Today, ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to join me in helping to change Government policy.
No, I’m not standing for election but I have just submitted an e-petition to the Government and if 99,999 of you join me, its contents could be debated in Parliament.
And the subject of my e-petition?
To abolish e-petitions.
The reason for this stems from last Monday’s vote about the EU referendum. I don’t have a view on the referendum one way or another to be honest but I do have a view that we were conned that we could get ‘our causes’ properly debated.
The reason there was a vote at all is because the Government (rather naively) said that if 100,000 people could sign an e-petition on any subject, it may end up debated in the House of Commons.
And so it duly happened on Monday as we saw 81 Conservative MP’s – including our own Jacob Rees-Mogg – rebelling against their Government and voting for a referendum. It didn’t mean the vote was won, of course, but if nothing else it gave Mr Rees-Mogg a possibly one-off chance to be associated with Che Gueveara and James Dean as a modern day rebel.
The serious point behind this, however, is that it proves that the Government doesn’t really want to debate the subjects of your e-petitions. 100,000 plus people asked for a referendum vote, 80 Tory MP’s risked their own careers to support the venture but the three main parties all stamped on it. A vote of success for e-petitions? A genuine act of democracy?
Neither of the above.
The truth is the whole e-petitions concept is nonsense. It isn’t about encouraging democracy, it is paying lip-service to it and I wonder at the end of the whole five years of this Parliament just how many of these on-line petitions will actually change policy.
I suspect it will be somewhere between none and zero.
After the vote I went onto the e-petition site and found a mind-boggling 426 pages of them. There were dozens of pages where just one solitary person had signed the petition – including one calling for financial help for spectacle wearers, one calling for a tax on bad rap music and one, from a no doubt frustrated 16-year-old, calling on the Government to scrap algebra from GCSE Maths.
As well as these slightly more, ahem, fringey ideas, there were literally hundreds of others about more serious issues, any of which I believe with a big viral campaign could actually generate 100,000 signatures if there was enough will. It’s all a pointless exercise.
So, I decided to do something about it. Last Wednesday morning I sent my own e-petition off to the Government entitled ‘Call to stop pointless e-petitions’. It took all of about five minutes to fill in and I’ve now submitted it to the Cabinet Office and will await to see if it is taken up.
Frankly, I’m not completely convinced it will be but if it is it only takes one more person to agree with me and I will already double the tally of that algebra chap.
If you would like to support mine or any other e-petition can I suggest you head for http://www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/. And remember – together we can (not) change things.
STOP PRESS - Since putting this article in the Chron last Thursday (and having at least two whole people promise to sign up in a positive avalanche of support) I have heard that the Government won't accept my petition asd its aims wwer enot clear enough. Yep, I guess something called 'Call to stop pointless e-petitions’ is pretty misleading!!!!