Remember these two promises issued in The Coalition: Our Programme For Government (page 29)?
"We will ensure that any petition that secures 100,000 signatures will be eligible for formal debate in Parliament. The petition with the most signatures will enable members of the public to table a bill eligible to be voted on in Parliament."
"We will give residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue."
Those of us who believe in direct democracy were initially enthused with these two promises, yet that enthusiasm is being blunted somewhat by the fact it would appear some promises are not that as important as others. Oh, they both talk of being passionate about giving people more power over their lives, yet the one aspect of their programme for government which would actively do just that would seem to have been 'kicked into the long grass'.
This 'silence' from the Coalition on giving the people their voice may have something to do with the fact implementation of these two promises will mean some awkward decisions will have to be made by our political elite. For example, a petition calling for a referendum on our membership of the European Union would attract far more than the 100,000 signatures required. On the basis that our elected 'representatives' are supposed to represent the views of their electorate it would be an interesting spectacle to see said representatives deliberately ignoring the wishes of those they are supposed to represent in the ensuing parliamentary debate.
Importantly it is worth noting however that in making these two promises the Coalition have, to a certain extent, hedged their bets. Note the omission of mention of how long a period would be for the submission of petitions, how long a period would be designated in which to gain the required number of signatures. As during the election campaign period neither Cameron or Clegg discussed in any meaningful way - nor were they questioned in any meaningful way - subjects that would be embarrassing for them, so it is suspected that the promise of petitions, when announced and implemented, will have the necessary 'strings attached' to provide the Cleggeron Government sufficient 'wriggle room' to once again 'duck the issue'!
Note: Direct Democracy are running a petition to hasten the introduction of petitions and it can be signed here.
Afterthought: The champions of direct democracy - Hannan & Carswell - seem to have been rather 'voiceless' on this matter of late. Have they too been 'got at'?