Friday, September 16, 2011

The Day I Tried To E-Petition Parliament

The system is broken, so the system works...just not for you!
As regular readers will appreciate, I'm no reformist. I believe the absolute best thing politicians could do for working class people is legislate concessions which our mass direct action had already made inevitable. Still, I was more than slightly interested in this e-petition thingy. After all, if fake libertarian 'Guido Fawkes' (AKA Paul Staines) could start a petition demanding the reinstatement of the death penalty - and hit the headlines in the process - maybe I could initiate a public debate on what is really the central political question of the day (FYI, Guido is now trailing 'Petition to retain the ban on Capital Punishment', and didn't the original Guido want to send Parliament a gunpowder 'petition'?).

My question - though politicians and the media never actually debate it - is should resources be transferred from the working class to the bankers, or the other way around? For our political masters, it doesn't even count as a question. Their inalienable truth - which they try to force down our throats on every news broadcast - is that there's 'no alternative' to bailing out the financial aristocrats for the crisis they triggered. Once a political figure accepts this central tenet of the late capitalist creed, the only question can be over how to make the working class pay - hence the ultra-narrow and ever-shrinking spectrum of Westminster 'debate'. Well, quite frankly, fuck that. Down that path lies only our utter slavery and immiseration.

So I decided to go through the e-petition process, if only to expose it. I fantasised about mass media coverage and watching the MPs try to squirm out of publicly debating the motion 'The bankers should pay for the crisis they created'. Inside though, I knew that was too good to be true. Some bourgeois machination would stop me.

Despite my realistic pessimism, I nominated Her Majesty's Treasury as the "responsible department", and asserted that:
"The government is currently slashing public services, jobs, and working class living standards, in the name of paying off the national debt. However, this debt exists in large measure due to the bailout of the bankers, following the financial crisis they themselves triggered. We demand that the government confiscate all the bailout money and all banking sector profits, and redistribute them in a way that will benefit the working class."
Maybe call it a 'transitional demand'...

Anyway, that was 17th August. Five days later, I received a disappointing email from HM Government. My petition had been rejected, because "There is already an e-petition about this issue."

Well actually, that's not true. There are 105 open petitions listed when you search for 'bankers', but surprisingly they seem to include 'Show Horse Awareness Adverts On Television', which claims that "Horse riding is becoming a more popular sport something has to be done", but doesn't mention banks at all. There's also the ingenious 'Replace Public Sector with Computers/Smartphone App' and 'Fridge Tax', which is apparently a potential anti-obesity measure.

True, some petitions call for curbs on the banks, but none to the extent of mine. Some want bankers' bonuses to be taxed, and others seek their outright ban, but none call for the wholesale redistribution of wealth from the banks to the working class.

Furthermore, there are no less than twenty-one petitions against the proposed DEFRA badger cull - of which eight are titled 'Stop the badger cull' (with only letter case and punctuation differences) - and all express very similar sentiments.

Plainly, this is not an automated system. There is someone - or some team of people - sitting somewhere in Whitehall, arbitrarily deciding whether or not to allow a petition through. Understandably, their decisions seem to be based less on some rigid criteria, and rather more on their own beliefs. If that's the case, then this supposedly 'democratic' reform is just another illusion.

But then you knew that.
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