Government Petition Sites That Never Lead to Change are Part of the Managed Illusion of Democracy

There follows a guest post by Dr. David Seedhouse, Honorary Professor of Deliberative Practice at Aston University, who says the public are being fobbed off with a Government petition website that never brings about any change.

For the last year I have run a website promoting participatory democracy: Our Decision Too. We have a small group of loyal supporters on the site who debate topical issues, providing examples of how citizens might be involved in direct decision-making, were we to have the opportunity. One of our members, concerned about the one-eyed mainstream media framing of the Ukraine-Russian conflict, asked if we might create a petition on the Government petitions site. Her original suggestion was:

We request that the House of Commons holds a full, emergency debate on the Government’s policy on the war in Ukraine. The war in Ukraine is a complex issue, not a simple matter of Russia = bad, Ukraine and the West = good.

While any U.K. citizen can start a petition, only 80 characters are allowed in the title so we agreed this version: “Debate the history of Ukraine-Russian relations to inform U.K. policy.”

The petition was rejected on the ground that it was “not clear what the petition is asking the U.K. Government or Parliament to do”. Apparently, one of the rules is that petitions need to call for a specific action and it seems a debate doesn’t qualify. So we had another go: “Hold a referendum on sending deadly weapons to Ukraine.”

This time the petition was published, but it was an edited version, altered without permission to this: “Hold a referendum on sending deadly offensive weapons to Ukraine.”

I received no explanation and have no opportunity to challenge the Government’s amendment since its email address is a ‘no reply’ address.

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