Parliament may soon be debating whether to legalise incest, reclassify insomnia as a mental illness, microchip all children at birth … or give pantomime actor Richard Griffiths a Knighthood.
That’s if opposition leader David Cameron has his way. A Conservative Party task force examining democratic participation proposes that online petitions should help set the parliamentary agenda. The four proposals above are just some of the open petitions recently accepted by the No.10 Downing Street website. In other words, these are the sensible ones: over 10,000 have been rejected. (This one, for example, was quite inexplicably deemed to be outside the scope of Government.)
“I would like to see a system whereby, if enough people sign an online petition in favour of a particular motion, then a debate is held in Parliament, followed by a vote – so that the public know what their elected representatives actually think about the issues that matter to them,” said Cameron in a canned statement.
Gentlemen – start your scripting engines.
Cameron’s emphasis on the latest online gimmick overshadows the rest of the proposals in the paper Power To The People: Rebuilding Government, which involve checks and balances on an out of control executive. Rather generously, the paper absolves journalists of blaming for creating a culture in which people are bored with politics.
The suggestions from the task force, chaired by smoking hero Kenneth Clarke, won’t necessarily become official policy.
Cameron is the latest politician to use online to grab the healines. Identical clones George Osborne (Con., Google) and David Milliband (Lab., Google) appear to be locked in a private contest to see who can produce the most web-tastic gimmicks. Milliband is winning.