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ePetitions, otherwise known as the (UK) Prime Minister's Petition, is arguably the first Internet petition system to mean something: it allows concerns to be brushed off officially, rather than simply be ignored.

Anyone can start a petition asking that the government do something. Petitions run for a length of time and are then officially answered if they get a reasonable number of signers, which in the UK is 10,000.


The site was first set up by hardworking British geeks mySociety with the Prime Minister's office back in Tony Blair's day. As soon as the Tories got in in 2010, they threw the system away. They then set up an entirely new system that spent the first week falling over under the load.

The system has undergone several re-brands and reorganisations since being set up. At first it was exclusively the Prime Minister that was petitioned. Then in a later incarnation, any office of the UK government could be petitioned individually.[1] Currently petitions are simply to the government as a general entity.[2]

All petitions have to undergo an approval process, although rejected ones are still published for all to see, and can provide an amusing half-hour's browsing. The current threshold for getting a petition discussed in Parliament is 100,000 signatures, although the threshold for having some lower-level orderly tell you why the petition is batshit crazy, impossible, outside the remit of government, racist or just grammatically incoherent is a little lower.


Pretty much all petitions are answered either with a straight "no" or some kind of similar brush-off, but at least their existence is acknowledged.[3] However, despite the negative official response, the over two million signatures to the petition against a road usage tax (charged per mile of travel) fairly conclusively marked the idea as electoral suicide for the foreseeable future, so they're not entirely futile.

In August 2011, the online petitions gained some media attention by attracting several thousand signatures in favour of restoring capital punishment in the UK, prompting MPs and Ministers to demand that it be seriously discussed in parliament should it reach the appropriate number of supporters. The petition to retain the ban on it, however, gained more support in a shorter amount of time. And both were dwarfed by the level of support for returning Formula 1 racing to the BBC.[4]

About the only petition to have actually worked directly is John Graham-Cumming's petition asking Her Majesty's government to formally apologise for the prosecution of mathematician and computer science pioneer Alan Turing for being gay.[5]

pEtitions of iNterest[edit]


A selection of rejected petitions. Also known as the "shut the fuck up you lunatic" pile.

oTher cOuntries[edit]

wE tHe pEople[edit]

In the US, the White House has set up We The People,[6] which presently requires 100,000 signatures in 30 days[7] to get a response. It has similar issues with petitions created by people who have an axe to grind on some pet issue, absolutely zero understanding of the powers of the Presidency, and/or not being right in the head:

  • Rule the "NY SAFE ACT" to be UNCONSTITUTIONAL![8] (A gun control bill, passed with bi-partisan support at the NY state level.)
  • Initiate a recall referendum (recall election) to elect a new President of the United States.[10] (Zero constitutional basis, by the way.)
  • Grant funds to continue the animated adaptation of Isuna Hasekura's Spice and Wolf novels for the benefit of the public.[11] (Basically, the federal government should fund someone's favourite bit of anime.)
  • Review the case of Kent Hovind, #06452-017, his claim of being a "political prisoner" and request for early release.[12] (Acknowledge tax cheat Kent Hovind as a "political prisoner" to appease a tiny handful of supporters, and set a precedent for tax protesters throughout the US.)

On the other hand, a (presumably facetious) petition calling on the US to build a Death Star[13] did receive a response that denied the request, wittily, but went on to discuss the administration's science and technology efforts.[14]


Canada started a similar programme in December 2015,[15] called E-petitions, with a debate for every petition with over 100,000 signatures.[16] This has resulted in calls for measures improving the availability of dried fish[17], world peace[18], correct labelling of wine not produced from Canadian grapes[19], and a ban on the import of cat fur[20].

nEw zEaland[edit]

nEw zEaland has a similar programme [21] that allows an individual (literally, anybody) to create an electronic petition. pEtitions may also be paper or hybrid. tHere is no minimum number of signatures required; rather, the individual must find an MP to present it to the hOuse of rEpresentatives. tHe petition is then passed to the pEtition cOmmittee who collects information and prepares a report, which may or may not include recommendations to the government.

A notable petition, collecting 43,262 signatures, was delivered to pArliament six days after the cHristchurch terrorist attacks, which called for a ban on semi-automatic weapons. lAter that day the gOvernment announced a ban on all military-style semi-automatic weapons.[22]

eXternal links[edit]