Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Friday, 30 September 2011

E-petition palaver

(c) Johnny Cyprus
The idea of the e-petition is great.  It allows fools like myself to use the power of the internet to raise issues that would ordinarily not be seen. In accordance with the notion of a free and open internet, the e-petition website appears empowering and democratic.

When clicking on “How e-petitions work”, it becomes clear that individuals have to check the website to see if any other similar petitions have been published. If there are similar petitions available, your proposal is likely to be rejected. But why?

I submitted this e-petition in August which was rejected a couple of weeks later. I had checked the website and there appeared to be nothing similar. Even now, when I search ‘Trident’, there are no petitions that adhere to my wording. Furthermore, the search throws up a number of e-petitions that bear little resemblance to my proposal. The search includes titles such as Tax CarMiles, Reduce Petrol Prices, No Road Tax, Banks and Risk Exposure of RetailCustomers and voting credentials. None refer to ‘Trident’. Even though my rejected e-petition indicates that “there is already an e-petition about this issue”, there is no link to it. Is it even possible to verify whether a similar petition exists? 

Does it even really matter? Surely it is better for government to divide and conquer, and have people preferring one particular petition over a similar option, thus reducing the chances of it being debated in the House of Commons. If we truly live in a free and open society, that subscribes to ideas of choice, what does it matter if people submit similar petitions. After all, the majority of us vote for political parties and leaders whose manifestos are similar and offer little in the way of choice. 

I presented my e-petition, "Tackling gang culture", to the Home Office as the department responsible for dealing with this issue, not the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. I waited six weeks before it was finally published. In between time, I contacted DirectGov about its whereabouts. I did not receive a response, until they confirmed its publication. The e-petition website is rather nebulous about how one might contact them, or how one might complain. In the end, I used the 'feedback' option; feedback is not normally a word I would associate with contact or complaint, but at least it worked. 

A search for gang-related e-petitions also reveals a number that appear unrelated to mine. This database is only likely to grow. Of course, there are still many people with no means to access the internet who are excluded from this democratic process, but if the public are expected to trawl through through these petitions to ascertain whether another proposal is similar to their own, then it is just as likely to deter some from actively participating in democracy. 

Whilst the concept of the e-petition suggests that democracy is fair and open, appearances can be deceptive. Searches reveal little about one's chance of success with a proposal. Instead, disembodied e-people decide whether a particular contribution to democracy is worthwhile, without offering a reasonable explanation as to why it might not be. One can not appeal or contact anyone to take the matter further. Moreover, nobody appears to be monitoring the system to see whether it is working  as it should, or to gauge whether it is fair and democratic. 

That said, I intend to continue government bothering in the interests of social justice.

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Thursday, 29 September 2011

E-petition success

(c) Charlotte
Back. Yes. Good. 

After 6 weeks of querying the whereabouts of my e-petition, "Tackling gang culture", I finally received an email confirming that it has been published. 

The e-petition will have lost some of its significance now, given that the context of its gestation were the UK riots and the fallout from it. Just as there was public clamour for punitive measures to be taken against the "gangs" that had looted town centres, and the government's decision to hire a US 'supercop' to tackle gang culture, this e-petition seeks to apply a wider, more equitable definition of "gang", to include large corporations who gang up on and loot consumers' pockets

Feel free to click on the e-petition and sign if you so desire. The competition commission seem to be doing nothing about it, so why don't we. Another post to follow shortly. 

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