My Guardian blog on direct democracy has produced some interesting comments.
One expresses the understandable fear that if we submit the top 6 popular petitions as legislation, we’ll get “pro-hanging, anti-abortion, leave the EU, probably something about immigration, independence for Scotland…and free ice cream for everyone: at which point they’re all voted down by MPs (apart from that last one)“.
Well, the next best proxy for the petitions from a People’s Bills process is the Downing Street petitions website. I took a look just now. The top 10 petitions in terms of number of signatures currently are:
*Allow the Red Arrows to Fly at the 2012 Olympics
*instruct water companies to return to charging churches as charities rather than as business premises.
*give all Ex Gurkha soldiers and their families who have served our country British citizenship on leaving the service.
*Remove the unfair and unjust retrospective Vehicle Execise Duty levy (back to 2001 year vehicles) as announced in the Budget on 12/3/08
*Stop ISP’s from breaching customers privacy via advertising technologies.
*Save Bletchley Park
*Cut VAT on 100% fruit juices and smoothies to the minimum 5% allowed by EU law to encourage shoppers to take the healthier option and achieve their ‘five a day.
*ensure there is a Lasting Legacy for Shooting Sports in the UK by moving the venue away from the Woolwich Barracks.
*Reverse Gov’t Plans and Save Jodrell Bank Observatory From Closure
*reduce the tax on petrol and diesel by 20p per litre
If you take out the four non-legislative proposals (Red Arrows, Bletchley Park, Woolwich Barracks and Jodrell Bank), then you get your 6 petitions that could spawn People’s Bills. Quite an interesting mix of propositions, certainly not what you’d get direct from UKIP or the Daily Mail.
Gladstone said that liberalism is ‘trust of the people, tempered by prudence’. I realise prudence is a bit of a dirty word, thanks to Gordon Brown. But trust of the people could be an idea whose time has come.