Waste Of Time: Are Petitions A Pointless Exercise In British Politics?

British politics is hardly regarded in a brilliant light at the moment: A lack of trust in the Government from the public, and a party leader who has up to 40 party MPs ready to sign a vote of ‘no confidence’ for their leader; if a political mess had a picture – No.10 Downing Street would paint a pretty close image.

The small matter of Brexit last summer, along with recent cases of sexual harassment amongst the political elite has seen the Tory party in a state of sorry affairs as opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, looks to capitalise on a disillusioned electorate.

However, despite the trouble the Government finds itself in, and the lack of confidence the nation has in those running the country from Westminster, what can be said, is Britain remains a strong democracy. An EU referendum was demanded – the nation got one; democracy prevailed – the majority won.

The fact that only 100,000 signatures are needed in a petition for a topic to be debated in Parliament suggests the powers that be at Westminster are not that far away to have an influence over them; such a position is a credit to the British democracy and the potential power that the public have.

However, despite both the metaphoric and literal [Westiminster] bridge seemingly a stone’s throw away, there is little point in a petition gaining public support – judging by their performances in Parliament.

Of all the top five signed petitions in the UK, not one has enforced a political change at Westminster. The top four petitions were debated, but all rejected; the fifth highest signed petition – close UK borders until ISIS is defeated – was not debated in the House of Commons, despite nearly half a million signatures.

Yet, there’s one saving grace. The sixth highest signed petition, which was for Britain to help in the refugee crisis – a petition that had 450,287 signatures – was debated in Parliament.

The action was that 20,000 more Syrians were resettled and £100million was sent in aid from the UK Government; thank god for that, Westminster may have some humans in it after all.

Petitions effectiveness is therefore, in general, very low; their lack of ability to turn the political tides can be seen by nine of the 10 highest signed petitions all being concluded by rejection from Parliament.

The saving grace, sadly, was the refugee crises; a sign that perhaps petitions are worth it, and not a complete waste of everyone’s time.

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