Petitioning: the good, the bad and the ugly

I’ve Lynne Featherstone, Susan Oatway and Neil Williams running a petition about Haringey's policingseen (as a possible signer, actual signer, recipient or even organiser) more than a few petitions in my time. Some are great – a really effective way to help bring about change. And some go wrong in all sorts of ways – too few signatures, unrealistic or confused objectives, aimed at completely the wrong target or just a mess – a few barely legible lines on a rather tatty single piece of paper.

The House of Commons is currently running a consultation on introducing an e-petitions option, so that in future people could run online petitions to Parliament – a bit like the way you can run an e-petition on the Downing Street website.

So how might a Parliamentary e-petitioning system be done? There’s a whole host of questions behind the concept. Are there more than enough petitions already – and should we worry about generating too many new ones? Or should everyone have as many opportunities to express their views as possible? Is this just a duplication of the Downing Street petition system – and so we should try hard to avoid duplication? Or is it a welcome move and reminder that Parliament matters – not just the occupant of Downing Street?

All these lead to the basic point: how could a success be made of such a system, and how would it really serve the interests of the public best?

There’s an online consultation you can take part in on the Parliament website. I hope lots of people will take part – because I’ll certainly be having a look closely at the views to help me decide which way to argue and vote when it comes to decision time.

0 thoughts on “Petitioning: the good, the bad and the ugly

  1. The Welsh Assembly will be launching an e-petition site shortly. I believe there is already one running in Scotland.

  2. I am supportive of an e-petitioning website hosted by the British Parliament, enabling people irrespective of their political affiliation or those of none are able to address their concerns and draw support amongst online supporters. My one concern is whether MPs or Ministers endeavour to listen to what people believe or say on an online petition. Secondly, there would be a need to ensure that e-petitioners are United Kingdom citizens, allowing Members of Parliament (MPs) and Ministers to gauge some indication of feeling on the ground. However, I am not precisely sure how you seek to moderate the e-petitioning system or prevent non-UK citizens to participate. If this is for MPs and Ministers to understand the concerns of their constituents, then there clearly needs to be a system to ensure only UK citizens can participate. Thirdly, what measures will be in place to ensure the system is not randomly abused by its online users? Finally, my thoughts are that MPs and perhaps Ministers could be encouraged to participate in the blogging sphere, giving them a better understanding of feeling amongst ordinary bloggers. What would you say to that suggestion? Obviously, as an MP, you have started by setting a positive example, perhaps encouraging other MPs and Ministers to do the same. Then some people will stop claiming MPs and Ministers are so out of touch with reality.

  3. Following Mash:Well, we don’t have a National Identity Register, do we? That is all part of the fundamental way that the UK differs from continental Europe. What we might have now is a 15 year programme to move to a fairly clean NIR.Second, for e-petitions the check should be to verify that signatories are entitled to vote here.In practice I think that you have to rely on self-declaration, and thus there is a significant risk of global sources bombing a petition – but you could try restrict it to signatories only by those using a UK IP address (not foolproof, I know, and there will be some who validly post from an off-shore IP address).