David Cameron welcomed the recent ruling by the Supreme Court against giving prisoners the right to vote as a “victory for common sense.” Whilst people will understandably shed no tears that convicted rapists, murderers and paedophiles are being denied the vote, it is important to remember that other imprisoned citizens also suffer the same deprivation.
Since we have seen that demonstrators are now increasingly likely to be prosecuted – as some of those who marched against austerity cuts, the stealth privatisation of the NHS, the dismantling of the Welfare State and the removal of the right to free education have discovered – and since the introduction of elected police chiefs has effectively made law enforcement a political tool, this means that we run the very real risk of silencing those who are, in essence, political prisoners. This is a sinister development perhaps more akin to what one might expect under a dictatorship.
As a case in point: in court at the moment is Green MP Caroline Lucas, who stands accused of being a politician who stuck to her principles and protested, in accordance with her beliefs and on behalf of her constituents, against fracking by private corporations – corporations whose interests apparently supersede those of ordinary people. If she were to be imprisoned over this, are we content that she would then be denied a democratic voice?
Others likely to fall foul of the legal process are the growing numbers of impoverished who are being driven to ever more desperate measures in these times of austerity and deprivation. Consider the demographic of those most likely to be imprisoned and you will see that denying prisoners the vote skews our democracy to an unacceptable degree.