Can e-petitions expand the e-conomy?

Some of the first e-petitions posted on the Government's new DirectGov microsite are aimed at boosting the flagging fortunes of UK plc. Do they make any sense?

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Beyond the headline-grabbing calls to reinstate the death penalty (a petition in response to retain its ban currently has the most signatories), the steadily growing list of pleas offers an intriguing snapshot of the British public’s priorities in these straightened times. So popular was the site yesterday, that it promptly crashed.

Given the current eurozone debt crisis, anti-European sentiment unsurprisingly rears its head repeatedly – ‘return to splendid isolationism’, someone calls for, while a petition for a referendum on Britain leaving the European Union is currently fourth by signatory numbers (3,748 on publication).

Never fear - it requires 100,000 signatures for any petitions to be eligible for debate in Parliament. However, if an outpouring of public sentiment translates to names on e-paper, MPs are in for a mixed bag of ideas.

Some proposals ring with a sense of exasperation, while others show a hint of irony or a ‘can’t hurt to ask’ attitude.

Reduced MPs’ salaries is another popular cry, while the issue of taxation splits along familiar lines of cuts versus rises (or should that be penalties?). A reduction in taxes is the answer to our economic woes for many, who believe that a return of the 10p tax rate or slashing VAT will do the job. ‘Stimulate the economy with regular small cuts on fuel duty’ is another, in response to rising fuel costs. This wheeze is apparently a ‘win-win-win-win-win’ proposition, says its author.

At the other end of the fiscal spectrum, the Tobin tax pops up again, with one petitioner calling for a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on the financial sector. Are you listening, Vince?

Some petitions are rather niche in their ambitions, such as ‘restore a rolling 30-year-old exemption to VED, for classic vehicles’. We hope there aren’t many firms whose company car fleet would qualify for this, but you never know.

Extra bank holidays are also in demand, including proposals for Remembrance Monday Bank Holiday, King Alfred the Great Day and St George’s Day. Given that the ONS blamed the last one - the royal wedding holiday - for derailing the recovery, this one might have to wait until the economy is back on track - could be a long time.

With such a flurry of the preposterous as well as the entirely sensible, ‘don’t listen to idiots signing e-petitions’ might be wisest appeal yet. However, as the first-day excitement wanes, the access this portal provides could prove a valuable sounding board – let alone a chance to effect real action. Let’s hope the Government pays heed when those 100,000 figures are hit, and makes room to consider them when the time comes.  ‘Abolish the monarchy’ or ‘No state funeral for Thatcher’, anyone?

Best of all however, none of the above have been filed under the section of the website for consideration by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – presumably this is because people still don’t know what DBIS is…

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