David Cameron gave his keynote speech at the Conservative party conference today. There’s a transcript here. It wasn’t a bad speech – not his best, but reasonable. But some of it annoyed me… Cameron showed a strong belief in standing together against globalization, and then expected plaudits when he shouted down such an approach in the European Council.
And the Olympics showed us something else.
Whether our athletes were English, Scottish, Welsh or from Northern Ireland…
….they draped themselves in one flag.
Now, there’s one person who didn’t like that…
…and he’s called Alex Salmond.
I’m going to see him on Monday to sort that referendum on independence by the end of 2014.
There are many things I want this coalition to achieve but what could matter more than saving our United Kingdom…
…let’s say it: we’re better together and we’ll rise together – so let’s fight that referendum with everything we’ve got.
Contrast that with…
Here’s something else this party’s done in government.
Last December I was at a European Council in Brussels.
It was three in the morning, there was a treaty on the table that was not in Britain’s interests…
…and twenty five people around that table were telling me to sign it.
But I did something that no other British leader has ever done before…
…I said no – Britain comes first – and I vetoed that EU treaty.
We’re doing big, Conservative things.
“We’re better together, and we’ll rise together” compared with “Britain comes first”. Anyone noticing a double-standard?
Those of you who’ve read me regularly will know I’m vehemently pro-European. But what bothers me most about the europhobe camp is the fact that they so clearly ignore their own arguments when it suits them. Apparently, we’re all better together. And I believe it’s true. We’re living in the era of globalisation. As Cameron said “We are in a global race today. And that means an hour of reckoning for countries like ours. Sink or swim. Do or decline.” That’s true. It’s why I can’t truly support Scottish or Welsh independence, though I am a strong believe in localism and regional autonomy. As barriers come down, as the world gets smaller, the small get squeezed out.
Even Britain. We currently punch well above our weight. We assume “[t]hat we can earn our living as a major industrial country…and we will always remain one.” But “[i]t has fallen to us to say – we cannot assume that any longer. ” I agree with Cameron thus far. But then why is he acting so negatively towards our membership of the world’s largest market?
If Britain is to compete in the new globalised world, Britain needs to make friends, not enemies. The very fact that Cameron was in a situation where it was 26 vs 1, shows a lack of leadership and strategy. It used to be that Sweden and the Netherlands, Poland and Spain, could be counted on to support British free-market interests. When Cameron has alienated even then, it is a tragic day for Britain.
It isn’t even true that the old countries are on their way down. If we take a look at the following graph, the Guardian has made it look like our export market is ever increasing in the developing world, countries such as the BRICS of India, China, and Russia. Which is true, our exports there are increasing, and faster than to most European countries or Commonwealth states. But it takes a second-look to notice that our trade with China and India combined is still less than our exports to Ireland. Add in Russia and Hong Kong, and it’s still only equal to our exports to France. And despite Cameron’s attitude, our trade is still growing with the vast majority of Europe.
And while Cameron argues that the Old World is “sclerotic, over-regulated, spending money on unaffordable welfare systems, huge pension bills, unreformed public services”, that ignores that Asia is building welfare states across the continent. The demographic crisis that is going to hit China necessitates at least some form of a welfare state. It’s true that they’re not very regulated – but that’s not always a great thing. Remember, regulation is what stops our children’s toys being slathered with poisonous lead paint.
It may be true that while we are, at present, having a tough time across Europe “on the other side of the world, China is moving so fast it’s creating a new economy the size of Greece every three months” it doesn’t matter to us if they aren’t buying what we have to sell.
As László Andor, EU Social Affairs Commissioner said today in an interview with the FT, Cameron’s attempts to curtail the right of Europeans to live and work in Britain merely serves to damage our economy. Why should we close our doors to the best and brightest, when instead they could contribute to our economy. When the UK economy benefits to the tune of £90bn per year from levy-free trade throughout the 27 country European Union, and yet only pays an £8bn contribution to the EU for access… I cannot find a better example of “we’re better together, and we’ll rise together”. I just wish Cameron would wake up to this.
To start off with, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) isn’t forcing the government to give all prisoners the vote. The 2004 ruling against Britain, and the recent Italian case, ensures that the government does have the right to take away the power of voting from some prisoners. But a blanket ban, the kind we have in the UK, is illegal and incompatible with human rights law. The ban is indiscriminate, and that is what the court is attempting to forbid.Now that that unpleasant thing, the truth, is out of the way, let’s look at some of the issues.
Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that…
1 . Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
2. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
This means that voting is a right held by all individuals, regardless of their actions, or any personal identification. It would, for example, be illegal to say that being Jewish disallows you from voting. It also doesn’t allow for these rights to be taken away because they’re incarcerated. It is held by ALL individuals, inalienable and intrinsic.
But, but… law-abiding citizens may feel sick because prisoners can vote and apparently David Cameron felt similarly at PMQs. Frankly, I don’t care. Some fundamentalist Christians may feel sick because gay people might actually be allowed to marry, shock horror. Just because some people may feel sick that, for example, Jews are allowed into the same schools as Christians, does that mean we shouldn’t have equality and human dignity for all?
Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams has said that prisoners on short services should be allowed to vote as part of their Rehabilitation - This is interesting because it opens the possibility of those prisoners who will almost certainly never be released having their vote taken away. It would also comply with the court’s judgement. However, in order to interact with prisoners politically and re-engage them in wider society, the vote isn’t strictly necessary. Education on the power of the vote matters, the actual matter of putting an X on a ballot isn’t, at this stage, all that crucial. I’d rather see education and re-engagement, instead of abandoning prisoners.
My views? I don’t see any justification for preventing prisoners from voting. They are still subjects of the British government, impacted by its decisions, and thusly have the right to participate in those decisions.We may try to dehumanise criminals, but dehumanising our fellow humans has never ended well, and I can’t see it ending well now. Most will be released someday, and will emerge into a world they will have been prevented from playing a part in forming. They still hold basic human rights and deserve human dignity. The vast majority of us would not agree with prisons being places where all prisoners are beaten, starved and abused. Look at Abu Ghraib.We accord prisoners human dignity, and the right to vote is a large part of that.
This also calls into question the nature of prison – punishment, rehabilitation or society’s safety? Is a prisoner in prison to teach him a lesson? If so, then a) I disagree and b) losing the right to vote isn’t really part of the punishment. If its rehabilitation, as I believe it should be, then human dignity plays a crucial role in that. If its for society’s safety, are we worried they’ll elect axe-murderers who will slaughter a council ward?
The crux of the matter is that of human rights. They are inalienable and intrinsic to every human being. Saying today that murderers can’t vote, tomorrow that people with parking tickets, over the weekend taking the right away from Muslims, and then all non-Christians by next week, is an all too easy progression the second we step away from the principle that every last human holds these rights.
A blanket ban on voting is arbitrary and damaged human dignity by dehumanising a subset of society. This is always wrong. Even allowing just some prisoners to vote is not sufficient, to my mind – where is the cutoff point? They also are still impacted by state’s decisions and have a right to participate in making them.
We all have that power. Don’t let the government take that right away from some of us. After all, If you tolerate this, then your children will be next…
The future teaches you to be alone
The present to be afraid and cold
So if I can shoot rabbits
Then I can shoot fascists
Bullets for your brain today
But we’ll forget it all again
Monuments put from pen to paper
Turns me into a gutless wonder
And if you tolerate this
Then your children will be next
And if you tolerate this
Then your children will be next
Will be next
Will be next
Will be next
I understand this position is probably NOT popular. Given that, feel free to comment below! I’d love to hear from you. Stay respectful, but I answer all comments.
In the meantime, enjoy!
- David Cameron to fight prison voting plan (independent.co.uk)
- UK to resist giving prisoners the vote despite European court ruling (guardian.co.uk)
- Balls: We’ll back prisoner battle (express.co.uk)
- PM to fight Europe on prisoner vote (express.co.uk)
- UK News: Balls: We’ll back prisoner battle (walesonline.co.uk)
This week, Tim Montgomerie, founder of ConservativeHome, wrote in The Times that he knows “of two Conservative MPs seriously considering following the path already trodden by Roger Helmer, MEP, and other Tory activists.”
So tempting! Ah, Tim knows how to tease the Twitterverse’s denizens – the politicos, policy wonks and politics anoraks. Who could these two MPs be?
The Spineless Liberal offers his opinion.
Ah, April Fool’s Day. The day when you can’t believe anything you read on the internet. So I shouldn’t be worried about the news on the BBC , the Independent and Metro that the government is planning to allow the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) new powers to snoop into people’s online communications.