A self-contained letter to the Daily Express

This made me smile:

Letter sent to the Daily Express, 10 November 2010

re your article “Cameron must say no to votes for prisoners”

Dear Sir

The EU is always interested in what one of its leading members has to say, but if David Cameron takes Ann Widdecombe’s advice, it won’t get him very far. It is the Council of Europe, a completely separate organisation, that is responsible for the ruling on prisoners’ votes.

Yours faithfully

Antonia Mochan
Head of Media
European Commission Representation, London

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13 Comments

  • Would most of its readers understand the distinction, Mark? I doubt it.; but at least this letter got published – probably because the Daily Express is flattered by any European authority commenting on its fiction.

  • Patrick Smith 11th Nov '10 - 7:41pm

    The critical issue to not whether British prisoners get to vote or not but is rather that over 70% of offenders serving less than 2 year sentences are re-committing the same offences.

    Surely there has to be a better way to show first time offenders that crime does not pay?

    The loss of 72,000 men at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 was for our rights today to freedom of speech,religious toleration and the right to vote .

    Should we remember the bravery of those who fought at the Somme or the decision to award prisoners the right to vote by the Council of Europe?

  • “The loss of 72,000 men at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 was for our rights today to freedom of speech,religious toleration and the right to vote .”

    I’m not making light (today of all days) of the men killed in that hideous slaughter but is this close to being historically accurate?

    Surely WWI was fought (from a British point of view) over Belgian neutrality? Did Germany pose a significant threat to those rights – in so far as they existed in the UK at that time.

  • Ed Maxfield 11th Nov '10 - 8:53pm

    Arguably it was fought to preserve Britain’s dominant position at the head of an existing imperial order that was threatened by the growing economic power of Germany – no doubt one of the reasons why the Liberal government of the day was so reluctant to get into it.

    The courage of those who fought and died (on all sides) was immense and deserves great honour. But in that war, more perhaps than any other, the adage hold true that a bayonet is a weapon with a worker at both ends.

  • All things considered, I’m rather glad the Central Powers didn’t win. They were illiberal and oppressive institutions gambling for their continued survival with the blood of their people. While what came after may not have lived up to the promise of what might have been, their people were better off without them.

  • “All things considered, I’m rather glad the Central Powers didn’t win. They were illiberal and oppressive institutions gambling for their continued survival with the blood of their people. While what came after may not have lived up to the promise of what might have been, their people were better off without them.”

    Personally I agree more with Niall Ferguson. I think that had we stayed out of the war, and had Germany won… there would have been no world war two (a far worse conflict), perhaps no USSR or communist government (more likely a reformed democratic Russia… taking Russia further politically than it is even today).. and eventually Germany and the central powers would have liberalised much quicker than they actually did (indeed some of these central powers didn’t become democracies until 1989). Had we let Germany win without getting involved the British Empire would have survived, IMHO ultimately for the better of the world today, there would have been a far better balance of powers and most European countries would have become liberal democracies far quicker than they ever did.

    That war was a massive mistake where millions died for no gain, for which Asquith must take the blame.

  • @Thomas

    “They were illiberal and oppressive institutions gambling for their continued survival with the blood of their people.”

    Well certainly when the war began (despite lazy stereotypes) Germany was more ‘liberal’ and more enfranchised (I think they even had votes for women) than the Britain was.

    At the beginning of the war there were no ‘bad guys’ and no ‘good guys’. Take Russia on the entente’s side, probably the most illiberal power in ‘Europe’ at the time.

  • @Rob: I’m not saying the etente was flawless and that their motivations were anything more than self interest. That doesn’t excuse the failings of the governments of the central powers. And the franchise and its extent is meaningless if the elected bodies are powerless talking shops. Nor do I share Niall’s nostalgia for Empire or his not particularly well supported argument that liberalisation was anything like inevitable. There is no compelling reason as to why violent repression would not have been the response to liberalisation in a victorious Germany, Austria Hungary, Ottoman Empire or an unengaged Russia

  • It’s impossibly difficult to say what would have happened had Britain stayed out and the Central Powers won. The Romanov and Hapsburg regimes were already facing massive internal strains. Wars of national liberation would probably have led to their collapse and that would have sparked a different conflict with an expansionist Germany. These would have been heavily influenced by the American model.

    Would France have passively accepted subjugation or would it have sparked the rise of French fascism or a Communist revolution? What would have happened to politics in the UK? The Liberal Party would probably have been smashed by a jingoistic Tory Party in a 1915 election that would have reacted to German expansion with protectionism and all that would have brought in its wake.

    I cant quite figure out what this has to do with votes for prisoners but where is Richard Grayson when you need him?

  • Ian Sanderson (RM3) 12th Nov '10 - 5:44pm

    Votes For Prisoners
    (This thread seems to have split, and I have strong feelings on both branches – hence two separate postings from me.)
    With the total number of prisoners in this country being about the same as one Westminster constituency, the chances of their votes affecting the outcome of a general election is minimal.
    A large proportion of prisoners are short term, so it is mostly a matter of chance whether an individual actually misses out voting in an election at all.
    We need prisoners to come out with a more socially responsible attitude than they went in with, and giving them the responsibilities of voting will help some of them with getting a better attitude to society.
    The rights of people without a vote or friends are too easily ignored by our masters, so enfranchising prisoners should go some way to redressing this.

    I think this makes the argument for votes for prisoners an important issue, and if it supported by treaties that we, as a country, have already freely signed this makes it more important. On the other hand, I don’t much care, who raises the issue or why, as long as it is progressed.
    Ian, who has actually worked in prisons, as an OU tutor.

  • Ian Sanderson (RM3) 12th Nov '10 - 6:12pm

    Remembrance
    (This thread seems to have split, and I have strong feelings on both branches – hence two separate postings from me.)
    In this season of remembrance, especially 11th and 14th November, we should remember those who have died, been wounded or otherwise damaged by War and Conflict. We should remember the lives that they had, and what they lost and give thanks for their devotion to their cause.
    On the other hand, it should not be the time for narrow nationalism, nor for trying to set up an invidious pecking order of whether one sacrifice was more worthy than other. The really important thing was that they suffered from the conflicts, and that we and our governments should learn from this.
    It may be natural to remember those to whom we have a personal connection, so I particularly remember the four I knew who died in the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bomb, two family members attacked by the IRA (one who died and one who lives disabled), my mother’s Australian cousin who fought in France in World War I, and my granddaughter’s Slovakian great-grandfather, killed by American bombing in World War II.
    But I will be always aware that they represent millions of others and millions of other families throughout the world.

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