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UK Government to Back Online Petitions

The UK government is to look into online petitioning which would allow the public to propose topics of discussion for parliament the government and intends to shut down the e-petitions part of the Number 10 website. Set-up under Tony Blair e-petitions has been suspended since the general election. The plan is to open a similar facility on the Directgov website which would be more closely moderated, with petitions checked closely for 'eligibility'.

BBC coverage of the story has given a fairly strong bias to the proceedings stating that various politicians feel that this would waste parliament time on trivial issues as well as pointing out various precedents such as petitioning Gordon Brown to resign and asking for Jeremy Clarkson to become prime minister. 

However, the BBC politics podcast has raised the issue of having greater public involvement with political decision making with regard to referendums and have highlighted that in countries where referendum are held on issues such as education cuts; the public is presented with a variety of choices and information on the consequences of making cuts in one direction over another, with successful results.

Marrying online public petitions such as the ones proposed with a direct referendum procedure could mean the rehabilitation of government in the eyes of the public at a time when recent polls show that 40% of the UK public do not trust any party at all. 

Switzerland is held up as an example of referendum heavy government dubbed Direct Democracy, where the public votes on a number of policy decisions, a style of government of interest to both Conservative and Labour policy makers. 

BBC article


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