Friday, 11 February 2011

It's a start

Prisoners will still get the vote, or at least some of them will, and the UK is still subject to the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. Yesterday's Commons vote will change nothing directly. Last year's new intake of Conservative MPs, increasing frustrated with Cameron's policy direction, got to flex their Parliamentary muscles, and let's hope they like the taste of it. Labour MPs, conscious that the public would hardly shower them in bouquets for defending the nonce's right to the ballot box, wisely went into hiding and pretended nothing was happening. 

The government actually consider the 'no' vote to be rather useful; the ECHR's criticism included the fact that Parliament hadn't considered the issue of prisoners' voting rights since 1870. Well, now they have; box ticked. But if Cameron imagines his MPs will now go quietly back to work, he would be mistaken. He has raised expectations that a re-negotiation of the UK's relationship with the ECHR is on the cards; to fail to deliver will undermine his relationship with the Parliamentary party and lose votes. He will discover, if he doesn't know it already, that there's no such thing as a free lunch. 

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