The British government’s latest delaying tactics over the voting rights of UK prisoners could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds. The government, fearful of troublesome backbench MPs, has decided to form a parliamentary committee to consider what may or may not be in a draft Bill, thus ensuring that the 6 year old problem will take several years more to resolve.
Despite an attempt to look rather clever, the cynical move set out by the new Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling could in fact spell disaster for the government on several different fronts including – but not limited to – massive compensation claims by prisoners and former prisoners, significant fines imposed by the European Courts and the destruction of Britain’s worldwide reputation as an upholder of human rights.
If all this sounds rather dramatic – as well as potentially expensive – it is because it is.
TheOpinionSite.org believes that the government’s clear objective is to postpone any decision on such a contentious issue until after the next general election in 2015; not only because of yet another backbench revolt but also because David Cameron and his ministers have no idea how to solve the problem.
Cameron is well aware that his ambitious Home Secretary, Theresa May and his very odd Education Secretary, Michael Gove are both waiting to plant a carving knife in the back of the prime minister. Both individuals are campaigning behind the scenes whilst publicly claiming that they have no ambitions to claim the top job.
There is very little honesty at the top of government it would seem.
With Cameron’s isolationist (and purely politically driven) approach to European negotiations, his recent failure to address the rather doubtful integrity of some historic claims of paedophilia as well as the continuing downturn in the British economy, he’s a sitting duck for political assassination by Gove or May who both supposedly represent ‘traditional Tory values’.
However, if Cameron is trying to defend his position, the latest decision to kick the prisoner voting issue into the very, very long grass is a big, big mistake.
The government itself has estimated that prisoners past and present could claim up to £1,000 each in compensation for not being allowed to vote, plus many more thousands in costs.
Given the millions of prisoners who have been in and out of jail over very many years, this really could be the compensation claim without end as it is likely to be retrospective in nature and could involve quite literally millions of individuals.
Lawyers also make the point that the government were under a court imposed deadline of the 22nd November to bring forward proposals to solve the issue; something the government has failed to do.
Grayling, in typical pompous Tory fashion, stated on Monday that the matter would go before a ‘joint scrutiny committee’ of Parliament; a political device often used to delay difficult decisions.
Bringing forward legislation would have satisfied the court; what the government have done instead most certainly will not.
Meanwhile, John Hirst – the prisoner who won his case on voting rights in the European Court of Human Rights will, along with thousands of other potential litigants, have gone straight back to their lawyers claiming correctly that the government is not complying with the order of the court.
They will therefore be seeking even more compensation; something to which they are probably entitled under the law.
In a typically Conservative – and particularly odious move – Grayling is now attempting to head off disaster by trying to limit the legal aid available to prisoners; legal aid that is necessary in order to allow them to pursue their legal action.
However, such a move may itself be unlawful, even under the British rules governing access to justice, not to mention European law which rightly provides for people to bring actions against the state.
With potential challenges building against the latest (and largely politically motivated measures) against sex offenders following a ruling from the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court – not a European court – this latest threat over prisoners’ votes is the last thing the government wants or needs.
Far worse however, in the view of TheOpinionSite.org at least, is the worsening of the government’s currently precarious position brought about by ministers themselves; in particular, Grayling and Theresa May, who both want to appear to be ‘tougher’ on crime and prisoners than the other.
However bizarre and moronic the government’s current stance is though, that is not the worst of it; not by a long way.
Whatever true feelings over the issue ministers may have, something that only they know, the cold fact is that if the government were to allow just some convicted prisoners to vote – even if were only those serving less than 6 months – , the whole legal issue would probably disappear; as would the probability of taxpayers having to spend millions of their hard earned cash, the threat of further action by the court and the loss of reputation that Britain is already suffering.
So why, you may ask, doesn’t David Cameron do just that?
The answer is horribly simple:
He is too weak to stand up to his own backbenchers and those who are trying to remove him from office. Too weak in fact to act like a real prime minister.
Too weak – and possibly too stupid – to realise that the public don’t give a damn whether or not prisoners get the vote but do care about unnecessarily spending hundreds of millions of public money because ambitious politicians are trying to save face rather than do the right thing and obey the law.
TheOpinionSite.org also points out that most prisoners – like most of the general public – probably won’t vote anyway.
What prisoners past and present will do however – again, like most of the general public – is to use the law to claim compensation from the government when that government offers the money up on a silver platter.
By delaying a decision on the voting rights of prisoners, Cameron and his ministers have signalled three things very, very clearly to the public and the court:
- They are prepared to unnecessarily pay hundreds of millions of public money to feed their own arrogance
- They are prepared to waste the money of those living in the community rather than comply with the order of the court
- They are prepared to break the law themselves whilst at the same time threatening the rest of us with prison if we follow their example
TheOpinionSite.org is no stranger to government hypocrisy but, in so manipulating the issue of prisoners’ votes, this government has surpassed even its predecessor’s miserable record of cynicism and dishonesty.
Tony Blair may have been extraordinarily dishonest, selfish and arrogant in the eyes of many people – and this website – but he was not stupid and he was not weak.
Cameron’s government is also extraordinarily dishonest, selfish and arrogant but importantly, those at the top of it also appear to be extraordinarily stupid.
Thanks to this unprecedented and arrogant stupidity of our so called leaders, the prisoners will win anyway; if not with regard to the law that supports them, certainly in the matter of their individual bank accounts.
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