The fallacy being the belief that the government actually cares what you vote for, when there is zero evidence to support that belief.
Epetitions are, in fact, a crock, designed to give people the illusion of having a degree of influence on the government’s policy-making process. But that’s all it is – an illusion.
The only epetition, as far as I’ve been able to establish, that accomplished anything at all, was the Hillsborough epetition.
The badger cull epetition got its 100k in record time. The debate condemned the cull and called for its end. The government announced that it would resume next summer.
100,000 signatures on a government epetition will get an informal debate in a back room of the House of Commons – not in the chamber of the House, where the normal business takes place (and which MPs sometimes actually attend). And that’s all it guarantees you.
There’s a very good reason for that.
The results of formal debates on the floor of the House can reach conclusions, and make decisions, that are binding but, with the coalition’s majority, having decisions forced upon them of which they disapprove is unlikely, unless the LibDems simultaneously discover that they have balls, a moral compass, and a conscience – good luck with that.
However, the less formal epetition debates, taking place away from the chamber as they do, have a massive and so far insurmountable problem – any decisions reached are not binding. In theory, a petition calling for the prosecution of David Cameron can get the requisite number of votes (assuming it’s approved in the first place, which is highly unlikely), the motion can be carried in debate, and absolutely nothing will happen as a result as the decision has no standing in law.
Which means that Cameron and company can simply say, “Thanks for your time, folks, but we really don’t give a toss what you think,” and wander off to the nearest bar, laughing their cocks off, as they are wont to do at the slightest provocation.
And someone might be moved to say to me “But at least they know what a lot of us think!” And, indeed, that’s true. The problem is, though, as has been demonstrated amply, and repeatedly, during the past two years and 7 months, that it matters not one iota what we think, because they simply don’t care. Between general elections we’re just an irritation, like doorstep evangelists, and like them, best ignored.
Where an epetition is very effective, though, is in giving the government a list of the unhappy and the disaffected – I’m sure they’re grateful.