I am a great signer of online petitions. In the past few weeks I have supported calls for proportional representation, the need to have a deposit return system for plastic drinks bottles and the need to stop president Donald Trump from being given the honour of having a state visit.
I sometimes wonder about the true worth of on-line petitions. The results can be very significant in that there have been some really important developments in environmental and social issues.
Yesterday, the giant drinks company Coke did a U-Turn on the deposit return system. I had signed a petition from an organisation called 38 Degrees, one of many petitions that I have signed from that organisation. As can be seen below in a photograph taken from their Home Page on their website, they run a great many campaigns, are open to people starting their own campaigns and have had quite a lot of successes.
The following photos will give you some idea about the sort of campaigns that they run:
Looking at these campaigns you can see where they are most likely to have some success. The plastic bottles has already caused Coke and other large companies to react and the Scottish Government is in the process of introducing the first deposit return scheme that has existed in the U.K. since I was a child and used to return glass Lemonade bottles in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
There is every hope that there will be enough public support to protect the world famous Sherwood Forest (Robin Hood’s stomping ground).
But if you look at the campaigns in the second photograph you can see where the problems with online petitions lies. Do I really feel that mass protest about NHS funding is going to have any impact on the present Government and their obsession with “balancing the books”? No!
I would love to have my say on the US-UK Trade Deal but realise that whatever we may say, in terms of the number of online signatures, it is unlikely to have any impact on Theresa May and especially Donald Trump.
Our efforts, through the Government’s own online petitions system to get the state visit of President Trump cancelled was met with a short Parliamentary debate where the item was discussed by our MP’s. The debate was triggered by the petition passing a point where it has to be discussed.
There was a fiery debate in the House but at the end, to quote a recent report:
“There was no vote at the end of the debate, and ultimately it is up to the British Government whether to withdraw the invitation, or downgrade the visit. It seems highly unlikely that, now extended, the government would retract the invitation.”
In conclusion, I enjoy the fact that the ubiquity of the net has given us the chance to have a say on a number of important issues. In terms of educating the public about issues organisations such as 38 Degrees do a fantastic job. But this needs to be seen in the light of what impact these campaigns can ever have. In terms of bad publicity for large multinationals it can have some effects, in local environmental issues it can get real things done but at a Government level I do not see how an “elected dictatorship” would really quake in their boots at people like me hitting a key on my keyboard to protest at their actions.