Michael Birchmore

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Portsmouth Labour Party Newsletter

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This was my second article which was also published. As a party member I had discovered various ways of being active without having to attend rallies and demonstrations which might suit those of a more introverted nature like myself.


The Labour Party is gloriously awash with new members. Many hungry and eager to carry on the tsunami that was started when Jeremy Corbyn decided to stand for leadership. Many wanting the party of his successful election to carry on…and why not? With all that we’re being faced with the threats of death by a thousand cuts who wouldn’t want that?
But, as we all know, the reality is somewhat different. Sooner or later the celebrations have to stop and the reality of what we need to do has to be faced.

So what do we need to do? Beat the Tories.

Ok, how? What can I, a 50+ person with little or no knowledge about politics and the economy do?

Fine, I can go to party meetings and lend my support but what else? I’m not keen on knocking on doors. To go to protests in London will take a lot of time and expense. Does this make me sound half hearted? I hope not because I’m not. I’m really fired up about beating the Tories and helping the party get into power.

Is there anything simple I can do that will still have some effect?

Actually, yes there is and what’s more you can do it all from the comfort of your armchair whenever you like and all you need is your laptop, PC, iPhone….thingy.

One thing you can do is get active on social media. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Linked In are major players in communication these days. But this time I’m not going to talk about those. That’s for another article.

This time I want to talk about petitions.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the film Amazing Grace. It’s about William Wilberforce who got the Slave Trade Act enforced in 1807. In the film he rolled out a massive list of people who had signed a petition in order to get the Slave Trade Act enforced. Likewise you may have been approached and asked to sign petitions in the High Street which you may do but often wonder if they really change much.

Well I can verify that today petitions are taken seriously and yes, they can change much. What is different though is the means for collecting the signatures. With today’s technology you can sign petitions via the internet. I have included a list of some of the sites at the end of this article.

I haven’t checked all the sites but most of them seen to be run on donations. All are apolitical in their bias. Some concentrate on ecological matters like Greenpeace and PETA which is for animal welfare. All the petitions are started by ordinary people choosing the topic they want. However some sites, like 38 Degrees, also email members to ask about what topics they should be addressing in the following week.

The setting up of a petition is easy. There are simple steps with guidelines. It really is easy. Some websites give you tips on how to phrase things. Once formed the sites keep in touch and offer suggestions on how you might widen your PR and get more signatures. Help can also be got from some sites with regards the collation and distribution of the petition and the handing it in once completed.

How successful are they? Again most sites give details of wins and gains but for me the most interesting one is Petition Parliament UK. This concentrates mostly on issues of a political nature. If a petition gains a minimum of 10,000 signatures then the government will respond. Very often this a statement issued by the government stating their opinion and stance. . Unfortunately the waiting time for this can be rather lengthy. I believe a petition demanding a vote of no confidence be taken regarding David Cameron gained over 50,000 votes and has been waiting for more than 80 days to be responded to.
If a minimum of 100,000 signatures is gained then the government will consider it for a debate in Parliament. Some petitions get rejected and there is a section stating which and why.

A petition was submitted that called for a debate to give a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Hunt over the state of the NHS. Over 200,000 signatures were gained and a debate was held and the result can be read on the site. The actual debate can be watched on ParliamentLive.TV.

On each of these sites there are many petitions going on. If you start one they are very easy to then publicise on social media sites which will attract a lot of signatures. I have started a couple relating to the refugee situation in Europe. One has just fizzled out through lack of interest and the other was negated by government action. But others I have signed and are changing things. I am making a difference by signing some and I don’t have to leave home to do it.

The sites I see being used most often include –

38 Degrees
Sum of Us
Stop The War
Care 2 Petition

Petition Parliament UK

These sites mean you don’t have to leave your house or be social media savvy to become an active participant to effect change in our country or the world. The more of us that do this will have more chance of success. Petitioning is a numbers game but now we have a massive increase in members let’s get signing.

  • : This was my second article which was also published. As a party member I had discovered various ways of being active without having to attend rallies and demonstrations which might suit those of a more introverted nature like myself.