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Three Months of Britain's e-Petition System 183

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-wish-to-register-a-complaint dept.
eldavojohn writes "The idea seems simple. Provide feedback for your government via the internet. If enough people sign a petition, address it. That was the idea when an e-Petition site was launched in Nov 06 for Prime Minister Tony Blair. The BBC is reporting on the million or so petitions that the PM has received since the site went live. While most petitions are rejected or ignored, they have a top ten with one petition having 600,000 signers. Is this a valid way to provide feedback to the government or merely an exercise in keeping the populace happy?"
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Three Months of Britain's e-Petition System

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  • by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:22PM (#17837936) Homepage
    The idea seems simple. Provide feedback for your government via the internet. If enough people sign a petition, address it. That was the idea when an e-Petition site was launched in Nov 06 for Prime Minister Tony Blair.

    Well, online wine delivery never really took off in the States, I hope the Brits have better luck.
  • Validity? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SeaFox (739806) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:23PM (#17837940)
    Any way one can provide feedback to their government is a valid one. As long as you demonstrate constructive criticism in your method, anything is better than nothing.

    The better question is whether the government will take the feedback seriously at all, or if this is like the proverbial comments box that feeds into the building's waste chute.
    • Re:Validity? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:30PM (#17837998)
      There were more than 600,000 people protesting in Britain at the start of the Iraq war.
      It went ahead anyway.
      • Re:Validity? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:55PM (#17838224)

        Blockquoth the AC:

        There were more than 600,000 people protesting in Britain at the start of the Iraq war. It went ahead anyway.

        That's true, but ignoring a couple of million protesters has effectively brought down Tony Blair and neutered the New Labour government. I can't think of a single high-profile, high-impact change they've got through since then.

        The nastiest thing in the works is probably the whole ID cards and National Identity Register policy, for which the introductory legislation has already passed (though only after being rammed through with all the power the government could muster). I nevertheless predict with confidence that this will policy will die before it becomes mainstream, and the framework will be quietly "forgotten" by the next election. Over-hyped arguments about fighting terrorism and pleas to trust the government just ain't what they used to be, and I rather suspect that once the current political fad of believing the world is about to end because of environmental catastrophes has passed, I think privacy and personal freedom will be the Next Big Political Hot Potato.

        On which note, it's interesting that by far the most-signed petition on the site objects to the introduction of vehicle tracking and road pricing measures. Many in government, including quite a few of my local councillors as well as the big central government players, seem to think this is inevitable. I rather suspect that it will be shot down on a similar basis to ID cards: it's a not-so-stealth tax, and it's a gross invasion of privacy. It's also overcomplicated when a much simpler alternative already exists via petrol tax, which could achieve much of the same end result. And of course, it's the answer to a problem that has only been created through a combination of poor government strategy and naive business management. The correct answers don't even seem to occur to them: not planning such that much of the population doesn't work locally; providing effective public transport alternatives rather than unreliable, overpriced, and generally less pleasant "services"; getting heavy freight off the roads and onto the alternative networks as much as possible; setting higher basic driving standards to reduce the number of incompetent/inconsiderate drivers who cause a disproportionate amount of congestion; providing serious facilities for cyclists rather than half-assed cycle lanes that do more harm than good, and encouraging employers to provide basics like secure cycle storage and showers at the office; management realising that flexible working hours as a minimum and often telecommuting are now both possible and indeed desirable arrangements for many workplaces; and so on, and so on.

        Of course, whether any e-petitions like this will make the slightest difference to government policy remains to be seen. But if opposing a flawed and abusive policy to address the wrong underlying problem can get 600,000 names behind it within a couple of months, put me down as number 600,001; it's got to be worth a try, and even if the current government don't care, it could raise the profile of the issue come election time and get a commitment from other parties to oppose it.

        • Re:Validity? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @12:52AM (#17838706) Journal
          One of the reasons for a government is that what best ofr you isn't neccesarily best for everyone. On the same note, what is best for everyone might not be whats best for the country. And even more easily seen is that just because something is popular doesn't mean it is the best for anything.

          I'm not saying that anything you describe is good or bad. It is just that governments do things against the populous for reasons we don't like. A good case might be distribution of wealth. Some people might thinkit is a good idea to take all the money from the rich and spread it around to everyone equaly. And when you realize that means you would recieve several thousand dollars it might even be popular too. But we know that if anything like that happened, it would likley ruin the econemy, cause massive inflation and stop the incentives for anyone to make more then they currently are (if it gets taken and given away to someone who made less).

          The points you brought out don't seem like anything I would like to happen here but i think we are on the same track. I guess the system might be a good way to let the government make a solid case for doing something that isn't popular and they will probably throw the dog abone every once in a while too. I think it is definatly a bad ordeal if your government takes an opinion poll before take a stance on something. Which might be the end run effect of this petition system were they see how many people are going to be pissed before doing something. This is something that got america in the shape it is in.
          • One of the reasons for a government is that what best ofr you isn't neccesarily best for everyone. On the same note, what is best for everyone might not be whats best for the country. And even more easily seen is that just because something is popular doesn't mean it is the best for anything.

            Much of that is true, though I question what you think is best for a country if it's not what's best for everyone in that country.

            However, in a democracy (or a republic, or...) the government has a duty to act as

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by DavidShor (928926)
          Controlling road usage with a petrol tax is like conducting surgery with a sludge hammer.

          In order to manage traffic, prices would need to be algorithmically changed several times a day depending on how much road capacity exists in an area. Otherwise you will have large areas of road with excess capacity being held up by crowded bottlenecks.

          • by pfafrich (647460)
            This seems to be whats proposed for manchester. The congenstion charge changes depending on the amount of traffic.
        • by lixee (863589)

          I rather suspect that once the current political fad of believing the world is about to end because of environmental catastrophes has passed, I think privacy and personal freedom will be the Next Big Political Hot Potato.
          Sure, our current lifestyles are demonstrably sustainable. It's not like many species are exctinct or on the verge of being so because of us...

          But then again
          • Sure, our current lifestyles are demonstrably sustainable. It's not like many species are exctinct or on the verge of being so because of us...

            There are thousands of people dying in Africa every day because of famine and disease, too, yet there is enough food in the world to feed everyone and most of the health problems they have are trivially cured by western medicine.

            Just because something bad is happening, that doesn't mean we can't fix it. It just means that we (or our elected representatives, on

            • There are thousands of people dying in Africa every day because of famine and disease, too, yet there is enough food in the world to feed everyone and most of the health problems they have are trivially cured by western medicine.

              Just because something bad is happening, that doesn't mean we can't fix it. It just means that we (or our elected representatives, on this scale) aren't fixing it, and that's a very different kind of problem.


              Feeding them and giving them medicine is not going to "fix" the problem, it
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rm999 (775449)
      Good point, feedback is always a good thing; I guess the important question is whether this is the correct way of doing it. Politicians are very busy, and don't like their time being wasted. If the system is not taken seriously, like a lot of other online petition sites, it will lose effectiveness and just waste time.

      If this does take off, and becomes the main way for the people to bring up complaints, it will give more voice to people who are tech savvy - not exactly the ideal in a democratic republic (or
    • Not necessarily (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Geof (153857)

      Any way one can provide feedback to their government is a valid one.

      It really depends who the "one" is. If the mechanism for feedback is open to some but not to others, then it can actually decrease democracy. Lobbying can be criticized on these grounds, because it buys disproportionate influence for some. So can government consultations that exclude important groups.

      In Canada, for example [thehilltimes.ca], the minister responsible for copyright reform is meeting frequently with CRIA (effectively the Canadian branc

      • by mpe (36238)
        In Canada, for example, the minister responsible for copyright reform is meeting frequently with CRIA (effectively the Canadian branch of the RIAA), but not with Canadian artists.

        You'd first need to put together a representative sample. Also ommited is any representation of readers, viewers and listeners.
        Of course historically publishers have always been the strongest lobbiests for making and changing copyright laws.
    • Here in Canada was had a Politician recommend a similar system...

      "When former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day ran for Prime Minister of Canada, he proposed a mechanism to call for a referendum. A petition on any particular subject which gathered at least 350,000 signatures of voting age citizens ("3% of the electors") would automatically trigger a national referendum.

      Mercer's "rant" asked viewers to log on to the 22 Minutes website, and sign an online petition asking the party leader to change his na
    • In related news, 50,000 petitioners for more honest government, whose names begin with letters from A through F, were mysteriously killed by men in unmarked vans. Petitioners with names from G through L are advised to go into hiding right quick, and ones with names from M through Z are advised to move to New Zealand while there's still time. Citizens of the US are advised to kiss their asses goodbye and forget about reform. It's too late.
    • Provide feedback to the government ? To misquote an old joke...

      "I've heard that the prime Minister gets two boxes full of shit sent to him every week...

      What I want to know is who's sending the other one ?"
  • Yes

    Is this a valid way to provide feedback to the government or merely an exercise in keeping the populace happy?
    Since when is having a happy populace providing feedback to encourage positive change in our governments a bad thing?
  • "Is this a valid way to provide feedback to the government or merely an exercise in keeping the populace happy?"

    Sure it is. Besides, if MPs or Congressmen accept emails but don't respond to them, wouldn't that also be a way of "merely keeping the populace happy"? The same could be said of letters or even face-to-face talks. Feedback, be it an e-petition or email, is only worth something if you listen to it...
    • Re:Sure (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bogtha (906264) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:36PM (#17838064)

      Sure it is. Besides, if MPs or Congressmen accept emails but don't respond to them, wouldn't that also be a way of "merely keeping the populace happy"?

      Interestingly enough, the same people [mysociety.org] who built this petition system for the government also created WriteToThem [writetothem.com] — write your message in a text box on the site, and they email/fax/post it to your MP. This has the advantage of them being able to spot when an MP is ignoring people and they've published league tables and other statistics [writetothem.com] about how responsive MPs are.

      • by pfafrich (647460)
        The FaxYourMP service by this group is probably a better method to communicate your view than the petitions. I've used it a couple of times and both times got supportive responses from my MP and once got a reply from the secretary of state.
        • >and once got a reply from the secretary of state
          Dear citizen,
          We know where you live and who your family are so please stop asking damn fool questions, if you get my drift.
          Kind Regards
          Sec. State.
          • by pfafrich (647460)
            No actually, a well though through and considered response about a specifics of UK law relating to the changes in agricultural funding systems. I also got a reply on the issue of software pattents, and my MP asked questions about this of the european commitee on the topic.

            If you want to be taken seriously in a democracy you first need to give up your anonominity. MP as our elective represantatives have a certain obligation to respond to members of their constituancies.

            • I know... I know... FWIW, I use the 'fax your MP' and have had some very good responses and am now on my MP's email mailing list which is actually genuinely interesting and useful.
  • by IanDanforth (753892) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:28PM (#17837978)
    Please edit original submission for accuracy.

    -Ian
    • by QuickFox (311231)

      Please edit original submission for accuracy.
      You must be new here.
  • My experience (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:29PM (#17837986)

    I signed a petition to add an exception to copyright law for personal use [pm.gov.uk] a month or two ago. A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from the system notifying me of the government's response [pm.gov.uk]:

    As you may be aware, in December 2005 the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, announced that there would be a review of the intellectual property framework in the UK, led by Andrew Gowers.

    The findings of this review have now been published and recommend the introduction of a private copying exception for the purposes of format shifting. This would allow individuals to copy music which they have legally bought on compact disc onto an MP3 player without infringing copyright.

    The Government welcomes this recommendation and is currently considering how such an exception should be created in UK law.

    Now obviously the petition didn't have a huge effect, but at least they are aware there is public demand for this, and it's helped me keep track of what they are actually doing about it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by steevc (54110)
      There's also a petition to make software patents unenforcible [pm.gov.uk] that people may wish to sign. It would be good to see it get more signatures than some of the sillier ones.

      The road pricing petition is doing suspiciously well with 30x the signatures of the next most popular. That's over 1% of the population. Either someone has been marketing it well or there may be invalid signatures. You have to submit your address, but that's not hard to fake.
      • by AGMW (594303)
        ... someone has been marketing it well ...

        I've seen it advertised in various weekly motoring magazines, and on breakfast news (on the BBC), so I guess it's possibly the marketing rather than nefarious means.

  • by swell (195815)
    If we had a government that listened in the USA, we would have mandatory church attendence, half the population in jail, and subsidies for any group (unions, lobbyists, Mexicans, etc) that could gather enough signatures.

    Thank goodness that politicians DON'T have to cater to everyone!
  • by Coopjust (872796) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:43PM (#17838124)
    Whenever Slashdot asks a question in a story I perform a service as a reader:

    I tag the story "yes", "no", and "maybe".

    Just doing my part ;)
    • by s4m7 (519684)
      funny though really, because:

      Is this a valid way to provide feedback to the government or merely an exercise in keeping the populace happy?
      Hell, why not both?
    • >Whenever Slashdot asks a question in a story I perform a service as a reader:
      >
      >I tag the story "yes", "no", and "maybe".

      And I tag them: .... I_dont_know, Can_you_repeat_the_question?

  • by troll -1 (956834) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:44PM (#17838136)
    I'm from the UK, lived in the US for many years. This irks me a bit. When I first came to the US I was surprised at how much Americans get a real say in how their government runs.

    In many states people vote on everything from whether to build a dam to who's gonna be their sheriff and fire chief. In some places they even vote for judges. In the UK it seems the best they can ever do is a petition, which of course carries no real weight. When I lived in California I was amazed that people actually got to vote on medical marijuana. In the UK such a concept would be considered outrageous. I mean, a county in England, unlike a US state, couldn't even vote to extend pub opening hours. Tough decisions like that are always left to wise men in parliament.

    While I think the idea of an e-petition is good, I'd much rather see some real democracy. I don't remember a referendum ever in the UK about anything.

    Sorry for the off-topic rant, but it had to be said.
    • by Bogtha (906264)

      I don't remember a referendum ever in the UK about anything.

      Here's a few that spring to mind:

      Okay, so we don't have referenda for trivial stuff like pub opening hours, but we have them for the really important stuff.

      • by AGMW (594303)
        Both the Scottish and the Welsh devolution referenda were in their respective areas only (ie, The Scots got to vote on Scotland and the Welsh on Wales) but doesn't that seem a little odd? Try asking a class of kids if they should have free sweets! Let's have a referedum on whether Manchester United should be able to field 12 players instead of the more usual 11, but let's only ask the ManU fans - oh, now there's a surprise, they seem to be in favour!

        Can no one really see a problem here?

    • They encourage short term thinking, and don't consider broader issues.
    • by TheDugong (701481) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @12:14AM (#17838392)
      I'm from the UK and live in Australia, which is somewhere between the US and the UK in this respect.

      The problem with "real democracy" is that there are a lot of ignorant people.

      For instance, Toowoomba in Queensland (QLD) which is under severe drought recently had a vote on whether to start using recycled water for drinking water, like most modern cities outside of Australia. The vote ended up being "no". The leader of the no campaign's main argument seemed to be that people will call the town "Poowoomba". The vote was held regardless of the fact that there was no other viable option anyway.

      The "wise man in parliament", QLD premier Peter Beattie, has now basically said "tough luck. There is no choice. Water is going to be recycled."

      The problem now is that will there be enough water in time.

      I am in no way anti-democracy and will defend ignorant people having their say. However, sometimes my jaw literally drops at the ignorance of a lot of voters (and the administrators for that matter). Surely there has to be some kind of happy medium?

      • The problem with "real democracy" is that there are a lot of ignorant people.

        Sure as hell are. Here in Western Australia we've had daylight saving (Summer Time) rejected 3 times by referendum. Objections included worries that daylight saving would fade people's curtains, turn cow's milk sour and increase the incidence of skin cancer.

        Despite the "no" votes, WA is currently undergoing a "trial" of daylight saving. 2 weeks ago, when the stunning Comet McNaught was clearly visible on the southern horizon
        • by AGMW (594303)
          when the stunning Comet McNaught was clearly visible on the southern horizon at dusk, several people wrote to the local paper saying how much better it would have looked if the daylight saving trial hadn't occurred and the sky was darker.

          When we try and make something idiot proof all that happens is that natural selection defeats us again by providing us with a bigger idiot!

          Never understimate the stupidity of people in large groups!

          I've often thought that there should be some "qualifying questions" on

      • by ZorbaTHut (126196)
        Random idea for happy medium, that AFAIK has never been tried:

        Elect a group of representatives (at least ten, possibly more for larger cities, more than a hundred is likely overkill.) On all major decisions, first they vote. Then it's given to popular vote also. To overrule the representative vote, the popular vote must equal or exceed their threshold (perhaps minus some adjustment factor, so you can never require 100% of the popular vote). So, for example, there's a bill which is a really good idea, and 80
        • by r3m0t (626466)
          No, it wouldn't. The five (ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred) people would just act as clueless as everybody else.

          Worst of all, they would have to stop their normal lives because people would keep canvassing and "educating" them on issues. Say hello to your new parliament.

          However, your new parliament will not be able to pass anything which could raise taxes, since the population always agrees overwhelmingly on that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bogjobber (880402)
      That's one of the really great things about federalism. Your voice can be heard and have an impact on local issues, most of the time without the national government stepping in and screwing things up.
    • by Attaturk (695988)

      When I lived in California I was amazed that people actually got to vote on medical marijuana. In the UK such a concept would be considered outrageous. I mean, a county in England, unlike a US state, couldn't even vote to extend pub opening hours.

      Won't disagree with much of what you've said but I feel I should point out the scale and population levels involved. Those English counties you mention are a wee bit smaller than their trans-atlantic counterparts. California has a population of nearly 35 million

    • Unfortunately, as Bush has demonstrated, in the US the president can still do way more to affect your life than local politicians, and yet due to the electoral college system most Americans (all those not living in the handful of swing states) have ZERO say in national elections.

      If your state can't muster more than 49% opposition to the governemt, then your votes will instead be turned around and cast as a vote FOR the party you were attempting to oppose!!! How's that for (American style) "democracy"?!

      Give

  • Populism and democracy are just friends. They are not married. Actually, they are not even the same species. Although some have tried to mate them (Ross Perot is a recent example), it just almost never works. I think we had a populist president in the 1910-1920's in the US.

    I voted for Ross Perot twice, even though I completely disagreed with him on NAFTA and a couple of other things. The guy talked and made sense, and his stuff stood up to scrutiny at the time. And heck, at his peek in June 2001, he was pol
    • As are all other developed nations. Capitalism has been quite thoroughly proven to be unstable without a socialist government.
    • by westlake (615356)
      I think we had a populist president in the 1910-1920's in the US.

      The Presidents in this era:

      Willliam Howard Taft, later Chief Justice, Republican.
      Woodrow Wilson, Democrat.
      Warren G. Harding, Republican.

      The Populists can be seen at work in the important reforms of this era, the vote for women, the direct election of senators, and so on, but also in Reaction:

      Prohibition. Restricted immigration, with rigid racial and ethnic quotas, the revival of the Klu Klux Klan.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by moehoward (668736)

        Very good. Thanks for the insight and answer to my sort of question.

        Reminds me. I always have to laugh when I think of Nixon's legacy. Always demonized as an evil republican, but he ultimately acted as a populist. For god's sake - price controls on every day needs (bread, milk). Went to China. Ended a war (vietnam) started by a democrat, lowered the voting age to 18, started getting mid-evil on oil companies, etc. Also, look at how he handled Row v. Wade. Hard to argue that he was a Republican in any major
  • by pbhj (607776) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @12:01AM (#17838262) Homepage Journal
    How many understood the petition they signed? 600,000?

    I got an email that was trying to pass off a dated road tax experiment as about-to-be-implemented public policy - see my journal for my full response: http://yro.slashdot.org/~pbhj/journal/160052 [slashdot.org]

    When I looked in to it I actually liked the sound of reduced council tax in favour of direct mileage taxation *instead* of vehicle based duty.

    Unfortunately there was no "nosign" option. So 600k may have signed but what if 700k that looked at the petition didn't?
    • by arkhan_jg (618674)
      We already have direct mileage based taxation. It's petrol duty (+VAT on both). Black box recording to enforce an additional per mile tax is a huge invasion of privacy; especially if they did tie it to using satellites. Yes, for some motorists it would work out a net saving - those that drive hardly at all, but I would imagine for the average motorist, overall tax would go up - after all, someone would have to pay for the system and the management and the enforcement to make sure nobody was tampering, and w
      • by pbhj (607776)
        >>> "It would be a massively over complex and expensive IT solution to a problem that is fixable by other means."

        That's what the experiment aimed to test. The issue is that there is widespread vehicle tax evasion. The idea (I think) was that all vehicle taxes (including those currently taken through petrol tax and congestion charges) would be rolled in to one. Also the premise of the experiment was that this is in a future in which nearly all cars have a satellite tracking system factory fitted (n
  • I always thought a system like this would be great for initiatives and referendums.

    Why would this succeed if electronic voting is so hard? Well, electronic voting is hard because you have to provide security and anonymity. Take out one requirement and it becomes easy. Since initiative and referendum petitions require your name, address, and signature, anonymity is no longer required. Even if security was compromised, the proposals would still have to be voted on in a proper election.

    A system like this woul
  • by peepleperson (888013) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @12:36AM (#17838564)
    that I'm the first to point out that the 33rd most popular petition [pm.gov.uk] is for Tony Blair to stand on his head and juggle ice-cream [pm.gov.uk].
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by adrianmonk (890071)

      the 33rd most popular petition is for Tony Blair to stand on his head and juggle ice-cream.

      Two things:

      1. That's truly hilarious (in a British sort of a way).
      2. If Blair has any brains or political savvy at all, he'll one-up the person who started that petition by waiting until the momentum and press coverage behind it peaks, then announcing that, because he is absolutely committed to being responsive to citizens' needs, he'd be glad to stand on his head and juggle ice cream. And then, of course, he'll
  • by Tiro (19535) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @01:01AM (#17838804) Journal
    One of my favorite writers posted about this a few years back. After reflecting upon his thoughts, I concluded that assembling mass support for an issue depends on individuals' personal/emotional involvement. That interest and enthusiasm can be multiplied by getting people together in physical proximity, which energizes them. Having a lot of loud, energized people in the capital city is a lot more compelling to the rest of society than an "e-protest".

    Here is the link to the article: http://badreligion.com/news/essays.php?id=8 [badreligion.com]. He has since become a Ph.D and a biology instructor at UCLA.

    To quote from the first two paragraphs:

    Recently, I read an article in the paper that related the growing trend of "Digital Demonstrators" (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 3, 1998). It said that "virtual marches" could be an effective way to bring about social change. It stated that "activists can demonstrate with a mouse click...

    This really pissed me off! First of all, it is a gross misrepresentation of what motivates social and political change. Ultimately, social change comes from an emotionally based behavior pattern. The reason people change in unison is because we are united by a similar emotional response. We are not moved to change the laws if we don't have an emotional experience that connects us to the political issue.

  • This has been an exciting and successful new experiment in democracy. People get the impression that their opinions matter, and politicians divert attention away from things of importance!

    So how long now until the House of Lords is turned into a bus to take democracy literally To The People?
  • A little bit of a tangent, but I gotta ask: am I the only one who thinks of the TV show Malcolm in the Middle when I see Slashdot stories tagged as "maybe, yes, no"? I always find myself singing "Can you repeeeeat the queeeestion?" when I see stores like this one.

    And yes, this will probably be totally irrelevant to readers in the UK, who likely don't see episodes of that show (although I could be wrong).

  • by Budenny (888916) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @03:07AM (#17839736)
    "Is this a valid way to provide feedback to the government or merely an exercise in keeping the populace happy?"

    Neither. It is a way of compiling a database of potential troublemakers.
  • by simm1701 (835424) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:49AM (#17840364)
    If you are against ID cards (and I am) are you really going to put your name and address on a petition stored in a database the goverment run?

    I mean really?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by coastwalker (307620)
      It would be cowardly not to. The problem with the ID card system and the state database is its potential for misuse not paranoia that the death squads will be on the street next week. The most likely problem comes when different departments of Government start data mining the information collected for excuses to impose penalties or deny services to individuals to save money. Government security organisations already have the ability to mine most databases for what they regard as suspicious individuals and t
    • by ZorbaTHut (126196)
      I would. I personally don't plan to do anything that would make the ID card system bad for me personally - I'm not afraid of the government knowing who I am.

      I still think it's an awful idea, but that's in aggregate, not for individual people. Even if I'm likely to never be affected by it, thousands upon thousands will, and I'd be willing to put myself slightly more on the line in order to help protect them.

      In some ways it's a pity I'm not in the UK, so I can't make my voice heard, but on the other hand . .
  • There was a "consultation" as to whether the British wanted ID cards. Something like 80% were against so the government declared that the online part would be ignored because it had obviously been hijacked by the "anti brigade". After this, ID cards were sledge hammered through.

    I suspect at the end of the petition period there's a shortcut on some government lackey's desktop marked "Send to Trashcan" that you can just drag and drop results you don't want onto.

    Sorry if I sound a bit cynical but for all the b
    • by Builder (103701)
      If I remember right, they got cuter than that... They couldn't totally ignore the on-line responses, so they counted all of them as 1. That's right, the 1000s of people who sent e-mails and filled out the forms were counted as 1 response.
  • by Dan100 (1003855) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @06:34AM (#17840876) Homepage
    This website was a stroke of genius for the government. Before, every few months they had the very embarrassing spectacle of the large wad of a paper petition being hand-delivered to Downing Street, usually with the petitioner flanked by photographers, with the result that the petition and its issue was splashed across the newspapers the next day.

    The last one I know of was a anti-drink driving campaign [bbc.co.uk] last December, where the parents of a teenager who'd been killed by a drunk delivered 16,000 signatures to No 10 calling for tighter drink-driving laws. The poor lad's picture was in all the papers the day after.

    Since the introduction of this website, that's all stopped. These petitions garner nothing more than a short story buried in BBC News. Downing Street is over-joyed as it has cut off another source of embarrassment.

    • by CmdrGravy (645153)
      Indeed, and now you're no longer to protest or make any political statements anywhere near Parliment or Number 10 the Government moves one step closer to disassociating its self totally from the political views of the populace.
  • Protests (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrSteveSD (801820) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @07:57AM (#17841268)
    If they can ignore 1 Million people marching in London against the Iraq war, they can certainly ignore 600,000 on some website. What you really need is something like the Swiss system where the public can instigate a referendum. All they have to do is get a certain number of signatures together to kick off the process.
  • If you are eligible ("a British citizen or resident"), sign the petition against software patents: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/softwarepatents/ [pm.gov.uk]

    And pass it on to everyone you know. It only has 1,800 signatures right now and the deadline is Feb 20th. And if you want to learn more about software patents, try:

  • Anyone can set up an internet petition and get idiots to sign it. 99.99% of such things should just be ignored as the bleating of ignorant sheep. Most people lack understanding of even the least complex of issues faced by governments today, yet they flock to internet petitions demanding the the government "fix healthcare" or "stop global warming", as if those were check-boxes that the government could just flick on or off. I'm all in favour of internet discussions/forums/chats that involve an actual exch

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