Last night, the House of Commons did a remarkable thing: on a contentious and vital issue, it found virtual unanimity.
I was proud to vote against prisoners having the vote. This time last year, the Prime Minister said that burglars leave their human rights outside when they break into your house. Well, criminals sent down leave their vote outside the prison gates.
The absurd prospect of taxpayers paying a nine-figure sum to compensate criminals for the consequences of their own criminal behaviour has served one useful purpose – it has thrown into stark relief the illegitimate power of the ECHR over our own institutions.
That blatant illegitimacy should prompt a further free vote – on leaving the jurisdiction of the ECHR. Its overweening ambition demonstrated by its judicial activism to hold itself above our parliament makes it incompatible with a British view of democracy. There was a time when it served a useful purpose – but that time has gone when 'human rights' embraces so many fatuous cases as we have witnessed over the last decade.
I have no doubt that given the chance, the Conservative Parliamentary Party would vote enthusiastically for such an exit. And in doing so, they would genuinely be expressing the will of the people.
But as last night showed, there are other parties who also would vote to leave. And that is why it should be a free vote.
After all the opprobrium that has been thrown at politicians in recent years – and the sight of MPs and ex-MPs being found guilty of fraud and given custodial sentences – we could now do something to show that we are in fact in touch with our electorate; that their instincts are our instincts too; that we believe in the sovereignty of our country through its parliament and the power of our electorate to decide our own laws.
So, it’s time for another free vote. And I know which way I would be voting.