The responses to the proposal that the most popular petitions receive a debate in parliament, and the top petition gets drafted as a bill, have ranged from derisory to enthusiastic. Of course, as ever, this blog is way ahead of the Government, and I think my proposals are constitutionally more subtle than the flawed and toothless proposals from the coalition. Who’s for a petition to make me dictator? Why not? It worked for Caesar.
In general, I am in favour of direct democracy. Arguments based on the stupidity of the people and the commensurate benefits of representative democracy will fall on deaf ears here: the people will make fewer stupid decisions than their elected representatives, even if they are deaf to the appeals of libertarianism.
Whilst the proposal being debated in parliament will mean that the majority, Jeremy Clarkson for Prime Minister for example, will be voted down. However the same issues will reach the top, time after time. Europe, a perennial bug-bear of the no. 10 petition site will get its debate, and will be rejected. As will bringing back the death penalty. The smoking ban may far better, and the Hunting ban will be the subject of endless pro and anti petitions.
The threshold will be sufficiently low that pretty much any well financed pressure group will get its debate in parliament. And, since the direct democracy Rubicon has been crossed (can you imagine removing such a right?) the ratchet will only go one way. So whilst this proposal will change the square-root of bugger all, there may be more to come.
Expect lots more debates on Hunting with hounds, Europe; expect illiberal legislation like the smoking ban to face harder passages through parliament in future as organised opposition mobilises support (how many people care enough to actively SUPPORT a ban -most just acquiesce). Sneer if you like to, but this is a step in the right direction.