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Do you really think that Downing Street would be so cynical Tim? Watching the documentary on Tony Blair on BBC last night I was struck by how the obviously dodgy and dishonest Blair, Mandelson and Campbell were able to hoodwink so much of Britain.Even 'though it was only 10 yeasrs ago it seemed a more innocent age.

The petition the PM website is a waste of time.

I signed the petition against ID cards and I got an email from number 10 the other day telling me how silly I was for holding an opinion contrary to the government's. It then went on to explain why ID cards are so great and how they will save the world against international terrorism.

I didn't want somebody to attempt to change my mind - I [as a citizen] wanted somebody to listen.
I hope the public see through this PR stunt!

Tim, I share your concerns on this and think that the points you raise need to be taken seriously by all opposition parties. This government is the most controlling I have seen in my lifetime, and everything is about building up an e-fit of voters in much the same way as supermarkets do with their loyalty cards.
You ignore this type of harvesting of emails at your peril.

"It then went on to explain why ID cards are so great and how they will save the world against international terrorism."
If the government are allowed to put forward their argument to voters directly on an issue like ID cards, then opposition parties should also be allowed to email them with their objections if we still believe in balanced debate.
This is like holding a referendum campaign without the opposition being allowed to contribute!

I half agree with you, Tim.

You are 100% right to be weary of NuLab attempting to abuse the email addresses in its posession - and I agree that Opposition MPs and journalists should seek assurances as a matter of urgency.

However, the whole petition idea is a good one. It's a classic case of doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Blair and his flunkeys originally conceived it as the latest attempt to fool people into thinking they were being listened to (remember the Big Conversation? Or the Consultation on Nuclear Energy? Or the Nation Debate on Education?) but the petitions have really taken off and run way beyond government control.

The whole thing has revealed that there's a real public appetite for direct democracy. CH should do everything possible to encourage that.

If we all reply to Tony's beautifully crafted, well intentioned mail, surely that will cause, if not meltdown, a lot of trouble for No 10's kompooter people??!!

May not do a lot of good .. but could be fun!

If any future mails are anything like the one I got on id cards, I think the Conservative Party should be encouraging the project. Any Labour voters among the recipients will have felt as insulted as I did.

Tim,

I have some respect for this position, and you are right as a campaigner to be cautious, but there is a cost benefit trade-off here which you might want to consider.

Nobody now seriously expects (if they ever did) that any of these petitions will actually change policy in and of themselves, but they have already moved the debate - and in our favour - if only by forcing the issue up the agenda (aiding awareness) and triggering a predictable response from the politicians (which has reinforced public prejudices).

Road pricing, and to a greater extent proposals for new bin taxes (a new TPA petition that we have launched in conjunction with the Mail on Sunday), have been doing the rounds in policy wonk-land for years, and a lot of commercial and departmental progress has gone ahead unnoticed by most normal people outside of Westminster and that is how government has liked it. Therefore, the more we can do to raise the profile of these issues - if only to trigger conventional media interest which then spreads the word much further - than we believe it is worthwhile because opposition is potentially so strong.

If we snub the whole process, just because the Labour Party's fingerprints are all over it, there is a danger that as a result, there is nothing quite so effective at a national level that people can do very easily to help promote these issues up the media agenda. We would have to rely entirely on independent petitions which are very time-consuming and expensive for small campaign operations to take on. Not to mention the fact that people do instinctively feel that an "official" Downing Street petition carries more weight than anything run by a third-party group, and they are not necessarily wrong.

Plus, given our newspapers are so trivial these days, an online petition makes the story that much more dynamic (on issues that aren't themselves "sexy"), and gives lazy journalists more material for follow-on stories. My prediction is that the largest petition now online - against inheritance tax and sponsored by the Daily Express - will reignite this issue in our favour, provide plenty of opportunities for opponents to get on the media and argue the case against it, and create much more of a stir than either their earlier 400,000+ coupon campaign (which ran last spring), or any number of press releases from Tory central office.

So to this extent, the Downing Street online petitions are one helpful tool for promoting a cause which might otherwise remain out of view, and they are probably worth it for that reason alone. Also, I don't necessarily share the view that emails collected by Downing Street in this way are as valuable as you make out - the signers of these petitions have already made up their minds, and thankfully for us, most are of the sceptical, anti-politician mindset where any attempts by the Government to reply to them will only make them more trenchant in their opposition. These are not valuable swing voters in marginal constituencies who can be bought off relatively easily with targeted appeals.

From our perspective, when these petitions catch alight, the debate generated is helpful in itself (because they are wrong and we are right and they didn't want to talk about it in the first place), but also the response of the politicians only reinforces the broader sentiment that the TPA likes to cultivate - politicians don't listen and can't deliver. Anything that helps us reinforce that growing perception must be a useful tool.

This of course depends on politicians reacting as expected and up to now, surprisingly, they haven't disappointed.

Tim,

I have some respect for this position, and you are right as a campaigner to be cautious, but there is a cost benefit trade-off here which you might want to consider.

Nobody now seriously expects (if they ever did) that any of these petitions will actually change policy in and of themselves, but they have already moved the debate - and in our favour - if only by forcing the issue up the agenda (aiding awareness) and triggering a predictable response from the politicians (which has reinforced public prejudices).

Road pricing, and to a greater extent proposals for new bin taxes (a new TPA petition that we have launched in conjunction with the Mail on Sunday), have been doing the rounds in policy wonk-land for years, and a lot of commercial and departmental progress has gone ahead unnoticed by most normal people outside of Westminster and that is how government has liked it. Therefore, the more we can do to raise the profile of these issues - if only to trigger conventional media interest which then spreads the word much further - than we believe it is worthwhile because opposition is potentially so strong.

If we snub the whole process, just because the Labour Party's fingerprints are all over it, there is a danger that as a result, there is nothing quite so effective at a national level that people can do very easily to help promote these issues up the media agenda. We would have to rely entirely on independent petitions which are very time-consuming and expensive for small campaign operations to take on. Not to mention the fact that people do instinctively feel that an "official" Downing Street petition carries more weight than anything run by a third-party group, and they are not necessarily wrong.

Plus, given our newspapers are so trivial these days, an online petition makes the story that much more dynamic (on issues that aren't themselves "sexy"), and gives lazy journalists more material for follow-on stories. My prediction is that the largest petition now online - against inheritance tax and sponsored by the Daily Express - will reignite this issue in our favour, provide plenty of opportunities for opponents to get on the media and argue the case against it, and create much more of a stir than either their earlier 400,000+ coupon campaign (which ran last spring), or any number of press releases from Tory central office.

So to this extent, the Downing Street online petitions are one helpful tool for promoting a cause which might otherwise remain out of view, and they are probably worth it for that reason alone. Also, I don't necessarily share the view that emails collected by Downing Street in this way are as valuable as you make out - the signers of these petitions have already made up their minds, and thankfully for us, most are of the sceptical, anti-politician mindset where any attempts by the Government to reply to them will only make them more trenchant in their opposition. These are not valuable swing voters in marginal constituencies who can be bought off relatively easily with targeted appeals.

From our perspective, when these petitions catch alight, the debate generated is helpful in itself (because they are wrong and we are right and they didn't want to talk about it in the first place), but also the response of the politicians only reinforces the broader sentiment that the TPA likes to cultivate - politicians don't listen and can't deliver. Anything that helps us reinforce that growing perception must be a useful tool.

This of course depends on politicians reacting as expected and up to now, surprisingly, they haven't disappointed.

This petition has achieved much. Blair has been forced to respond, and he has done so with lies in black and white, saying:“But let me be clear straight away: we have not made any decision about national road pricing.”

The truth of course is that they haven't decided on the details yet, but it is going ahead regardless because it is about funding the EU's megalomaniac Galileo satellite which is intended to make the EU and independent military power.

A Cameron government would make no difference.

Personally I think we should put the positive case for road pricing. We should say to people that this change will be used to cut down pollution and congestion not to raise revenue.
We should give a guarantee that money raised will be used to lower other taxes not to increase spending.
If we put this case which personally I think will benefit the country in cutting congestion and lowering pollution people will accept road pricing.

Tim, how exactly are 1.7 million people to register their opposition to a bad government policy if not by means of the e - petition then please? Rioting in Trafalgar Square perhaps, individual letters to their MP which will fail to show the massive collective numbers opposing road pricing?

Yes there can be no doubt that NuLab will misuse the email addresses so harvested but since there is no other organised way to show that a person opposes this idea, and since our own Shadow Cabinet have been disgracefully quiet on the whole plan, people are left with no alternative other then silence which will be spun as support by Bliar.

I'm afraid that, for the first time, I think you're wrong here and are putting an obscure take on party political advantage ahead of principle and the voice of the people being heard.

What the Conservtaives ought to be doing is championing the 1.7 million signatories and making as loud a noise as possible about Labour's intention to ignore them, not becoming tied up with the red herring of what happens to email addresses. And yes there are a lot of potential votes in doing so, at least 1.7 million of them.

Jack, how much do you believe it would cost to install a black box in everyones car, and are you comfortable with the idea of the government tracking your movements? Pricing people off the roads so their jobs and businesses become uneconomic has few positives imo.

Oh and Jack Stone, how on earth did you work that out please??? Road pricing has nothing to do with addressing congestion, most of which has been deliberately caused by Labour, both nationally and locally, in order to try to justify this massive stealth tax. The most recent TFL figures on the London congestion charge clearly show that traffic levels are now only down 8% on 2002, which was the worst year on record for congestion thanks to Livingstone's "traffic restraint" policy. 8% is nowhere near enough of a drop to prove that any form of road pricing really deals with congestion, it is solely about overtaxing the motorist. There are no advantages to be gained except those of providing yet more of our money to Labour for them to waste and also, as mentioned above, to justify the uneeded, unwanted and incredibly expensive Gallileo satellite. I am beginning to agree with all those on CH who think that you are no Tory but merely a Labour/LibDem troll.

Thank you Blair. I can appreciate there are two sides here to the argument. I appreciate your post.

Re-reading my other post on this topic on the Grayling thread, I realise how pompous it sounds, although it wasn't meant that way. Reading everybody else's ideas, I shall probably think twice about engaging in other petitions after all! I must admit that when I first saw the .org and No.10 logo on the petition site, my first reaction was to be VERY suspicious, then I was swayed by the number of people signing. Sounds a bit lame doesn't it!

I believe in road pricing because I think in some places it can work and I that our green agenda does mean that we must price people out of there cars and this will do just that.
Matt like all right-wingers on this site when you can`t beat the argument you just resort to personal abuse. Its pathetic. You had better get use to people expressing Liberal Conservative opinions in the party because like it or not that is what we are now!

Wouldnt it be better to choose petitions that describe government policy and see how many sign them.

"We the undersigned have full confidence in the governments ability to procure, install and maintain a database with fingerprints, DNA etc and that it will be completely secure"

"We the undersigned ask the government to press ahead with the promised EU constitution referendum. We cannot allow the French to derail such a fine document and maybe an overwhelming British vote in favour may help our friends in Brussells"

The result would be a damning indictment of government policy or we would see 100,000's of fake email addresses.

Far better, as I have done, it to implore our blog readers to stay away from Downing Street's e-petition site. I think they already have far too email addresses to be comfortable with.

P.S. Any chance of a reciprocal link Tim? (Seems it was easier to get a link on to the Miliblog!)

Jack
I received my mail from Downing St because I supported the anti-road pricing petition. But I am a believer in reducing congestion & carbon emissios - so why did I sign the petition.
1 - It is an immense expense - £600 a driver added to somewhere between £30bn and £60bn in infrastructure. That's the set up charge before charges come in. We could achieve much more reduction in both congestion and carbon emmissions through better use of the same amount of cash or less (annual cost of school buses? changes in bulk transport patterns? investments in local power generation?)
2 - Congestion doesn't just grow onwards and onwards. People who find it takes 2 hours to do what was a 20 minute journey leave the roads, change their hours, work from home. There is a personal cost which people balance against using their car.
3 - The preferred solution is dependent on rolling out novel technology, supported by complex IT systems. Any mass solution should be based on thoroughly tested and simple techonology - machine readable cards for using the M25, M6, A3 etc.
4 - Blair's announcement that Government would allow police to trawl fingerprint records shows that no personal data gathered by the Government is in anyway sacrosanct from whatever use they wish to make of it.

Far better, as I have done, it to implore our blog readers to stay away from Downing Street's e-petition site. I think they already have far too email addresses to be comfortable with.

P.S. Any chance of a reciprocal link Tim? (Seems it was easier to get a link on to the Miliblog!)

Ted:"Any mass solution should be based on thoroughly tested and simple technology - machine readable cards for using the M25, M6, A3 etc."
Bar codes? ... oh maybe not, because of additional congestion caused by cars to-ing & fro-ing over a reader until it registers correctly!

As to the general topic, I'm a fan of the concept, as it in some small way relieves the frustration of this simple citizen by affording direct access to government to state a view.

I agree Tim. Far better for organisations to set up their own petitions and not give the Govt their e-mails,

Matt

Jack you haven't answered the question as usual and you aren't a Conservative as your use of the capital L for Liberal tells us exactly what you are. It is a shame that some small sections of the Conservative party have been hijacked by the LibDems, although I would be surprised if Southend were one of them, but that still doesn't allow you to evade the question just because the LibDems always do so.

Matt - are you a Conservative? The Conservatives whether in small groups or not haven't been hijacked by anyone despite the attempts by UKIP to do so.

Matt Davis - are you a Conservative? Mrs Thatcher once said (in so many words) that people who attack the person rather than the policy show they have lost.

Ken Stevens - Card readers seemed to work OK in Singapore in the 20th Century.

Double post - apologies the first escaped while I was editing

Ted, I think you are confusing the Matts. Matt Davis is a tory but Matt Davies is a UKIPer who seems to have gone into business writing posts for Chads utterly dreadful blog.

I signed the road tax petition.

I'm still waiting for my e-mail from TB. Just proves that they can't even manage an e-mail list

"Mrs Thatcher once said (in so many words) that people who attack the person rather than the policy show they have lost."
Which reflects badly on our current anti-Brown focus.

I don't actually care if they have my e-mail address. I'm quite intelligent enough to look at the replies they send to me critically. Unless they're going to use it somehow to spy on my inbox (!) then what's the problem?

These petitions are mostly useful in that they make it easier for low-funded local campaigns to get signatures on their petition. On major national issues, the site is a bit of a waste of time.

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