Petition politics

INFLUENTIAL backbench MP Paul Flynn, a respected Parliamentary campaigner, is right. Giving the public a day on what new laws are debated in the House of Commons would put power in the hands of "the obsessed and the fanatical".

As such, the Government should think again before it makes a mockery of the democratic process by allowing those petitions on the Downing Street website with the most support to be debated in the House of Commons.

If this had happened before the last election when the petition facility was removed, public opinion would have compelled the Government to scrap road tolls, even though this mechanism maybe required to fund transport improvements. Calls for Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson to become Prime Minister, and for Gordon Brown to resign, were the second and third most popular petitions respectively – hardly matters worthy of a change in the law. Today, a petition to repeal the coalition's increase in student tuition fees would probably garner the most support, even though there is little chance of Ministers backtracking on their controversial plans.

If the coalition wants to make Parliament more relevant, a noble objective, it should perhaps review the Private Member's Bill process so there is more time, and scope, for MPs like Mr Flynn to champion legislation that will make a material difference to the lives of citizens.