A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Votes for prisoners - the potential impact

The Coalition Government announced yesterday that prisoners will be allowed to vote. This follows Nick Clegg taking responsibility for the issue away from the Department of Justice and putting it within his own remit at the Cabinet Office.

The Lib Dems have always supported giving the vote to convicted criminals. Oddly they have been able to deliver a promise they made to people who couldn't vote in 2010, whilst comprehensively selling-out on pledges they made to law-abiding groups of voters like students.

Giving prisoners the vote will give criminals influence over the very laws they have broken, a fact not lost on prisoners themselves. Inside Time, the national newspaper for prisoners, boasted in June that “Prisoners’ votes could have changed election result”.

According to their analysis there were five constituencies (four held by the Conservatives and one by Labour) in this years General Election where the majority achieved by the winning candidate was roughly the same or even less than the population of the local prison. Lancaster and Fleetwood, for example, had a Conservative majority of just 333 while the two prisons in the constituency, Lancaster Farms and Lancaster Castle have a population of approx 750. In Newton Abbott the Conservative MP was elected with a majority of 523 while Channings Wood Prison in the constituency holds approx 700 inmates.

Of course the impact of giving prisoners the vote could be even more significant in local elections where the votes cast by the inmates of one jail could equal or exceed the total number of votes normally cast for the winning candidate in a local council election.

Will prisoners be allowed to run for office if they are allowed to vote? They can't at the moment but presumably the LDs believe that's their human right as well. A high turnout from a prison in a low turnout ward could see a prisoner candidate beat the law-abiding ones. Would they then be let out for council meetings?

Prisons with a capacity of over 500 by Westminster Constituency

Sheppey Cluster - Sittingbourne & Sheppey - 2117 prisoners - Con gain with 12,383 majority
Lindholme & Moorland Closed - Don Valley - 1781 prisoners - Lab hold with 3,595 majority
Isle of Wight - Isle of Wight - 1700 prisoners - Con hold with 10,527 majority
Wandsworth - Tooting - 1665 prisoners - Lab hold with 2,524 majority
Birmingham - Birmingham Ladywood - 1450 prisoners - Lab hold with 6,801 majority
Hewell - Bromsgrove - 1431 prisoners - Con hold with 11,308 majority
Stocken & Ashwell - Rutland & Melton - 1425 prisoners - Con hold with 14,000 majority
Forest Bank - Salford & Eccles - 1424 prisoners - Lab hold with 5,725 majority
Onley & Rye Hill - Daventry - 1374 prisoners - Con hold with 19,188 majority
Altcourse - Liverpool Walton - 1324 prisoners - Lab hold with 19,818 majority
Wormword Scrubs - Hammersmith - 1277 prisoners - Lab hold with 3,549 majority
Manchester - Blackley & Broughton - 1269 prisoners - Lab hold with 12,303 majority
Pentonville - Islington South & Finsbury - 1250 prisoners - Lab hold with 3,569 majority
Holme House - Stockton North - 1211 prisoners - Lab hold with 6,676 majority
Parc - Brigend - 1200 prisoners - Lab hold with 2,263 majority
Liverpool - Liverpool Walton - 1184 prisoners - Lab hold with 19,818 majority
Doncaster -Doncaster Central - 1145 prisoners - Lab hold with 6,229 majority
Wymott - South Ribble - 1144 prisoners - Con gain with 5,554 majority
Bullingdon - Banbury - 1114 prisoners - Con hold with 18,227 majority
High Down - Reigate - 1103 prisoners - Con hold with 13,591 majority
Ranby - Bassetlaw - 1098 prisoners - Lab hold with 8,215 majority
Risley - Warrington North - 1085 prisoners - Lab hold with 6,771 majority
Hull - Kingston upon Hull East - 1044 prisoners - Lab hold with 8,597 majority
Wayland - Mid Norfolk - 1017 prisoners - Con hold with 13,856 majority
Leeds - Leeds West - 1004 prisoners - Lab hold with 7,016 majority
Durham -City of Durham - 981 prisoners - Lab hold with 3,067 majority
Acklington -Berwick Upon Tweed - 946 prisoners - LD hold with 2,690 majority
Highpoint - West Suffolk - 944 prisoners - Con hold with 13,050
Belmarsh -Erith & Thamesmead - 910 prisoners - Lab hold with 5,703 majority
Gartree -Harborough - 869 prisoners - Con hold with 9,797 majority
Dovegate -Burton - 860 prisoners - Con gain with 6,304 majority
Garth - South Ribble - 847 prisoners - Con gain with 5,554 majority
Whatton -Newark - 841 prisoners - Con hold with 16,152 majority
Peterborough - Peterborough - 840 prisoners - Con hold with 4,861 majority
Woodhill -Milton Keynes South - 819 prisoners - Con gain with 5,201 majority
Glen Parva - South Leicestershire - 808 prisoners - Con hold with 15,524 majority
Brixton - Streatham - 798 prisoners - Lab hold with 3,259 majority
Cardiff - Cardiff Central - 784 prisoners - LD hold with 4,576 majority
Lancaster Farms & Castle - Lancaster and Fleetwood - 775 prisoners - Con gain from lab with 333 majority
Feltham - Feltham & Heston - 762 prisoners - Lab hold with 4,658 majority
Wakefield - Wakefield - 751 prisoners - Lab hold with 1,613 majority
Frankland - City of Durham - 750 prisoners - Lab hold with 3,067 majority
Preston - Preston - 750 prisoners - Lab hold with 7,733 majority
Stafford - Stafford - 741 prisoners - Con gain with 5,460 majority
Lincoln - Lincoln - 738 prisoners - Con gain with 1,058 majority
Channings Wood - Newton Abbot - 731 prisoners - Con majority of 523 over Lib Dems
Littlehey - Huntingdon - 726 prisoners - Con hold with 10,819 majority
Lewes - Lewes - 723 prisoners - Lib Dem hold with 7,647 majority
Chelmsford - Chelmsford - 695 prisoners - Con hold with 5,110 majority
Everthorpe - Haltemprice & Howden - 689 prisoners - Con hold with 11,602 majority
Featherstone - South Staffordshire - 687 prisoners - Con hold with 16,590 majority
Dartmoor - Torridge & West Devon - 646 prisoners - Con hold with 2,957 majority
Wellingborough - Wellingborough - 646 prisoners - Con hold with 11,787 majority
Haverigg - Copeland - 644 prisoners - Lab hold with 3,833 majority
Stoke Heath - North Shropshire - 632 prisoners - Con hold with 15,828 majority
Swinfen Hall - Tamworth - 624 prisoners - Con gain with 6,090 majority
Long Lartin -Mid Worcestershire - 622 prisoners - Con hold with 15,864 majority
Rochester - Rochester & Strood - 620 prisoners - Con hold with 9,953 majority
Bristol - Bristol West - 614 prisoners - Lib Dem hold with 11,366 majority
Full Sutton - East Yorkshire - 608 prisoners - Con hold with 13,486 majority
Maidstone - Maidstone & the Weald - 600 prisoners - Con hold with 5,889 majority
The Verne - South Dorset - 595 prisoners - Con gain with 7,443 majority
Kirkham - Fylde - 590 prisoners - Con hold with 13,185 majority
Sudbury - Derbyshire Dales - 581 prisoners - Con hold with 13,866 majority
Guys Marsh - Dorset North - 578 prisoners - Con hold with 7,625 majority
Brinsford - Staffordshire South - 569 prisoners - Con hold with 16,590 majority
Bronzefield - Spelthorne - 569 prisoners - Con hold with 10,019 majority
Lowdham Grange - Newark - 564 prisoners - Con hold with 16,152 majority
Ford - Bognor Regis and Littlehampton - 557 prisoners - Con hold with 13,063 majority
Nottingham - Nottingham East - 549 prisoners - Lab hold with 6,969 majority
Winchester - Winchester - 544 prisoners - Con gain from LD with 3,048 majority
Exeter - Exeter - 533 prisoners - Lab hold with 2,721 majority
Leyhill - Thornbury & Yate - 532 prisoners - LD hold with 7,116 majority
Wealstun - Elmet & Rothwell - 527 prisoners - Con gain from Lab with 4,521 majority
Blundeston - Waveney - 526 prisoners - Con gain from Lab with 769 majority
Bure - Norfolk North - 523 prisoners - LD hold with 11,626 majority
Coldingley - Surrey Heath - 513 prisoners - Con hold with 17,289 majority
Bedford - Bedford - 506 prisoners - Con gain from Lab with 1,353 majority
Holloway - Islington North - 501 prisoners - Lab hold with 12,401 majority

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Durham also has HMP Frankland and HMP Low Newton as well as Durham prison. Total prison population is well over 2,000 but is still a bit smaller than the Labour majority.

2:44 pm, November 03, 2010

 
Blogger Bob Piper said...

Presumably it is fairly easy to enable prisoners to have a postal vote from the address they were registered at when arrested. What's the problem. You may have moral objections, but the administrative issue is easily dealt with.

As for standing for election, even if a prisoner won they would not be able to take up the seat because they would be unable to sign in as a council member.

Of course, there was a Parliamentary precedent in Bobby Sands MP, although even if allowed to do so r sands would not have taken the oath.

3:31 pm, November 03, 2010

 
Anonymous Stuart King said...

Prisoners should lose the franchise for the period of their incarceration. However, if this does go through, they should be excluded from voting in local elections on the same basis that overseas voters are excluded: namely that they cannot access local services and so should not be eligible to vote in those elections.

The practical problems created by giving the vote to prisoners should not be overlooked. Presumably prisoners would have to vote by post? What is to stop prisoners trading PVs for cigs etc? If a proxy is required would it be a guard? There is a limit on how many people you can be act as proxy for; Given prisoners cannot attend hustings will prisons be required to organise them? Political parties are entitled to a full electoral register which means the names of all felons in prison will be known to political parties - the potential for abuse/misuse is significant.

The practical as well as political reasons to oppose the vote for prisoners is significant and, IMO, compelling.

4:19 pm, November 03, 2010

 
Blogger Bluenote said...

Silly me but I thought this decision was one foisted upon us by our European masters, you know the folk we joined in that treaty that Gordon signed up to without a referendum.

No good blaming the Lib/Dems in isolation for Labour are just as europhile in practice. The only real sceptics seem to be all right wing Tories.

4:23 pm, November 03, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the problem with prisoners voting? A lot of hot air over nothing. They will obviously have a postal vote and to suggest they would 'trade' ballot papers is just plain stupid.
There would be a problem with local elections because of the number of prisoners in one ward but I would agree that voting should only be in General Elections to avoid that problem.
Prisoners are barred from standing for office whilst inside and any person who has had anything but a very short sentence is barred for life.
Th point about Human Rights is that they apply to everyone whether we like it or not and that is how it should be. We cannot choose who has what rights. The only 'Right' a prisoner loses by his/her incarceration is the right to walk out of the prison; every other right is undiminished - which is as it should be.
Prisoners in the Isle of Man have been voting for 4 years with no problem, as do prisoners in almost every European country.
This is now 2010, not 1910; people need to get real and ignore the tabloid nonsense and the political point scoring rhetoric.
Most people who make wild comments about prisoners and prisons have absolutely no idea what prisons are, how they operate or what prisoners can and can't do.
The most important thing about enfranchising 70,000 prisoners is that, suddenly, MPs in marginals will start to have to think about prisons in a sensible light instead of paying lip service to tabloid nonsense.

5:11 pm, November 03, 2010

 
Blogger Bob Piper said...

Actually, Bluenote, the ECHR was not foisted on the British Government by the European Union - and actually, the treaties which created the European Union were signed not by Gordon Brown, but by Margaret Thatcher (the Single European Act) and John Major (the Maastricht Treaty).

Other than that your comment was 100% accurate.

5:37 pm, November 03, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Silly me but I thought this decision was one foisted upon us by ... the folk we joined in that treaty."
Yes, silly you.
It was foisted on us by a group we joined in 1949, along with Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden - the Council of Europe.
Still, it gives the ignorant another chance to rant about Brussels!

7:04 pm, November 03, 2010

 
Anonymous Fed up of EU ignorance said...

"Silly me but I thought this decision was one foisted upon us by our European masters, you know the folk we joined in that treaty that Gordon signed up to without a referendum".

The European Court of Human Rights is NOT part of the European Union. It is part of the "Council of Europe" which was set up in 1949 and has 47 member countries as opposed to the EU's 27.

The European Court of Justice is the EU's court and it has had nothing to do with the prisoner voting decision.

8:16 pm, November 03, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'The European Court of Justice is the EU's court and it has had nothing to do with the prisoner voting decision.'

So if that's true why would this country receive EU penaly fines for not implementing votes for prisoners?

12:35 am, November 04, 2010

 
Anonymous Fed up of EU ignorance said...

"So if that's true why would this country receive EU penaly fines for not implementing votes for prisoners?"

Please source where you found that information please.

11:18 am, November 04, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that it is right to lift the blanket ban on convicted prisoners voting.

The exact details of what prisoners would be allowed to vote has not been decided yet.

Luke provides a lot of statistics but they are not really relevant as the prisoner is going to be registerd at his last address prior to imprisonment. So the argument about marginal seats and local government elections will not apply.

I wish that the last Labour government had had the good grace to bow to this idea instead of constantly seeking to ingratiate itself with reactionary opinion.
Such an approach did it little good at the last general election!

3:51 pm, November 04, 2010

 
Anonymous David said...

On Stuart's point about access to the electoral register: the electoral register says where people are registered. It doesn't say where their PV is sent to -- that's confidential to the council.

Similarly, the proxy point doesn't apply. Unless you know someone in the area you're registered at who is prepared to vote for you (guards won't!) and you trust them to do so, you'll vote by post.

The question is whether councils will have a duty to try and register people from prisons in their area, even though 95% of them will not be added to their register.

If not, I imagine that prisons will not be pro-active about getting inmates to register and so very few will.

8:32 pm, November 04, 2010

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

The European countries which have prisoner voting don't appear to have a problem.

I agree with the ECHR in any case. Voting should be an inalienable right

10:24 pm, November 04, 2010

 
Anonymous Smithers said...

Careful, Luke! Your diatribe reads more like a rant from the editorial of the Daily Mail!

Anyway, as any avid watcher of Porridge knows, most criminals vote Tory.

10:59 am, November 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I support the right of Denis MacShane to vote, when he goes inside.

1:41 pm, November 05, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prisoners will vote in the constituency of their home address. Like army officers stationed overseas. You would have confirmed with even the slightest bit of research before posting. Don't you win awards?

2:35 pm, November 07, 2010

 
Blogger Harry Barnes said...

The vote should be available to anyone over 16 who is settled in the United Kingdom, with the exception only of those who have such a serious mental disability that they are unable in any way to understand the process they would be involved in. This is because we are all human beings who are subject to the decisions made by those who are elected. People should not be excluded on the grounds that they are in prison or are nationals of a foreign country (in this category at the moment only Commonwealth and Irish citizen can qualify). Serious action should also be taken to ensure that the missing millions who are entitled to vote (but who are missing from registers) are discovered and added to the registers. Those missing from registers are a significant proportion of the poor, the young, the rootless, the homeless and ethnic minorities. A major case for giving the vote to 16 year olds is that they could initially be registered via their schools when 15 as "attainers" and it would then be easier to trace them later to ensure they then maintained their voting rights. I can not understand anyone who otherwise sees themselves as a democrat and a believer in human rights coming up with reasons to exclude any category of such people. The vote is not something that one should earn. It is for politicians to seek to earn our votes.

As things stand with criminals, we have the odd position that we keep discovering prisoners who are innocent, whilst we know that most criminals are never captured. If there was a justification for excluding prisoners from the vote, (which there isn't) we would need superior police and justice system to the ones we have - yet they are currently being subject to Government cuts.

6:48 pm, November 07, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob Piper said... "
Presumably it is fairly easy to enable prisoners to have a postal vote from the address they were registered at when arrested."

Yeh, right. No-one who has been arrested has ever been known to
1) give someone else's address for bail purposes
2) keep their name off the register of electors
3) be arrested so soon after ending a previous sentence that the annual canvass for voter registrations hasn't picked them up.

7:54 pm, November 07, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Appalling lack of support for human rights on here. Reads like the 5Live phone-in.

To paraphrase an age-old idiotic rant, "If you don't like it, go live in the USA"

10:18 pm, November 10, 2010

 

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