There is a powerful and disturbing irony in the fact that, women having fought so hard for so long and at such great cost to secure the right to vote, it is now women who are leading the clamour to have this right curtailed or denied.
Ruth “Queen of the BritNats” Davidson long since established herself as the leading anti-democracy campaigner in Scotland with her shrill, demagogic demands that the Scottish people be denied the right to choose the constitutional status of their nation and the form of government which best suits their needs.
Now, Davidson’s boss – Theresa May – is proving equally strident in her insistence that people across the UK should not have the opportunity to make an informed choice about leaving the EU. Or, at least, a marginally better informed choice than they were presented with in 2016.
The anti-democratic nature of British Nationalism was strikingly revealed last week when disgraced MSP and total bollard, Annie Wells, responded on behalf of the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) to the launch of the Scottish Government’s public consultation on prisoner voting. In a Tweet seething with self-righteous rage, Wells boasted that “we [BCUPS] are the only party that oppose prisoners having the right to vote”.
I don’t know if this boast is true. What I do know is that Wells doesn’t much care about such niceties as truth and accuracy. But the remark is illuminating anyway. Note how Wells acknowledges that voting is a right. And how ready she is to deny that right with all the vehemence she has left over from supporting her boss’s anti-democratic campaign against a new independence referendum.
Set aside, for a moment, the fact that this relates to persons incarcerated for criminal acts. A right is a right – as Wells’s boss’s boss might put it. While talking of voting as a right, Wells treats it as a privilege. Something that is in the gift of established power; to be gracious granted or spitefully withheld according to the whim of those who wield that power.
In a true democracy, the right to vote is absolute and inalienable. It is a necessary and ineluctable function of citizenship or qualifying residency. Any working definition of democracy must start from the assumption that everybody has the right to vote. The right to vote is not granted and does not need to be claimed or won. It is as much part of the individual born into a truly democratic society as their skin.
From the default assumption that all persons own the right to vote, an argument must be made, under rules set out in the constitution, for withholding this right from defined groups or specified individuals. It is trivial to argue that the right to vote must be rendered functionally inoperative in the case of infants. Nonetheless, the argument must be made. Qualifying as a true democracy demands that the right to vote is in no circumstances withheld lightly.
It is less and less easy to argue that the right to vote should be withheld from individuals as they get older. Strong counter-arguments can be made in the case of persons aged twelve. There are no rational and persuasive arguments for withholding the right to vote from persons aged sixteen.
Once an individual has reached the constitutionally established age at which their right to vote ceases to be withheld, any argument for withholding that right must apply to the specific individual. Any blanket withholding of voting rights across a group is a breach of individual human rights and definitively undemocratic.
Annie Wells expresses pride in being part of a campaign to impose just such a blanket ban. Her attitude, and the attitude generally evinced by British Nationalists, is that voting is a privilege. More ominously, she espouses the principle of denying this ‘privilege’ to groups delineated, not by any human universal such as age, but by criteria determined by the state or its agencies. Groups such as that labelled ‘prisoners’.
Labels are cheap. I’m sure Annie Wells has an abundant supply of them. You might even find that you are already wearing one or more of them. Just such a discovery was made in the wake of the 2014 referendum by a group which the British establishment labelled ‘Scottish MPs’.
Annie Wells. Ruth Davidson. Theresa May. They shame the memory of such as Flora Drummond, Emily Wilding Davison and Emmeline Pankhurst.
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