This week saw the relaunch of official government e-petitions, the initiative that simultaneously demonstrates politicians really do listen to the likes of us and proves they mostly shouldn’t bother. The idea is anyone can start a petition on more or less anything they fancy, have others sign it and, if they get a hundred thousand signatures, have it maybe debated in parliament possibly. It could technically in theory be a mechanism for direct action, potentially in a way rouse the masses more often than once every four years and shake politicians from their complacency. Cynicism, you had me at hello.

In some ways it’s off to an encouraging start, The Guardian reporting the site crashed on its first day under pressure of demand, and there being plenty to interest your do-gooding types. There’s a petition requesting a ‘none of the above’ option on ballot papers, another demanding airbrushed images in the media be given a disclaimer. There’s a demand to reduce public transport fares and someone asking asylum seekers be allowed to work while their claim is being processed. This is all good stuff. I’m bunging my signature on all of them, in between the site crashing.

But it’s not all Zeroist do-gooding; the place is overrun by yer evil knee-jerking of the kind dreamt of by editors of the Daily Mail. One calls for the closure of the Channel Tunnel on the basis it would “cut down the ammount of illeagl immigarnts comming into to country.” Another wants to make sure English law isn’t replaced with Sharia law, an issue that’s been keeping us all awake at night with its overwhelming likelihood and frightening impendability. There’s someone demanding ‘Real equality for men’, a crusade as vital as tackling discrimination against white, able-bodied heterosexuals. There’s lots of ‘charity begins at home’ stuff that wants the government to stop giving money to poor people if they’re not from En-ger-land, loads of people wanting to be allowed to kill foxes for fun and tons calling for the return of the death penalty. And one guy’s demanding we stop benefits for non-English speakers, a serious threat to the guy who wants rid of the Channel Tunnel.

Already the site seems to have becomes a bit self-aware. There are petitions demanding petitions stop being rejected and another arguing 100,000 signatures is too high a target. Its author suggests 50,000 instead. “Who’s with me?” he asks. At the time of writing: 77 people. And there’s another problem: most of the petitions are dying on their arses. It’s all a bit silly. There’s even one calling for the abolition of e-petitions. I’d add my name to it but no bugger’d read it.

I’m keeping a technically open mind here, waiting to see if something actually comes of this, hoping a decent-sized charity gets something together but I’m not expecting much. It seems to be the domain of right-ons and dumb-dumbs and the government isn’t promising it’ll debate an issue even if it does get 100,000 signatures. That’s not how it’s meant to go, this ‘government listening to the people’ lark. Meanwhile, people are rioting on the streets of London, Manchester and Birmingham. Maybe they don’t have broadband.

Photo credit: UK Government and Parliament