Ludovic Hunter-Tilney at the Financial Times: “Another day, another petition. The latest pinging into my email is from Uber, the minicab app…..To their supporters, online petitions are like Uber itself, harnessing the disruptive power of technology to shake up public life. In 2011, the campaign group 38 Degrees (motto: “People, Power, Change”) helped derail UK government plans to sell off national forests with a petition of over 500,000 names. In 2013, a 36,000-strong call to get portraits of women on to British banknotes resulted in Jane Austen’s ascendancy to a forthcoming £10 note.
But e-petitions have become victims of their own success. The numbers they generate are so large that they have created a kind of arms race of popularity…..Despite their high-tech trappings, e-petitions are an essentially feudal mechanism for raising popular grievances. They are an act of supplication, an entreaty made to a higher authority. In a modern democracy, the true megaphone for expressing the popular will is the vote. Yet the way votes are cast in the UK is locked in a bizarre time warp.
Although we spend increasing amounts of our lives online, the idea of emailing or texting our votes is mired in specious fears of electoral fraud. Meanwhile, one-third of eligible voters do not take part in general elections and almost two-thirds ignore local elections….(More)”