When the government launched its e-petitions site last month, it was widely assumed that Guido Fawkes’s petition to restore capital punishment (aptly described by Albert Camus as “administrative murder”) would race past the 100,000 signatures required for a motion to be eligible for debate in the House of Commons. George Young, the leader of the House, named the death penalty as one of the issues that he expected Parliament to discuss. Several Conservative MPs, including Philip Davies, Priti Patel and Andrew Turner, offererd their support. But as the Telegraph’s Sebastian Payne notes, the petition has struggled to gain traction. As the screengrab below shows, just 18,164 people have signed it. Embarrassingly for the campaign, a rival petition to retain the ban on capital punishment is ahead on 25,982 signatures, as is a petition against the government’s plan to uprate benefits in line with the Consumer Price Index, rather than the (generally higher) Retail Price Index.
It seems that the public aren’t as desperate to bring back the death penalty as some imagine. Opinion polls continue to show that the majority of voters support capital punishment for murder (a YouGov poll in September 2010 found 51 per cent in favour and 37 per cent opposed) but as UK Polling Report’s Anthony Wells notes, over the past decade, support has fallen from around 70 per cent. The intensity of support has also declined over the same period. Most voters want the government to restore capital punishment but few now view it as a priority.
The pro-death penalty campaign still has until 4 February 2012 to garner the requisite 100,000 signatures. But this is hardly the start they hoped for.