I finally got round to having a look at Tony Blair’s petition page today. It isn’t clear what impact these will have on government policy. There is certainly no suggestion that if enough people sign then change of direction will follow, but then petitions are notoriously ineffectual. Just look at the Chartists FFS — a petition that put the fear of God into the establishment, so nuch so, they were trodden into the sediment of history.
There is a real democratic deficit in petition-signing. Number one, you’re signing up to a statement with no wriggle room to add a rider, such as “unless…” And how sure can you be that the signatory actually does support the motion, or did they just sign up to it to get rid of the ardent tit with the clipboard. Thirdly, they brook no argument because there is no box to tick to say that you do not support the statement, so you have to be arsed to set up a contra-petition. (See the petition to repeal the hunting act and the petition to ban such petitions.)
Undeterred, I’ve signed up to three:
- We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy. Obviously when Manchester wants to charge me to enter the city by car to pay for the Metrolink extension that runs nowhere near me.
- We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to change organ donation from opt in to opt out. I’ve never understood the attachment to dead people’s organs, especially if they might do someone else some good. Unless you live in Liverpool, of course.
- We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to reduce the classified period for census data from 100 years to 70 years. Purely selfish, family history reasons, I’m afraid. I really need to access the 1911 and 1921 censuses.
Do I expect anything to change? I doubt it. At best filed under I for ‘inconvenient’ and ‘ignore’. At worst, the bulging cabinet marked S for ‘subversive’ and ‘send the boys round’. Paranoid? Me? Who said that?
UPDATE: Blimey, I write about the road charging petition when it stood at around 930,000 and twelve hours later it goes through the million barrier. I wonder if I can claim credit?
UPDATE: No, someone else already has — www.mailonsunday.co.uk/petition