The fourth attempt by the State of Georgia to execute Troy Davis

There is international concern at today’s planned execution.

Troy Davis is due to be killed by officials of the State of Georgia in only a matter of hours. He will be strapped down and receive a lethal injection. This death has now been approved by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles. This State Board, members of who boast of their involvement in religious activities in their on-line biographies, exists in part to authorise the deaths of their fellow human beings. Troy Davis is just the latest to have his execution approved.

The deliberate taking of life as any kind of punishment is wrong at all times, and in all circumstances. It does not matter if the execution is widely publicised or if it is not. And it also does not matter whether there has been some effort at due process, or no effort at propriety at all. As George Orwell describes in A Hanging, perhaps his most brilliant and moving essay, there is an "unspeakable wrongness" about the judicial taking of any life. All executions are vile; each one is absolutely wrong.

Nonetheless, the case of Troy Davis is widely regarded as exceptional, and it has attracted international attention and condemnation. There appear to have been serious irregularities in both the investigation and at trial. It is said that seven of the nine witnesses at the original trial have now recanted evidence and that someone else has confessed to the original crime. All these disturbing factors are emphasised in today's powerful editorial in the New York Times.

Today is now the fourth execution date that has been set for Troy Davis. Previously his life has been temporarily spared by operation of the criminal justice system. But there is only so far appeals can seek to check what seems to be an irresistible force of a process intent on ending life. And this is not some impersonal and abstract process: it is a sequence of decisions and non-decisions by identifiable people with moral agency.

Even if one adopts the horrific misconception of justice that a human life can somehow be taken as a punishment, this is surely not the sort of case where a person should be put to death. In the United States those in favour of capital punishment in principle ("as long as they are guilty") are speaking out against its application in this particular instance. It appears a man will die when there are well-grounded concerns as to his innocence: the State of Georgia is just going to kill him anyway.

Amnesty International has a campaign site for those who wish to try and prevent this execution which I encourage you to visit. An email in support may even make a difference. They may be a last-hour reprieve. But it does look as if the State of Georgia will kill Troy Davis at its fourth attempt.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman. This blog also appears on Jack of Kent.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog.

His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case.  His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson.

David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court.

(Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.)

Getty
Show Hide image

Why is Labour surging in Wales?

A new poll suggests Labour will not be going gently into that good night. 

Well where did that come from? The first two Welsh opinion polls of the general election campaign had given the Conservatives all-time high levels of support, and suggested that they were on course for an historic breakthrough in Wales. For Labour, in its strongest of all heartlands where it has won every general election from 1922 onwards, this year had looked like a desperate rear-guard action to defend as much of what they held as possible.

But today’s new Welsh Political Barometer poll has shaken things up a bit. It shows Labour support up nine percentage points in a fortnight, to 44 percent. The Conservatives are down seven points, to 34 per cent. Having been apparently on course for major losses, the new poll suggests that Labour may even be able to make ground in Wales: on a uniform swing these figures would project Labour to regain the Gower seat they narrowly lost two years ago.

There has been a clear trend towards Labour in the Britain-wide polls in recent days, while the upwards spike in Conservative support at the start of the campaign has also eroded. Nonetheless, the turnaround in fortunes in Wales appears particularly dramatic. After we had begun to consider the prospect of a genuinely historic election, this latest reading of the public mood suggests something much more in line with the last century of Welsh electoral politics.

What has happened to change things so dramatically? One possibility is always that this is simply an outlier – the "rogue poll" that basic sampling theory suggests will happen every now and then. As us psephologists are often required to say, "it’s just one poll". It may also be, as has been suggested by former party pollster James Morris, that Labour gains across Britain are more apparent than real: a function of a rise in the propensity of Labour supporters to respond to polls.

But if we assume that the direction of change shown by this poll is correct, even if the exact magnitude may not be, what might lie behind this resurgence in Labour’s fortunes in Wales?

One factor may simply be Rhodri Morgan. Sampling for the poll started on Thursday last week – less than a day after the announcement of the death of the much-loved former First Minister. Much of Welsh media coverage of politics in the days since has, understandably, focused on sympathetic accounts of Mr Morgan’s record and legacy. It would hardly be surprising if that had had some positive impact on the poll ratings of Rhodri Morgan’s party – which, we should note, are up significantly in this new poll not only for the general election but also in voting intentions for the Welsh Assembly. If this has played a role, such a sympathy factor is likely to be short-lived: by polling day, people’s minds will probably have refocussed on the electoral choice ahead of them.

But it could also be that Labour’s campaign in Wales is working. While Labour have been making modest ground across Britain, in Wales there has been a determined effort by the party to run a separate campaign from that of the UK-wide party, under the "Welsh Labour" brand that carried them to victory in last year’s devolved election and this year’s local council contests. Today saw the launch of the Welsh Labour manifesto. Unlike two years ago, when the party’s Welsh manifesto was only a modestly Welshed-up version of the UK-wide document, the 2017 Welsh Labour manifesto is a completely separate document. At the launch, First Minister Carwyn Jones – who, despite not being a candidate in this election is fronting the Welsh Labour campaign – did not even mention Jeremy Corbyn.

Carwyn Jones also represented Labour at last week’s ITV-Wales debate – in contrast to 2015, when Labour’s spokesperson was then Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith. Jones gave an effective performance, being probably the best performer alongside Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood. In fact, Wood was also a participant in the peculiar, May-less and Corbyn-less, ITV debate in Manchester last Thursday, where she again performed capably. But her party have as yet been wholly unable to turn this public platform into support. The new Welsh poll shows Plaid Cymru down to merely nine percent. Nor are there any signs yet that the election campaign is helping the Liberal Democrats - their six percent support in the new Welsh poll puts them, almost unbelievably, at an even lower level than they secured in the disastrous election of two year ago.

This is only one poll. And the more general narrowing of the polls across Britain will likely lead to further intensification, by the Conservatives and their supporters in the press, of the idea of the election as a choice between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn as potential Prime Ministers. Even in Wales, this contrast does not play well for Labour. But parties do not dominate the politics of a nation for nearly a century, as Labour has done in Wales, just by accident. Under a strong Conservative challenge they certainly are, but Welsh Labour is not about to go gently into that good night.

Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science in the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University.

0800 7318496