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December 28, 2010


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A device that allows for the public to voice their opinions might rock the boat!
Most MPs appear to accept only opinions and 'science' that support their cause. A good example was the Health Committee who, when 'discussing' the smoking ban, relied on evidence from the 250 'Stakeholders' invited by the DoH and even gave credence to a Women's hour poll simply because it agreed with their intended outcome.
Dissenting voices were, of course, tainted by Big Tobacco or some other commercial bias. - Still, not to worry, the NRT producers are getting yet another £250,000,000 order from their DoH pals. - It certainly was worth all those donations.

Dick Puddlecote

Come on Paul, don't be shy about your net naivete from 2008. It's great to know you don't delete or edit valid comments anymore, but please don't pretend you didn't used to. Despite your best efforts, there are still a few signs around.


Paul Flynn

If 'editing\ means removing libellous or obscene comments he does.
KayTie would never do that.

Dick Puddlecote

"Paul doesn't delete comments"

Oh yes he does. Edits other people's sometimes, too.

Kay Tie

"Lets just take road pricing. An expensive complicated and intrusive solution to reducing road traffic and therefore a politicians wet dream. Obviously whacking charges on fuel would have similar effects and cost near to nothing to implement."

Well, fuel charges wouldn't give you a database of where everyone was on a minute-by-minute basis. And it wouldn't let you decide which parts of the country would be cheap to drive in when a by-election was coming up. On the flip side, it wouldn't be technically possible to make it work (of course, that didn't stop New Labour pressing ahead with the stupid ID card scheme).


I'd have to agree with the comment about less legislation being required - but the pace does not seem to have slowed under this new(ish) government
But on the other hand, and allowing for the potentially skewed nature of those people who do submit stuff, if 100,000 citizens of the UK feel strongly enough to register online about a specific issue then wouldn't that be worth MP's considering?
I mean, its not a party thing , its not a small number to raise on a petition, and it could well be very messy but these are people you';re dealing with and we're like that


"it's about balancing and prioritising a competing selection of good causes." - You
obviously not talking about British politics - that's about getting good coverage in the Daily Mail!

Lets just take road pricing. An expensive complicated and intrusive solution to reducing road traffic and therefore a politicians wet dream. Obviously whacking charges on fuel would have similar effects and cost near to nothing to implement.


I think the e-petitions are a great idea, all the popular ones will horrify politicians should be fun.

Why however bring the census into it? The stats office changed the rules on named religions so that they wouldn't have to put Jedi on the census form. Personally as one who listed my religion as Jedi I'm disgusted. I was hoping that if it was a tick box choice this time around it would be the most popular religion in the UK and therefore deserving of greater status than christianity!

Paul Flynn

Another Comment from the TIMES website:-

"There was huffing and puffing round the breakfast table this morning as we listened to the government's new gimmick -- that successful on-line petitions should get a parliamentary debate, and even made into a bill. The Labour MP (Paul Flynn) had some sensible things to say about the idea... but as the husband pointed out, it's a pity the Labour party hadnt neen more sensible when they started this whole e-petition idea. It was, after all, their gimmick in the first place.

So what IS the matter with the idea?

Well, for a start, it is a veneer of popular power, a substitute touted as the real thing. Mass e-petitioning looks as if it is putting power back into the people's court. But actually it is more likely to give an outlet to the computer-literate, with time on their hands and an axe to grind (which is decidedly skewed sub-category of 'the people'). Remember how the Today programme had to stop it's annual 'person of the year' competition because all kinds of maverick campaigns launched all kinds of very odd people into the top of the list.

Second, it is taking us in the wrong direction in terms of legislative activity. What we need is less legislation, fewer white papers -- not more. That is to say, we need a bit more sense that the solution to every problem is NOT a new law. This e-petition idea risks turning us all into amateur law-makers.

And finally, it turns the complexity of politics into a competition between single issue interest groups (and that in the long term has the effect of taking power away from 'the people' not giving it back). Of course we would all like to save the sparrows and the bees, stop rape, and have a better public transport system . . . and no doubt you could get 100s of thousands of people to sign up for those causes. But the real politics is not about signing up to some obvious good causes, it's about balancing and prioritising a competing selection of good causes. That's what, for us, the parliamentary process is all about. And anyone who wants to see the fatuity of the petition mode could well study the fruitless Californian system of "propositions" which serve to paralyse more than enhance government."

Paul Flynn

You could not make it up. This is an e-mail I have received. It is signed but I will leave it anonymous until the writer gives me permission to publish his details.

"I recently stumbled across an article on BBC News regarding the idea of debating petitions in Parliament. In the article, found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12084525, it states you said "If we get the e-petitions in there will be some asking for Jeremy Clarkson to be prime minister, for Jedi and Darth Vader to be the religions of the country."

I ask you several questions regarding this comment. First of all, what are you basing this upon? Several petitions have been started on the 10 Downing Street website prior to its closure regarding Jediism and I wonder why this would be a problem if they were to be debated in parliament?

Thanks and as they say, 'May the Force be with you'.

Paul Flynn

Michael Fox, it was Labour that set up the Wright reforms that have now given us the Backbench Committee. They now have their own time in parliament to set their own agenda. Private members bills are clogged in the House by the ability of a small number of anti-democratic MP who can sabotage them.

Paul Flynn

What happens if 100,000 signatures are collected to bring the boys home from Afghanistan or for legalising euthanasia? Debate may take place. Government action, never.

Kay Tie

"No doubt you will delete this because we all know that Labour follows the Mugabe style of politics - disagreement is not to be tolerated nor is democracy."

You're confusing Paul with the Guardian: Paul doesn't delete comments, the Guardian has elevated it to a neo-Stalinist art form.

Michael Fox

Just another authoritarian labour MP who has no idea what democracy really is about! It is we, the public, who tell YOU what we want not you strutting your stuff and being condescending to the 'little people'. It's thanks to people like you that I stopped voting Labour but if we ever get to the situation where decent people are once more in control then I will be happy to go back.
Just one last thing - the quote of yours in the Guardian did make me laugh as all I needed to do was make a substitution and I had what I felt was the truth of the last labour government -
'The labour party is not an area that is open to sensible debate; it is dominated by the obsessed and the fanatical and we will get crazy ideas coming forward.'

No doubt you will delete this because we all know that Labour follows the Mugabe style of politics - disagreement is not to be tolerated nor is democracy.

Kay Tie

"Particularly the "Big Society" which has existed for many years thanks to the work done by tens of thousands of unpaid volunteers. "

I don't think that anyone has made any claims for it being new. But they are claiming we don't have it now: New Labour shattered it, corrupting charities, regulating people, and creating the narrative that only government can do things, leading to the absurd final stages of Gordon Brown's delusions where he gave swimming sessions and books out for "free" to people. Madness.

Kay Tie

"The most popular petition, with more than 180,000 people in support, opposed road pricing. If the same people had been asked if they wanted safer roads, with fewer accidents and less pollution they would also have said yes"

You seem to think road pricing and safer roads are incompatible. The reality is that road pricing was classic New Laboir: eye-catching nonsense that couldn't be implemented (like Blunkett's pedophile satellite tracking tags). It would have wasted millions in building it before the flaws became apparent to all but the dumbest, another hallmark of New Labour (eg aircraft carriers with no planes).

Let us hear no more about how foolish the population are: they have shown themselves to be smarter than the morons who governed us for more than a decade.


Whilst acknowledging the pitfalls I like the idea. I purchased the book by Gordon Brown's former polster (her name escapes me at the moment) and I recall on reading it that the focus groups she used must have lived on a different planet to me. I suppose they were all from the London area as their concernsbaffled me. So I have little faith in focus groups as a reflection on the public's concerns. We are a representative democracy and I feel that somehow we should be able to have some input into our lives. You may be in touch with your constituents but I can tell you that my MP does not have to put in much effort as the seat is so safe.

Mike - the big society has all but gone in my area. Community volunteers were very common some 15 years ago and the tasks they undertook are now being done by the local authority. I know this as I organised volunteers. We used to remove graffiti, clear dykes etc etc. We also staffed our small police office which is open a couple of hours a day. Now being done by paid staff and controlled by such punitive Health and Safety rules too. I still volunteer but the tasks are fewer although I am optimistic for the future. We even had our Chief Constable saying he intending using volunteers to take fingerprints at crime scenes!!!

Petitioning the Cabinet office and allowing time for debate is fraught with difficulties but worth exploring. I would have thought MPs welcomed any ideas which would involve the public in connecting with Parliament? In the past ten years we have less people engaged with politics and a growing cynicism towards those who act on our behalf. Lets try something new....

Mike Dinsdale

Not just spin, another exaple of intellectual proprty theft.
Particularly the "Big Society" which has existed for many years thanks to the work done by tens of thousands of unpaid volunteers. I seriously object to existing ideas and enterprise being claimed as Cameron's own idea. Hasn't he the sense to realise how offensive, we who give our time freely, find his policies of exploitation. Government policies are living proof that there is no such thing as a new idea. Not from the coalition anyway.

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