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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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To keep us engaged, keep your promises!

Hanging was abolished 42 years ago but now it looks likely they’ll be debating it in parliament again.

Under a bright idea to get people more interested in politics, our MPs have promised to consider any proposal that gets more than 100,000 signatures on an e-petition. So supporters of the death penalty are busy gathering the necessary names, and Cumbrian Euro MP Paul Nuttal has put his down.

When it comes to the rights and wrongs of the death penalty I suspect there are more wrongs than rights. Colin Stagg, wrongly convicted of the murder of Rachel Nickell, would probably agree with me.

But let’s leave that aside for a moment and look at the thinking behind this e-petition scheme. Sir George Young, who is leader of the House of Commons and in charge of it, calls it “a realistic way to revitalise public engagement in Parliament”. I think it’ll have the opposite effect.

Polls show that most people support capital punishment but most MPs – including party leaders Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband – are against it. So if something with widespread popular support gets debated and rejected, as seems likely, then the public are going to end up feeling less engaged with parliament than ever.

Or maybe MPs will vote to bring hanging back. Then many jurors would be wary of finding people guilty of murder, some judges would refuse to sentence people to death, the whole system would be clogged up with appeal and counter-appeal every time there’s a murder conviction, and we would end up with prisoners on death row for years, just as they have in America.

And knowing this government, they would probably outsource the executions to a private firm.

If politicians want the public more engaged with parliament I have an alternative suggestion for them. Keep your promises and don’t fiddle your expenses.


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