The new First Minister of Wales, Corbyn supporter Mark Drakeford, has said his government wants to give all prisoners the vote in Assembly and local elections.
In a Welsh Assembly debate today, the Welsh Labour-led Government – which includes the only Liberal Democrat AM amongst it – and Plaid Cymru called for all prisoners to have the right to vote.
Although the result of the debate is non-binding, the Welsh Government’s explicit support – evident in their own amendment – has set Wales on a path towards giving prisoners which include murderers, rapists, terrorists, and paedophiles the right to elect AMs and councillors.
The Welsh Conservatives are warning that this is the beginning of Mark Drakeford’s plan to turn Wales into a Corbynite experiment. Jeremy Corbyn has said on numerous occasions he thinks that all convicts should be able to vote.*
Mr Drakeford – who used a local government reform consultation to ask about prisoner voting rights while a Welsh Government minister in 2017 – was one of the few Labour Assembly Members to back Jeremy Corbyn’s bid for the UK Party leadership in 2015.
In the 2016 Assembly elections, the Welsh Labour Party, Plaid Cymru, and Welsh Liberal Democrat manifestos made no mention of prisoner voting rights, meaning the issue has not yet faced scrutiny at the ballot box.
The decision also pre-empts the Assembly’s Equality and Communities Committee on-going inquiry into voting rights for prisoners.
A 2017 YouGov survey found that a majority of Britons did not want any prisoners to have the franchise, and that a greater proportion of those in Wales and the Midlands were against such plans, with 60% of those questioned opposed.
In November 2017, the UK Government re-affirmed the ban on prisoners serving custodial sentences from voting under UK election law. To address the European Court of Human Right’s 2005 ruling, the UK Government made minor technical changes to Prison Service guidance and ensured that prisoners are notified of their ban on voting when they are sentenced. These provisions were accepted by the Council of Europe, and the Council formally closed the case in September 2018.
Commenting, Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies AM, said:
“Mark Drakeford has been a Corbynite long before the term was even coined, and this move to give all prisoners the vote will go down like a lead balloon.
“It seems the First Minister will continue with the Welsh Labour Government’s usual modus operandi and force this through the Assembly with help from Plaid Cymru.
“This despite having no mandate to do so having failed to consult the electorate, in face of public opposition, and before the findings of an Assembly committee have come to light.
“Sadly, this is just another day in Labour-run Wales, and it demonstrates why everyone across the UK should beware what a Corbyn government will bring.”