the Council of Europe's membership is far bigger than that of the European Union

    # the court has ruled that the UK is in breach of its obligations by not giving any prisoners voting rights. The court ruling would not necessarily require that the UK gives voting rights to each and every prisoner. The country is (for example) not necessarily required to give rights to those convicted of carrying out the most heinous crimes.

    But there is another aspect to this. I agree that having the right to vote is a privilege, one which as a whole we under-value very much. Is it sensible, however, simply to regard prison as punishment and to treat with contempt offenders and those who have served their sentences? The UK has particularly high rates of re-offending by those who have completed prison sentences. In recent weeks I have heard in person a number of people who have served lengthy sentences but now "gone straight" make clear that key influences changing their behaviour have included: having suddenly become aware of someone treating them with respect despite knowing of their criminal record; and really understanding and accepting (perhaps by meeting face-to-face for the first time victims of their actions) the impact which their criminal behaviour has had on the lives of others.

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  3. Thankyou for clarifying some of my misconceptions and as to your last paragraph of course I do not believe anyone who has served their sentance should be punished in perpetuity but still maintain that those in prison should forfeit the right to vote.
    They are effectively no longer part of society until such time as they have served their 'time'.

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