Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Afraid of the people

It is often said, quite rightly, that a government should be in fear of its people, and not the other way around. Of course, in Communist and other left-run dictatorships, the latter is the norm and the people live (and often die, sometimes in large numbers) in fear of their country's government.

The more democratically-minded MPs such as Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, and MEP Daniel Hannan - all Conservatives - are well known to be strong advocates of true "people power", from open primaries for candidate selection to greater public access to parliamentary business.

It is no surprise that it is the Conservatives who have been committed to giving the people of this nation access to parliamentary debating time, and they are now introducing e-petition access, whereby any on-line petition (at a website set up specifically for this purpose) with sufficient support will guarantee a parliamentary debate within a year. This is great news!

Oh, except for dictatorial parties, of course. Therefore it comes as just as little a surprise to find Labour MPs already opposing the very idea of e-petitions. Paul Flynn MP (whose writings I have been keeping an eye on, and haven't been at all impressed by his outlook) seems to have been the first out of the traps, claiming that e-petitions:

"would put power in the hands of the obsessed and the fanatical"

No, they wouldn't! There is no power in a petition, as anyone who has had any experience with them will already know. The decision would be by parliament, exactly as at present. It would certainly be a lot more open and accessible than the decades-old practice of lobbying outfits getting their wishes so often, arranged behind closed doorss, using a parallel methodology not available to the public at large.

Indeed, several (at the time) Labour MPs, including former ministers Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon, were caught out by TV reporters earlier this year, selling their services to what they believed was a lobbying firm. Watch this as a reminder:

Dictators don't like to allow their citizens to have any power or influence over them at all, or to be directly answerable to the public, so Labour wouldn't have been expected to welcome this governmental initiative. A side-effect of the e-petition policy is that it has once again brought Labour's true nature into public view, so overall this is a win-win for the British people!

UPDATE: This from Glyn Davies MP is a good (in favour) take on this idea, and makes some of the same points I have above, along with some others.

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