Number-10.gov.uk, the stultifyingly dull home to Downing Street's idea of news and absurdly astroturfed 'webchats' with our leaders, has released its visitor numbers for the year so far, showing an amazing increase in traffic over the previous year. Or alternatively, suggesting it's been going nowhere for most of this year. How …
Online petitions are the opiate for the masses
Is there any proof that any of these gov.co.uk petitions actually do anything other than provide a clear list of dissenters for the government? Can signees expect visits late at night from people in black?
Admittedly they get a damn site more comments than, say, ThisIsLondon does when it stirs the mud, as it frequently does, about speed cameras. In fact, could we have another icon, like the Paris Hilton one, that indicates that whatever woe is being commented on, whether it's a giant asteroid that's going to destroy the Earth or whether it's a new strain of C.Diff that's killing hundreds of people, speed cameras are to blame? It would appear that most contibutors to the TIL website believe this to be the case. And frequently their spelling is atrocious too (he says, nervously re-reading what he's typed).
Anyway, why don't they publish some pictures of tits? They'd up their hit-rate no end...
Think about it some more
Considering the prime purpose of the site, shouldn't it be clear to everybody that the increasing number of visitors to a petition site is primarily caused by governments' increasing arrogance in doing PRECISELY what the people DON'T want?
I've just been on the site in question, and i noticed that if you go to the petitions page, and click on the 'stop the war coalition' to see how they've acted on that petition, it bizarrely takes you to the page concerning the E.ONUK plc's application to build a coal fired power station at Kingsworth.
A simple coding error? I think not.
Why even bother?
The only possible use of the e-petitions section on the Number 10 site requires that someone in number 10 gives a stuff what the public actually think - and that's where it all falls down...
Re: Online petitions are the opiate for the masses
I suppose there IS a way, in a future black helicopter world, where the e-petitions could provide a clear list of dissenters. Say they finally figure out an effective way to verify ID for electronic voting (no, I don't know how you do that either), and then they argued that the weight of the views e-petitions would be substantially increased if this system were used there as well. Then the signatures could be associated with actual IDs and addresses, and personal files could be tagged accordingly. If you ever get an effective way to verify ID for electronic voting, of course, you could do some of that anyway; Should it turn out that our masters are evil Stasi bastards, rather than the upright and well-meaning people they protest they are.
But to do anything that has an effect beyond semi-random buggeration (current state of the nation), you need to be able to build databases that work, so IMO we're perfectly safe, apart from the semi-random buggeration.
BTW, spelling: site = sight. Gotcha. (-:
Re: Online petitions are the opiate for the masses
I think you'll find that opiates are the opiate for the masses.
Re: Online petitions are the opiate for the masses
The uncharitable might suggest that the website is *full* of pictures of tits.
On a side note...
The design for that website is absolutely awful!
What sort of URL is that? I hope to god they haven't coded each asp page individually! It seems they also have a lack of RESTful understanding.
This is the UK Government afterall!
Hoist by my own petard...
@John Lettice - re: site/sight - Bugger, bugger, bugger! I blame the hangover...
BUT - When you sign an e-petition they require your email address and then send you something that you have to reply to to confirm that it was you that signed the petition in the first place. Now, while I accept that you can create email addresses to your heart's content, I'm sure a lot of people don't and so they can reap the details of the signee that way.
However, I still feel I should collect my Burberry from the hook in the cupboard under the stairs and retire...
"I suppose there IS a way, in a future black helicopter world, where the e-petitions could provide a clear list of dissenters."
The problem is not *whether* they can do it or not, the problem is whether people *believe* they can.
My petition against the plans to criminalise the possession of "extreme pornography" (see http://www.backlash-uk.org.uk for more about this campaign) garnered over 1,800 signatures, but there were also a lot of people who said that they didn't dare sign up in case they ended up on some Home Office "hit list" and have to worry about getting a knock on their door "Excuse me Sir or Madam, we have reason to believe that you may be in possession of illegal material and we have a warrant to search your home and confiscate your computers..."
The fact is that people simply do not *trust* our Government any more.
They are pointless
In all the e-petitions I have signed, I simply receive an email from the PM or his office thanking me for my efforts but we (the government) are going to ignore the e-petition anyway as we are the elected government and you (one of 60 million insects we govern) are totally irrelevant until we need your vote.
Dear Mr Prime Minister (and/or office),
Why have an e-petition site at all (or even a petition procedure)?
Yours yada, yada, yada...
One has to ask if the search bots were excluded from the stats... My guess is that 90% or more oft he hits would have come from them, so the question becomes - why don't the bots attend any more...
Surely, the obvious petition to create would be something along the lines of "We petition the government to act upon the petitions that are presented on it's own e-petition website."
The wording in the government's (obvious) refusal to comply would need to be pretty clever to avoid admitting that they really don't give toss.
@ anonymous coward re: obvious petition
I DARE you ;)
I'll certainly sign it.
"E-Petitions are an important way for the government to get feedback from the populace as to what the desires of the country are. Obviously since the petitions are written by individuals that frequently don't have a full understanding of the situation, it's quite common that they do not adequately cover the situation completely enough to give a good view of the options.
The road charging scheme is a good example of this - there is need to do something about the problems with increasing traffic and congestion, as well as the increased awareness of the costs (economic and ecological) of motoring. Therefore a blanket "don't do <x>" is not actually that helpful, since the alternatives are likely to be as unpopular".
See - it's not difficult to weasel out of it, and that just took me a few seconds to come up with, the spin doctors would do a much better job much more easily. There's also the fact that 1.5 million votes is approximately 2% of the population of the country, and in a democracy surely 2% shouldn't have a controlling vote?
If the UK government actually wanted to do what the general public wanted then there would be a couple of immediate affects. Firstly we'd see an increase in public campaigns by the press (if they can brain wash enough people, they'll get what they want), and secondly the country would go "to the dogs". The general public (myself included) DON'T know all that's going on - so their suggestions are likely to cause more problems than they solve. I've always considered suggesting a "true" democratic party, where the people within their constituency get to say which way to vote in the house (e.g. website, drop in center, etc) and if more than 10% of people express an opinion, it's legally binding. However, that brings home the point that people are stupid - and it would be a recipe for disaster.
Hmm. Now I'm worrying myself - I've actually just defended (unintentionally) the government. They are a bunch of not-incompetant-enough wankers that I really don't like, but some of the alternatives are worse.
Can someone put me out of my misery?
Of course we don't trust them.
The only thing they are interested in is their big, fat, index-linked pensions and anyone who thinks differently had better get their head examined.
Not much difference between this and 'consultation' and 'Reader's Poll's'
In the old days (possibly pre-Blair) 'consultation' used to mean something was actually talked about and those in power listened (possibly). These days it means that they are telling you what they are about to do and they don't give a toss what you think. The amount of glossy leaflets and money spent on 'consultation' in considerable but the masses seem to believe they are getting a say in what goes oh around them.
The on-line petitions are no different with folks having their say and assuming that someone is paying attention back in Westminster.
No different from 'Reader's Poll's' in the papers except that HM gov haven't sorted out the phone-in part yet - which would invoke a round of 'yet another stealth tax' comments thus increasing the revenue.
One e-petition that did work was an updating of the Fraudeulent Mediums Act. Now Derek Acorah et al. will find it harder to practise their "skills".
If the UK government actually wanted to do what the general public wanted
... then it would either abolish parliament or make it a purely advisory body, and replace it with a daily e-vote where everybody has a chance to contribute to a vote that actually DECIDES what the policy will be. No ratification by the electorate, no law -- full stop.
The biggest problem with the idea -- how many of us would honestly say they could trust this government, or indeed any future one, to declare the ACTUAL result rather than the invented one that they intended all along?
Nobody gets into government by telling the truth, and they most certainly don't start telling the truth as a result of being elected.
Ah yes, I always look forward to ignoring whatever excuse No. 10 gives for not being swayed by the petition. I used to check, but after so many, with only one reply being half decent, well, what's the point ? Still it allows one to make an official record of yet another dissatisfaction.
The easier it is to give your opinion
The less value it has.
Internet polls mean about as much as Sun telephone vote in's
I signed a no. 10 petition once...
...realating to the proposed re-wording of the highway code that mandated cyclists to use bicycle lanes / paths where they exist, rather than them being discretionary.
I subsequently received an email from '10 Downing St' informing me that the givernment had indeed changed the wording of the highway code:
So the one I signed seemed to be successful. Maybe I shodul sign more of them...
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