Riots: Benefits e-petition hits crucial 100,000 mark

The BBC reports:

An e-petition calling for rioters to lose their benefits has hit 100,000 signatures and become the first to be considered for a Commons debate.
It has dwarfed others on the government website, which has struggled to deal with the volume of people accessing it.

The petition has now been formally referred to a committee which will decide whether to hold a debate.

As I argued in Part 1 of this thread, e-petitions would be an excellent way of setting the agenda for an allotted legislature. Others have claimed that any form of elective or referendum-based system allows the agenda to be set by the rich and powerful (in particular media and lobby groups); but in the case of the London riots, the media has been reflecting (rather than initiating) public anger (by contrast to phone hacking, where the “outrage” has largely been manufactured by the commercial rivals of News International, including the BBC). Anyone who examines the most popular e-petitions would find it hard to argue that they were being manipulated by the rich and powerful. Although many of the petitions have a right-wing and populist flavour, there is no equivalent in the UK of Fox TV or the shock-jock radio networks which have helped fuel Tea Party support in the US. The media in the UK (especially the BBC) are normally viewed as considerably more left-liberal than the population in general, so it would appear that the e-petitions site is a reasonable indication of public priorities, hence my argument that it should become an instrument for setting a democratic agenda for an allotted legislature.

The only problem I have with the present arrangements is that the parliamentary debate is left to MPs and government ministers. As has been argued consistently on this forum, elections do not lead to a descriptively-representative chamber and the decision-making process is poor from an epistemic perspective (MPs do not have a wisdom that the rest of us lack, and are no longer viewed as “honourable” members). Hence my own petition (signatures welcome) for an allotted chamber to debate any e-petition that exceeds the threshold. If MPs and ministers wish to take part in the debate then they should act as advocates, arguing the case for or against the petition under deliberation.