And so the UK Government’s new e-petitions site (e-petitions? ePetitions?) has got a lot of press this week. I know a lot of folks feel strongly about petitions. Personally I feel they about as much use as a fart in a colander, but if you think otherwise then go sign this one. At least it’s heart is in the right place. Although if you remember a million people did more than sign their name on an ethereal site to protest the war, they marched on the heart of government, and it did diddly and squat. More’s the pity.
The march did fill column inches in lazy dead tree press organs and give the chattering classes on main stream media something to pontificate about. And I suspect that epetitions will go much the same way. Look at all the news articles this week about people calling for the return of the death penalty! And then more people calling for the death penalty to stay away thanks awfully. And so on and so on. Given the population of the UK is around 70 million these days (90% of whom live inside the M25 I assume given the media’s focus on events there) 15,000 people is just over 0.02% of the population, so essentially statistically irrelevant.
As of this entry here are the top petitions that are still live.
- Petition to retain the ban on Capital Punishment
- CHEAPER PETROL AND DIESEL, BY ROBERT HALFON MP AND FAIRFUEL UK
- Keep Formula 1 Free To Air in the UK View
- Restore Capital Punishment
- Britain wants referendum to leave EU
- Legalise cannabis
- Hold a referendum on withdrawing from the EU
- End mass immigration
To be honest I’m glad that your average petition completing loon(who is happy to give away their name, address, email and mad views to a government they clearly don’t trust) rates keeping the death penalty at bay. I’d vote for that, but I ain’t wasting my time on no petition. The rest of it though increasingly reads like the pages of BBC Have Your Say or the Daily Mail/Express (can anyone honestly tell those two apart these days?). I’m sure many an MP or their speech writers will mine these expressions of “belief” come the next election.
That said, the most shocking thing is how badly most of the petitions (even some of the one’s the above with their teeny tiny ground swell of opinion) are written. I don’t claim to be a great writer (or even a semi-competent one, something about grammar I’m sure I should rememebr…oh wait-everything!) but honestly do these people even think before pressing keys. I mean Robert Halfon MP doesn’t even know about NOT SPEAKING IN CAPS. Don’t know the chap, but I assume he doesn’t follow the school of SHOUT, SHOUT and SHOUT again when giving orders. Or maybe he is General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett.
Oh, and here are a few of my favourite ones I’ve come across to date.
So for those of you who might still want to have a pop at one of these, after an extensive reading of far too many of these damned things, here are Llordllama’s rules for Writing a Half-Decent ePetition
- Avoid writing in plain, clear English. The more flowery phrases you can throw in, especially half remembered Latin vocab pro hoc ad astra, the better!
- The title of the petition must be suitable for publication as the Daily Mail’s headline of the day “All immigrants to stop stealing my cheese“, “Gay traffic cones to be removed from Cheltenham by Wednesday” or “The Prime Minister must speak out about pedestrian crossings on my street“
- Must contain the phrase “everyone knows that…” or “we all know that” or similar for perceived “common knowledge”. You are writing as the Voice of Britain after all!
- IF IT IS IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO BE A PETITION THEN IT IS IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO BE BE WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS
- People’s attention spans are short – don’t give them a chance to click off without signing by ending a sentence! Ensure your entire petition is a single sentence three paragraphs long without pausing for breath or any semblance of punctuation. That way by the end they’ll be so weary people will just be grateful to sign.
- Ensure your gramophone is blasting out the the tune of God Save the Queen (Pistols or traditional, your call) in the background as you type. It will help the hate flow…sorry, words flow.
- For the love of Jovis, don;’t ask anyone else about your idea. That would risk sullying or watering it down – it needs to go out to the world untainted by the ideas of others. If you must, only share it with your closest drinking companions before writing it.
- Write what you want to say. Then read it aloud. If you don’t quite capture the ground pleasing demagogue of Hitler or Mosley, complete with hand gestures, then rewrite it. Petitions are designed to SHOUT INTO OTHER PEOPLE’S BRAINS remember.
- Try and make sure you include hot buzz words out of OK, Heat or Sky News. Extra points for Pedo, Death Sentence, Criminal Scum, Schools, Fiasco or Podiatrist!
- If at all possible try and make sure that your petition defies the laws of good sense, taste or basic physics.
Hopefully by trying to remember these rules – there’s a good chance your petition will not only garner a few like-minded folks to sign it, but will get picked up in the media. Whom will raise the question with some poor junior minister, and we can all enjoy watching them squirm on Newsnight (or just the edited highlights on 60 seconds on BBC3 for the majority of you).
Actually I lied – there is one epetition that needs your support, needs it right now. Please go sign it, and let’s show the rest of these epetition writers what Britain really thinks…honest 😉