The UK government today launched their new e-petitions initiative, an update to the petitions section created on the Number10 under Tony Blair, and the unexpected volume of traffic caused the website to crash. As the new website launched it was facing more than 1,000 unique visitors per minute, a load much higher than the previous Number10 site, with the new site crashing under the pressure.
The likely reason for the spike in traffic is the assurance by Sir George Young, Leader of the Commons, that petitions gaining over 100,000 signatures will get debated in the House of Commons. This has meant that causes popular with some sections of the public which have not had an airing in the house for many years may again be debated – issues such as capital punishment, leaving the EU, and the legalisation of cannabis. It is an attempt by Parliament to reconnect with a public that has felt increasingly isolated from its political machinery after the scandal of MPs expenses, and the large scale protests against the unpopular tuition fee rises and austerity cuts.
Popular right-wing rag/celebrity nipslip publisher the Daily Mail and right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes have already begun a campaign to push for a restoration of capital punishment from its vocal readership, but the more liberal minded of the population seem to be getting similarly strong support for a debate on the legalisation of cannabis and also to maintain the ban on capital punlishement. Whether such direct access to government promotes mob-rule or the genuine discussion of difficult topics is yet to be seen, but the site has certainly caught the public’s imagination.
At the time of writing the top five petitions were the following
1. Petition to retain the ban on Capital Punishment – 4,387 signatures
2. Keep Formula 1 Free To Air in the UK – 2,374 signatures
3. Restore Capital Punishment – 2,088 signatures
4. Britain wants referendum to leave EU – 1,010 signatures
5. Legalise cannabis – 839 signatures