Last week, I was invited to speak at an event in Glasgow discussing whether prisoners should have the vote or not. The debate stems from a European ruling that prisoners in the UK, regardless of what parliament decides, should be given the vote.
To my left was a lawyer who argued with great passion that the extension of the franchise to prisoners was a right that could and should not be denied.
My basic argument was that prisoners are not citizens as such and should therefore not receive the vote. Interestingly, like other extensions of the vote - for example, the granting of the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds for the Scottish independence referendum next year - the demand for the vote has not come from the people in these affected groups. Prisoners are not campaigning for this en masse. Indeed, as one prison officer present at the debate noted, in his experience the kind of people who end up as prisoners would not vote anyway, even if they were not behind bars.
The demand for the extension of the vote in these cases comes from the legal, professional and political elites.
On top of this, the patronising approach to prisoners voting - it will empower the vulnerable - reflects the elitist and therapeutic way extending the vote is being proposed and defended today.