This weekend the Welsh papers had a fair bit of coverage on the Westminster Government’s introduction of e-petitions. It was good to see they gave lots of positive coverage to Wales under headings like Welsh way shows how to do e-petitions and pointed the way to the detailed petitions guidance.
What was interesting was the picture that accompanied the articles, usually a hangman’s noose. Provocative stuff!
This image has accompanied a few of the reports I’ve seen, reflecting the fact that about 6,000 people signed the e-petition to reintroduce the death penalty. They then go on to report that over 11,000 people have also signed an e-petition to retain the ban on the death penalty. Ultimately any single petition would need over 100,000 signatures before it got considered seriously by Parliament. Will the opposing campaigns cancel each other out or is it ‘first past the post’ to 100,000?
In the grand scheme of things these didn’t seem like huge numbers to me. There was a bit of talk in the papers about the ‘lunatic fringe’ getting a voice. But at the end of the day are these sorts of numbers just ‘fringe’? Part of the background noise? I remember a while back I heard I comedian talking about how the release of the 10,000 strong British National Party membership list had sent us into unnecessary panic. He said something along the lines of “there are more scouts registered in Cheshire than the whole BNP membership”. I had a look there are apparently, over 11,000 Scouts in Cheshire and growing, they must have an Olympic standard membership secretary.
If you want some really big numbers in the e-petitions world have a look at 38 Degrees. They managed to get over 500,000 signatures in the campaign to successfully prevent the selloff of forests in England. They also had over 100, 000 people emailing or calling their MP’s. Strong evidence that there is a well organised e-petition movement already in existence. The new world of government e-petitions isn’t really that new, or the clamour for the re-introduction of the death penalty if you read the more balanced articles.
So, what’s the PONT?
- e-petitions have been around in Wales for a while, link here
- e-petitions (in the form of campaigns) have also been around in England for a while. Check out 38 Degrees
- Numbers wise, the ‘bring back hanging’ crowd (and a few of the others) are relatively small and will probably get cancelled out by the counter argument. DON’T (create) PANIC!
Picture Source: “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!” favourite phrase of Corporal Jones from BBC TV Series “Dads Army”.