Friday, 5 August 2011

Hanging around

Bloody Paul Staines and his bloody death penalty petition! I've been trying to keep out of it, but failing, for one reason because of Staines' soi-disant libertarianism, which leads to attacks on the latter via guilt by association with the former.

Given that the death penalty is not going to be reinstituted on the back of this petition, it's worth taking a look at what is actually being achieved by the petition. Firstly there is the public/media debate. Secondly there is the testing of the government's petitions policy, whereby Parliament must at least consider debating a petition if it garners enough votes.

With regard to the public debate, I question the benefit of trawling through this for the upteenth time. It's not the case that no one ever changes their mind on the subject, but there are only so many arguments, that the whole thing is almost a ritual out of the pages of Gormenghast...

... when the bell strikes three, the second hierophant will cast a portrait of Ian Brady over the battlements to the east, whilst the chorus will thrice chant; "Let him have it is clearly ambiguous" ...

So what we're left with is a sterile discussion of a tangental point on the justice system, when other issues, which are far more capable of being addressed are left untouched. Everyone can hunker down in the trench of their choice, and nothing gets done. Thus the debate seems to bolster the status quo, which ain't good.

As for the government's petitions policy, I am very far from being convinced that the policy is useful. The truth is that Parliament, insofar as it is inhabited by politicians, does react to public opinion - if it wants to - with or without a specific policy to do so. Politicians do pay attention to the way the public wind is blowing, and are ever happy to ride that wind if they see an advantage to it or when it accords with their own position. But there is no real power in the policy to force an issue to be considered, even less to force a policy or law to be changed, due to public opinion. The whole thing stinks of gesture politics, and the risk is that it provides a pressure valve, or rather provides another reason for ordinary people to sit on their arse and leave it all to the politicians.

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