E-petitions, a Downing Street initiative, have been a rare success in persuading voters to engage with politics. Their very success, however, appears to have convinced ministers that they should be changed – and not in the voters' favour.
So far, only three such petitions have obtained the 100,000 e-signatures to qualify for a debate in the Commons: a call for the publication of all documents pertaining to the Hillsborough disaster; whether there should be a referendum on EU membership, and the price of fuel.
None of these issues was trivial; all reflected public concern, and only one – Europe – might be cited to illustrate the risk of single-issue lobbies nobbling the process. Now, though, there is a move to double the number of signatures required to generate the possibility of a Commons debate. Too much public engagement, it seems, is even more unwelcome than too little. Ministers should remember who pays their salaries.