Alex Massie Alex Massie

Parliament and Mob Rule

You’d need a closed heart not to feel great sympathy for the family of poor Milly Dowler. Her killer Levi Bellfield is a vile, appalling creature and one can understand why the Dowler family would wish him executed. Many will share their sentiments. Among them is Guido who writes:

The political class complains that the public is disengaged, could that be in part because there are a number of issues where the political class refuses to carry out the wishes of the people. All polls since 1965 when hanging was abolished show that there is majority support for capital punishment, yet there is no majority for it in parliament. It is not even an issue for parliamentarians even though the incidence of homicide is higher now than it was before the abolition of hanging. The coalition has promised that there will be e-petitions legislation before the end of this year. If it passes Guido will put all the resources at his command into a campaign for a vote on the restoration of capital punishment for child and cop killers. Even if we don’t win the vote on the floor of the House, we shall at least see which MPs believe salus populi suprema est lex, and those that put the welfare of child killers above the wider community.

Ah well, libertarianism is a broad church and seems to include those willing to grant the state the right to execute at least some of its citizens. Guido’s argument makes little sense, however. The fact that the public may be in favour of a given policy is not a sufficient argument for that policy. It certainly does not mean members of parliament are required to vote according to the prejudices of their constituents.

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