February 20, 2007

An English Parliament? No–one cares.

At the time of writing, 1,128 people had signed a petition of the Number 10 website for the creation of an English Parliament. It’s a popular idea with a few Tories, who know they’d probably get a permanent majority in such an assembly.

But it doesn’t seem the public care…

21,445 people want census data to be made available earlier
10,984 people want St David’s Day to be a Welsh national holiday
5,649 people want Ruth Kelly to give up her job
4,228 people want to replace the national anthem with ‘Gold’ by Spandau Ballet
2,033 people want to ban the sale of “puppy farms”
1,781 people want to “save Suffolk middle schools”
1,214 people want to prohibit the sale of fireworks
1,148 people want the government to give Blackpool the super-casino

In the light of which, it seems that people really aren’t fussed about England getting its own Parliament. Unless, of course, their wages are likely to come out of it.

- 6 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. This was something I was a bit worried we’d start seeing all over the place: the media using the number of signatures on the PM’s Petitions site as some kind of objective opinion poll. It isn’t; I’m afraid that’s a completely false conclusion to draw.

    Very few people trawl through every petition on the site (currently well over 3000) and sign all the ones they agree with; the number of signatures (especially if it’s anywhere below 10,000) is very largely down to the amount of viral publicity the motion receives. How long the petition has been posted also plays a large part, of course. In any case, it’s possible to read and agree with the intent of a petition but not sign it because of any extra implications or conclusions contained within it (or even to disagree with the motion but sign it anyway to add to the comedy effect – Jedi Knights springs to mind – or cause political embarrassment to the Government).

    As it happens, though, the idea of an English parliament is unnecessary and a waste of money; it just needs somebody to solve the West Lothian question within the existing setup of Westminster and 90% of those requesting an English parliament would probably be satisfied.

    21 Feb 2007, 10:29

  2. Yes, I know the statistics don’t stand up to any much scrutiny, but my point is really that if a popular movement can form around Suffolk middle schools, then why can’t it form around an English Parliament? The answer is because no-one is interested in it. There is a bit of a public campaign for an English Parliament, but it doesn’t seem to be having much success.

    21 Feb 2007, 10:45

  3. I’m sure there are dozens of worthy petitions for highly popular causes on the Number 10 site which have failed to attract even 500 signatures. I appreciate your article was trying to use a topical issue to highlight a different one, but I don’t think the link is relevant. The Suffolk schools motion, just for the record, is over 2 months older than the English Parliament one.

    It will be interesting to see whether all the publicity surrounding the facility will make it more or less popular with campaigning organisations. On one hand, it’s had numerous headlines in all the media and so the public (and journalists) are more aware of its existence. On the other, 1.8 million signatures is a very high benchmark against which the Government (and public, and journalists) will, subconsciously at least, judge future petitions; an email I received yesterday from the site, responding to a separate motion, stated: “The petition calling for the Government to abandon plans for a National ID Scheme attracted almost 28,000 signatures – one of the largest responses since this e-petition service was set up”. The bar is now a lot higher.

    21 Feb 2007, 16:15

  4. Toque

    I think it probably has something to do with the fact that the campaign for an English parliament is not something that has an immediate effect on the day to day lives of people – or at least they don’t see that it does. The opinion polls tell a different story, people do want an English Parliament it’s just that it isn’t high on their agenda.

    And, unfortunately, this petition is being used as an advert for the English Democrats.

    22 Feb 2007, 00:37

  5. Terry

    Sorry Chris but you are plainly wrong here. I think you’ve slipped up because you’ve measured public opinion by the number of signatures on a Downing Street petition and it’s not an opinion poll.

    If you were to look at actual opinion polls you’d find that 17% were in favour in 1998. This rose steadily to 44% in 2005 and in 2006 we saw two opinion polls that showed 68% (MORI) and 61% (for the BBC) of English voters demand a Parliament with powers similar to those of the Scottish Parliament.

    Sixty eight percent is an incredible number when you consider that there has been no political party or newspaper campaign behind it. This is pure grass roots, ground swell opinion. Only 44% of the Scottish electorate voted for devolution and that was after new Labour spent millions of advertisements and spin.

    Can you imagine what the popularity would be if Murdoch, or a major party were to put its weight behind such a campaign? Tony Blair can, that’s why he said he thought the English would vote “overwhelmingly in favour” of an English Parliament.

    The case for or against an English Parliament is debatable, but its popularity is not. More than 60% is very popular indeed!

    22 Feb 2007, 17:11

  6. cujimmy

    And you want to be a journalist! Enough said!

    25 Feb 2007, 22:38

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