The BBC report that
A plan to allow popular online petitions to be debated in Parliament within a year has been given the go ahead by the government.Petitions will be hosted on the direct.gov website, and those gaining the most support will be debated in Parliament. Notice that this does not mean that 'Jeremy Clarkson for PM' will become law; merely that if the idea finds enough support, and passes certain criteria for eligibility, it will be debated by MPs. It may not succeed, but it will get a hearing. Predictably, Labour are up in arms:
But Labour said the plans would mean "crazy ideas" being discussed by MPs.By 'crazy ideas', they mean ideas which have not come through the establishment policy mill: well- (or ill-) intentioned, tempered by party considerations, muted by political correctness, brushed and groomed and polished by the men in suits to make sure that, whatever is debated, nothing will be allowed to change. Ideas which ordinary people have, for making their lives better. The ordinary people that Labour (in their left-wing days) used to say could be trusted, before the people went disobediently off-message over things like immigration and Europe. Paul Flynn leads the charge:
This seems to be an attractive idea to those who haven't seen how useless this has been in other parts of the world when it's tried.
"If you ask people the question 'do you want to pay less tax?', they vote yes.
Well, of course they do, you muppet. Perhaps this just means that people don't like having their money taken off them to pay for the ruling party's pet projects. It's not wicked or unreasonable - it's a legitimate subject for mature debate. I assume here he is referring to Proposition 13 in California in 1978, which limited property taxes and was wildly popular and passed by two-thirds of voters. Of course, it is ridiculous to ask people who pay taxes to decide on the nature and amount of those taxes - after all, who exactly is in charge here?
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.
And what would be wrong with that? No-one is suggesting things like this would automatically become law. But they would add something to the rich tapestry of British political life, and let us get things off our chests that have no official outlet. One of the most popular petitions (before Downing Street got windy and removed the facility) was for Gordon Brown to resign. Was that a significant expression of public opinion, or just a 'crazy idea' that should have never have seen the light of day? See the election result for a clue.
"The blogosphere 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."
Bollocks. I have read some crazy stuff on blogs, and some has been obsessive and fanatical. I have also read things that are as considered and intelligent as anything you read in the mainstream press. See the bloglist on the right of this page for examples of both. Interesting that he should mention bloggers; there is no reference to blogging that I could see in the proposals. That's Flynn revealing his fears and prejudices, that is.
The BBC, meanwhile, is obediently rubbishing the proposals before they have been presented:
BBC News political correspondent Ross Hawkins said that allowing petitions to beSince when was that ever a problem for the raft of intrusive and controlling legislation that Labour foisted on us all?
drafted as parliamentary bills would be more difficult and would take longer to put in place.
At the heart of all this is the word 'populist'. It means things that many people actually approve of and support: the death penalty, immigration control, withdrawal from Europe. 'Populism' just means doing stuff that people want - y'know, the basis of democracy. Of the people, for the people, kind of thing. The fact that the Left uses the word as a term of abuse tells you all you need to know.
(Just for clarity, I don't support the death penalty. But every survey that has been made has shown a majority in favour of it, and I believe that the people should get their way on this, despite my disapproval.)