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May 29, 2017 | by  | in From Within the Fallout Zone |
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From Within the Fallout Zone

I can vote and I live in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency…

The fact that I — along with any other Commonwealth citizen living in the UK — can vote is news to me; my interest in UK politics was, up until moving here, summed up to some kind of queasy feeling about Blair, Bush, and the start of the wars of our generation (drugs, terror, crime, Iraq and Afghanistan).

I better do some reading; but withstanding some political enlightenment before June 8, I will vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the parliamentary constituency of Islington North, London. There are many reasons why.

I can vote because I just moved to a permanent address from a canal boat. The rabbit hole bureaucracy here makes it very hard to do anything without a permanent address (and the rise in London’s homelessness continues).

Another reason? I won the lottery of birth. It started when the British Crown reluctantly took colonial authority over New Zealand. Then my parents raised me in a socio-economic stratum enabling me to be a university educated ex-pat. Simple, really.

From historic beginnings, any member of a Commonwealth state living in the UK has the right to vote in elections of every variety; from local elections to EU referenda (at least until Brexit) —  as long as they have the right to be living in the UK. This right to vote is continually implemented as a means of soft, bilateral power (for those of you in INTP112 *high five*). Essentially, the legacy of the “British Subject” continues.

And it’s nice to be in this global community. However, what does it mean when a country allows nationals with tenuous historical links — maintained largely on a state level — to vote, but not its own prisoners? Prisoners who likely have an emotional and familial attachment to said country.

Britain, along with New Zealand, holds a blanket ban over prisoners voting. It is a privilege to be about to vote in fair and free elections. But it’s strange that I have this very important, fundamental right, while it is automatically stripped from those who are incarcerated.

David Cameron was reported in the Guardian to have said it makes him feel “physically sick” to think of prisoners having the right to vote. Cameron is still suffering from a Victorian hangover in the notion that prisoners should be wholly removed from civic life.

In today’s context of overcrowded prisons and failing reintegration programmes, the opposite of this Victorian notion is true. Incarcerated members of society should feel included within the civic process. Excluding them from suffrage is excluding them from the thought they can once again be apart of a functioning, free society.

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