Petitioning the PM

Could it be that the Downing Street e-petitioning service might actually be a good thing?

Despite all the hoo-haa around Number 10's web site e-petitioning service it's starting to look like it might actually be a useful way for government to communicate with the public at large.

Take the email this week which came from the site after 60,000 people signed a petition against "proposed restrictions regarding photography in public places". Now, anyone can put up a petition but if the wording looks about right the thing can 'go viral' and get passed from email to email. This is handy when the issue is a matter for genuine public concern.

But the email response from the e-petition service, while thanking people for signing, actually managed to put the record straight: "We have checked carefully to see if any Government department was considering any proposal that might possibly lead to the sort of restrictions suggested by this petition. We have been assured this is not the case."

The email went on: "In fact, Simon Taylor, who started the petition, has since made clear that he was not really referring to Government action or legislation. His main concern appears to be that photographic societies and other organisations may introduce voluntary ID cards for members to help them explain why they are taking photographs. Again, any such scheme would not involve the Government."

Now, obviously not all issues will be resolved so easily. But the e-petition might end up being a valuable service, alongside the sometimes antiquated process of trying to get your MP to ask a little-noticed question in the House of Commons.