Bolivia Newton-John's Blog

A dark day for democracy

February 11, 2011
2 Comments

There are various groups in society that I wish couldn’t vote (pretty much everyone apart from me), but luckily, I am not allowed to withdraw that right from other people. None of us are, and that principle is central to our democracy. So news that MPs have decided it is their right to pick and choose who elects them should have us all worried. Aside from the fact that it contravenes probably the most important of all international conventions that Britain is signed up to, the European Convention on Human Rights, the decision undermines the principle of universal suffrage that checks the power of politicians to do as they please. They work for us, remember? Now that they have awarded themselves that right, what is stopping them extending it to other demographics: racists; Communists; anyone who votes Tory/Labour while there’s a Labour/Tory government in; and eventually anyone who doesn’t fit into The Masterplan and who Harman/Griffin/Farage/Dorries wishes couldn’t vote.

Some people say that because with rights come responsibilities, by breaking the law criminals have “consented” to having suffrage withdrawn. Well what constitutes a crime is also decided by MPs, so the conflict of interest is obvious. Furthermore, breaking the law is a mistake, made by someone on the wrong track, and anybody in society can get put on the wrong track, usually by circumstances and bad luck beyond their control. Removing suffrage from these people certainly fits in with the vengeful hard-line attitude extolled in the boozers and tabloid newsrooms, but it doesn’t fit in with the tenets of our justice system. If we are going to follow the lead of barbaric authoritarian systems like China, Saudi Arabia and the US, where law-abiding citizens (for “law-abiding citizens” see “people who haven’t been caught yet” – I break the law on a regular basis and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t) revel in treating criminals as a different species, rather than people who have made mistakes, then frankly we are going to turn into a country of which I don’t want to be part.

Moreover, what is the connection between voting and an act. Murder is a grave crime, and murderers should, in general, be restricted in their liberty for the protection of the people that they would otherwise harm, but how is this related to voting? Voting and murder are as unconnected as voting and recycling, or voting and standing on the left on Tube escalators (these last people are going to Hell anyway so why stop them voting while they’re here?). Human rights cannot be given and taken away like sweeties, and any politician who thinks they can is pretending to a higher throne and should be regarded as dangerous.

PS. As a former Labour minister, it is well-known that Jack Straw is a repulsive authoritarian, but David Davis enjoys promoting this idea of himself as Defender of Liberty, and should be ashamed of himself. Hats off to the mere 22 MPs who know their place.

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About author

Bolivia Newton-John is an enthusiast from South East London. She will be mostly writing about society, anthropology, politics and entertainment, though hopefully in a less pretentious manner than here indicated. Bolivia Newton-John likes diplomacy, irony, and seeing the big picture. Bolivia Newton-John dislikes misanthropy, self-importance, and censorship.

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