One criticism I often come across when talking about politics, and/or the Liberal Democrats, is that Nick Clegg supposedly “betrayed his principles for a shot at power”. I’ve come across that exact line several times. But was it really a betrayal? I don’t think so. Of course, the Liberal Democrats in the Conservative-led coalition are proposing policies that they probably wouldn’t do in a Labour-led coalition, and are having to alter their policies on things like tuition fees. Even so, coalition with the Conservatives was pretty much inevitable come 10:02pm on 6th May.
So, the Coalition have announced the return of the e-Petitions system previously in effect under Blair and Brown, with one clear change: petitions will be more readily be debated by Parliament. This is touted as a welcome change, where very few, if any, petitions under Labour actually changed government policy. The most notable one that did was a 2-million strong petition against the proposed system of road pricing in 2007, where Blair changed from “we support this” to “we still support it but we admit we’re not going to enforce it”. But with any sort of public consultation like this, it often falls by the wayside because of people being just uninformed on issues, such as a 250,000-strong petition to oppose a supposed “mega-mosque” in the London Borough of Newham that hadn’t even been proposed. And then there are the silly ones, like a 50,000-strong petition to make Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson the Prime Minister. Under the proposed rules, Parliament would probably have been forced to debate the latter two with a hard and fast rule of 100,000-supporters-means-debate-in-Parliament, wasting time that should’ve been spent passing actual laws.