Cameron's 'Big Society', and how he ignores it

You may remember before the last general election that David Cameron made a big noise about democracy, bringing the will of the people into parliament, and so on. Part of this was his Government ‘e-petition’ site, where any petition that gets 100,000 signatures or more will be considered for debate in parliament. In August 2010, Cameron said “One of the points of the new e-petitions website is to make sure that if a certain level of signatures is reached, the matter will be debated in the House, whether we like it or not. That is an important way of empowering people.” All good, commendable stuff.

And so, as I write this in 2012, which e-petition has the most signatures? It’s the petition to drop the Health Bill, tabled by GP Kailash Chand, which as of today has 166,187 signatures, well over Cameron’s limit of 100,000.

The mechanisms of parliament duly engaged and the petition was considered by the Backbench Business Committee. Thanks to the wonders of technology you can see a recording of the meeting here. Skip forward to 1:13 for the discussion on the e-petition, brought by Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Reynolds:

It’s about ten minutes for the bit about the e-petition. If you want to see how hollow coalition promises of democracy are, give it a watch. Who was the most critical of the idea of a debate? Liberal Democrat John Hemming.

Big Society? Democratic engagement? Only if you agree with what the coalition is going to do anyway. Cameron’s lie about the e-petitions is small compared to ‘no top-down reorganisation of the NHS’, but it is another lie, no matter how you look at it.

Lie to get elected then ignore the public - maybe not a new idea, but the coalition is really rubbing it in our faces.