back to article Death haunts government petitions site

The Coalition government's epetitions site has limped online this lunchtime but is struggling to stay up. The site was down this morning, despite a message promising its imminent availability. A spinner at Ten Downing Street promised to get back to us. In the mean time, a bit of repeated clicking reveals over 40 petitions in …


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  1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    Load balancing

    Seriously, have people in government never heard of akamai, or any of the myriad other services that can front-end this thing so at least you could see SOMETHING (i.e. a warning they are busy, and what the website does when it is up) on their website?

    It's not difficult - you're expecting some significant portion of 65m people to go look at the damn thing - a VPS from your local host just isn't going to cut it, and this isn't the first time that you've been caught off-guard on the opening of a major government website.

    Government IT - maybe we can put a petition up about improving that?

    1. Miek

      B realistic

      Technical barriers that impede access to the site will drive down the signatures and therefore the politicians will not have to discuss any of the "Silly" ideas presented by the public.

    2. Jim Morrow
      Big Brother

      we don't need no akamai

      you completely miss the point. the government always designs these idiot magnets to fail.

      they're just a gesture exercise: pretending to be up-to-date, engaging with the public, listening to "ordinary people", letting the great unwashed "have their say", etc, etc. it's all bullshit. there's no fucking way anyone in whitehall takes that sort of thing seriously. call me dave and his chums know that too. as did bliar, gordo and their cronies before them. btw, does anyone remember john major's equivalent success story from the pre-web days, the cones hotline?

      all they're doing is providing an outlet for the green ink brigade and other nutters who believe everything in the daily fail to rant.

      there are much worse ways of wasting public money.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      more fundamental issues in government IT than that...

      ... govt IT is dominated by overpaid managers and (often very good) temporary consultants. Most of the day to day jobs pay less than a decent graduate engineer would earn out in the real world, so they struggle to attract anyone with more than an NVQ in IT.

    4. goats in pajamas


      Seriously, have people in government never heard of akamai, or any of the myriad other services that can front-end this thing



      You're seriously asking this question?

      The Average Minister has barely heard of Windows. His/her children probably 'use this bookface thingy' and probably find webpages for him/her.

      I've been using computers for 10 years, of which the last 8 have been Linux exclusively and I haven't heard of Akamai. If you're not "in the right area of business" there's no reason why anyone would have heard of it.

      1. Lee Dowling Silver badge


        So what business where the people who provisioned a high-end, public-facing, high-traffic, website in then? "People in government" doesn't necessarily mean politicians. Some tech somewhere put up the backend of that website knowing what it was going to hold.

  2. Tom Chiverton 1


    For a start, it's more involved then clicking a link and ticking a box, you need to enter your address, email etc. and then wait for an email with another link to click.

    I think it's the F1-on-the-bbc petition myself !

    1. HaplessPoet

      There are multiple F1 petitions

      Search for "Formula One" and you find at least 2

      Petition 57 has over 700 names now. 158 only has 170.

      does anyone know if the "consolidate" the duplicates? (57 and 158 aren't strictly duplicates)

  3. Jim Bobble
    Big Brother

    Former libertarian

    "Why a libertarian, small government blogger supports the right of the government to kill people is beyond the scope of this piece."

    You missed out the all-important 'former' preceding the word 'libertarian'.

    You can't be libertarian AND support the state's right to systematically kill people - however much they might deserve it.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Only certani types of people

      I think Fawkes prefers to execute only left-wing people....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      On the contrary

      You might want to research that a little, perhaps by starting here:

      It would seem that there is some debate on this subject, and whilst many Libertarians feel that the death penalty is inconmpatible with Libertarianism, many others do not.

    3. dotdavid

      Don't worry

      It's only for child killers, which makes it automatically all right as if you disagree with stuff that's done for the protection of children, you're probably a child molester.

      1. Chris Parsons

        Why do I need a title to reply to a post?

        The way brats behave these days, I'm surprised more of them don't meet an early end.

  4. davefb



    with a name like guido fawkes, you'd have thought he was the last person to wish for capital punishment. However since he seems in favour of it, who are we to get in the way..

    1. Blofeld's Cat

      Oh Fawkes!

      I think you'll find that his illustrious predecessor was very keen on capital punishment for a small minority of the population - mainly for the offense of "ruling without due care and attention".

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


        Bring back the death penalty for Charles I*!

        *and VI of Scotland, if such matters are important to you...

  5. Sypthor

    Government by Wiki?

    Sounds like they should have built it on the stackexchange model....

  6. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Better hope Excel isn't involved

    We have a sheet with the people we are going to execute and the next sheet has the name, address, email of 100,000 people who support it - what could possibly go wrong ?

    1. yeahyeahno
      Thumb Up

      Oh I do hope so

      I really do

  7. Josco

    Can't think of a witty title

    Is there a Clarkson for PM petition? If so count me in.

    1. vic 4

      better still

      Is there a Clarkson for the death penalty petition?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Shirley.... mean "death penalty for Clarkson" petition?

        1. vic 4


          thats what I meant!

  8. GT

    A very poor system


    When you submit a petition, you don't get any reference so you can track it. I submitted an e-petition several days ago. I received an email to validate the e-petition, which I did. However, there's no sign of it on the web site, either among the accepted or rejected petitions, although it's taken me about an hour to establish that (I think).

    Why not have a reference number per petition, or the ability to search by submitter's name or an email to the submitter when a petition has been accepted? Bizarre

  9. MarkieMark1
    Paris Hilton

    no duplicates

    As I seem to recall, one of the original incarnations of included a stipulation that none of the petitions should be duplcates of petitions already started, actual enforcement of that rule would go some way to limiting the sheer loopiness factor of the sites

    1. Marky W
      Black Helicopters

      That's Hiltonesque thinking

      A more Machiavellian way of looking at it is:

      As this is just an exercise in *pretending* to listen, having a boat-load of duplicate petitions means less of them actually cross the 100k barrier. As this reduces the number times they have to get off their arses and pretend to listen in the HoC, don't expect to see the copies being culled any time soon.

  10. Willington

    The main flaw with a petitions site...

    Is that I can't vote against anything. It's alright getting 100,000 people to agree on an issue but that doesn't account for the 500,000 who may actively oppose the issue. I can hardly start a petition to stop the death penalty as it's not an issue - we don't have one - so where is my representation on this issue?

    Another huge problem with this site is that most of the issues that will be raised (apart from the ones from the legalise drugs lobby) are the issues that the Daily Mail tells people to raise (until recently this would have been News International but there you go).

    I may however start a petition to have paediatricians flogged in public but that's just because, at a very fundamental level, I'm a bad person.

    1. Blofeld's Cat

      Have a look at...

      Petition to retain the ban on Capital Punishment

    2. Number6


      All that happens if 100,000 people sign up is that MPs get to debate it. At that point you'll be able to write to your MP and make your views clear and ask him to vote the way you want. Then he's free to ignore you and do what he wants, so no change there.

      Sometimes it's worth signing a petition simply to get the debate because at least that way there's an action and we can move onto the next thing the media want to enrage us with.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      I was tempted to downvote you, just because I can, but you do have it spot-on.

      A government-sanctioned petitioning system is totally undemocratic. What sort of second-world mob-ruled state do we want to be?

      Though I'm genuinely surprised that the death penalty is currently trumping Sharia law in the media-attention stakes. Won't be long now...

  11. DavCrav

    Death penalty debate

    It'll be a short debate:

    "We are here to debate the reintroduction of the death penalty. It cannot be reintroduced as it is outlawed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights: both are treaties to which we are signatories. And with that I will draw to a close the debate on captial punishment."

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Sadly very few people seem to understand our obligations under these treaties, I point this out to people who spout on at me about re-introducing capital punishment and they nearly always then stand their with their mouths flapping soundlessly.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Rights, schmights...

        ...the European Convention on Human Rights, ratified by ourselves in 1951, was I think brought in as a response to WW2 and the holocaust, although, Daily Mail readers, being historically supporters of Herr Fuehrer himself, probably oppose it as part of their general pique at the failure of fascism to take hold worldwide.

    2. Steven Roper

      I've said it before

      and I'll say it again:

      If the penalty for the crime is death then the criminal will kill to escape.

      Those advocating the death penalty only need to look at crime in just one Western country - the good ole US of A - to see that it doesn't work. That hasn't stopped the thousands of murders that happen there every year.

      And a large part of the reason the murder rate is relatively high in the US is because many of those murders start out as muggings or rapes and escalate precisely because the mugger/rapist thinks "Well I'm going to die if I get caught so I may as well go the whole hog - dead (wo)men tell no tales, right?"

      Do you really want the fucker who abducted your kids to have that incentive to kill them because he knows he's going to swing for the kidnapping anyway, instead of him knowing he won't die and giving police negotiators a chance of talking him into letting them go?

      If that's what you Daily-Mail-reading oxygen thieves really want, just keep on advocating the death penalty.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And that's why ...

      "Not only do we need the death penalty bringing back but why we need to get out of the EU and scrap all human rights legislation to allow it. And stop immigration which simply brings people into the country which we end up having to hang. If this were a decent white Christian country as God intended we'd be in utopia and the debate wouldn't even be needed. Multiculturalism must end. If you don't agree with all of that you are part of the problem. Once we bring back the death penalty we can resolve that problem."

      Not my view, but plenty do seem to hold it. It's what could be called Breivik-lite.

  12. LPF

    Yes what do the Knuckle Dragging Plebs know...

    They should vote once every 5 years and then allow the Gaurdian and its supportters get on with running the country, as everyone knows, only there view on the Death Penalty is valie all else is rubbish.

    The State should never kill anyone as its murder, expect when the Army, Navy, Airforce,Police , Secret service then its OK.

    Because when you hang a piece of flith, its massively different from dropping a 500lb GP from 2000 feet onto someone, becuase theie in another country.

    So go kill away knowing no matter what you do you will never suffer as much as your victim, you will be fed, and watered , provided shelter and things to do, while they rot in the ground.

    1. MGJ

      But of course

      Perhaps you should do a 'sort' on signature, and you'll see that the most support is for the petition calling for the retention of the ban on capital punishment.

      If you want to check out any real knuckle dragging, do a search for 'Sharia'; lots of loonies opposed to something that isnt happening.

      1. John70

        @MGJ - But of course

        You will find that there are Sharia Courts in the UK. I think the total is 100 courts.

        1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

          Sharia Courts

          "You will find that there are Sharia Courts in the UK".

          And Jewish courts as well.

          Though the term "court" in both cases may give an impression which is not deserved; they are more like tribunals and arbitration panels rather than anything which trumps UK law and the traditional court system.

          I can understand people being against tribunals and arbitration wholesale but it raises an eyebrow when focus is only on those for one particular section of a community. It suggests some people don't understand the remit and limited powers these "courts" have at best, bigotry at worse.

    2. Steen Hive


      That's not an argument for capital punishment, it's an argument for euthanasia.

    3. Greg J Preece

      I think you've got the message wrong

      Only the banning of the death penalty is "valie" - all else is vile, vindictive, savage, degenerate, eye-for-an-eye bullshit.

    4. dogged


      Not always inaccurate.

  13. Is it me?

    Don't forget

    That for Guido and his fellow Daily Mail readers, there is no such thing as Europe, La La La, no listening.

  14. yeahyeahno

    WARNING: Idiots and morons at work

    Sorry, but it really isn't hard to predict that a government website like this one will have a huge number of visitors when it opens it doors.

    But it also isn't hard to design websites that cope with huge numbers of visitors, especially when you know it will have to cope with massive peaks of usage, just wait for the next national televised child killing event to see just how many people want to hang all paediatricians.

    This government bangs on about saving money, but replaced one working petitions site with one not working one. Why? Because they wanted to claims the credit themselves, not leave the previous governments petitions site in place.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Warning: Even worse than that

      The reason for doing that is because apparently if you rewrite the site and put it on rather than where it is at the moment, you reduce the number of government websites, and therefore reduce the cost of running them.

      Of course, apart from domain registration fees, and I don't think they have to pay for addresses anyway, it makes no difference whether the site collecting petition signatures and the site that tells you what housing benefit you are entitled to are both on or they are on two different domain names.

  15. Greg J Preece
    IT Angle

    IT angle!

    I found an IT angle in amongst all the mindless right-wing griping on that site.

    Lots of petitions related to driving, I've noticed. Increase speed limits, remove speed limits, remove points limits on licences, make undertaking legal. Let me guess - the authors of those petitions were, respectively:

    *Done for speeding

    *Done for speeding

    *Banned from driving for speeding

    *Done for undertaking

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Undertaking under the speed limit is fine

      Undertaking someone (especially if the undertaker isn't breaking the speed limit while doing so) is a pretty obvious signal that the car being undertaken is in the wrong lane, and causing a hazard to other road users. I'd love to see some 60mph middle lane hoggers done for driving without due care and attention.

    2. PC Paul

      There are some problems with your post.

      "Let me guess - the authors of those petitions were, respectively:

      *Done for speeding

      *Banned from driving for speeding

      *Done for undertaking"

      Nope. Try these instead:

      * Fed up of driving along wide roads with no houses nearby at 30mph

      * Fed up of speed cameras sited at maximum revenue sites instead of dangerous sites

      * Fed up of people who pull into the overtaking lane of a dual carriageway a mile before they want to turn right then do 50mph all the way.

      1. Greg J Preece

        @PC Paul

        So it's your petition then? :-p

    3. magnetik

      @Greg J Preece

      I've never had a speeding ticket but I signed a couple of petitions to raise limits.

      Most speed limits were set decades ago before the likes of ABS, seat belts, crumple zones and airbags. It's high time they were updated, especially on the motorways.

  16. Number6

    Good Timing

    Interesting how the death penalty comes to the fore right when corruption in the judiciary and police is also in the news. Would you give the power of life and death to a bent copper?

    1. Thomas 4

      Of course not

      I'd give to people of impeccable moral standing, like 100,000 Daily Mail readers.

      Why do I have the feeling that this "100,000 signatures" thing is going to be the punchline to a lot of jokes in the near future....

      "How many Daily Mail readers does it take to waste countless hours in Parliament?"

  17. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    More useless petitions...

    Even if a petition gets over 100,000 votes and is brought up in Parliament, there are only *six* Parliamentary days between now and next April for all such petitions to be debated and even then it's not automatically going to result in a change in law, merely a statement that "Parliament thinks..."

    You'd be far better advised to write to your MP via where there's at least a chance that someone will pay attention to your views.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    akami et. al

    I can think of a reason - public data suddenly being kept outside the EU. Unless akami (other lb companies are available) can specifically guarentee that the data will only live on UK/EU servers then they will be barred from use.

    Which makes me think of an idea - anyone fancy starting a UK only (or EU only) peering company?

  19. Richard Parkin

    Timothy Evans

    Re: "It's only for child killers, which makes it automatically all right as if you disagree with stuff that's done for the protection of children, you're probably a child molester"

    Two word answer -- Timothy Evans.


  20. cocknee

    A few petitions.......

    I've a few:

    - Daily Mail Readers to be put in the stocks and pelted with soggy fruit, nah lemons as it always looks like they're sucking one!

    - EDL meatheads off to Anthrax Island with a survival book (no pictures) - they'd eat each-other

    - Guido Fawkes to fuck off to some tin-pot country where big government is only a big stick with no Guardian Readers, Social Workers, Health & Safety and all other ills of the UK that he complains about, or Anthrax Island

    - Melanie Phillips (see EDL)

    - Ban any further reporting about Katie Price (deprive the oxygen of publicity)

    - IQ tests before you can vote in any election

    I'm sure we can get 100,000 signatures for some of these

    When I rule the world..................

    1. Mephistro

      May I add an item to your impressive post?

      - The 'Pineapple treatment'* given to Adolf in the film 'Little Nicky' for Mr. Guido Fawkes, and a court order preventing him from ever using that nickname again :)

  21. Pierre Castille

    Look to History to see how it should be done.

    The Venetians, ruled by an elected Doge, had a wonderful mechanism for dealing with irrational complainers. A letter box at the palace to the receipt of anonymous letters. Anyone could vent their bile against a neighbour in the most splenetic language. The end result was most satisfactory. The anonymous writer felt a lot better and no one else was a bit bothered because all letters were secretly burned. A wonderful example of a conspiracy against the small minded.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Death penalty?

    The one that works so well for the USA? It clearly doesn't deter crime, innocent people are sometimes executed, and it's more expensive than life imprisonment. What's not to like?

    Why is it that the Daily Mail is vociferous in support of penalties for certain crimes, but not so much for others (phone hacking)? The same for its readers - 'death to murderers but how dare you fine me for stopping in a box junction?' (As an aside, the comment voting system on the Mail looks easily gameable)

    As for the site falling over - can it be true that the much-lauded skunkworks team is not as good at building websites as some of their less famed government colleagues?

    I understand that there are some unsung UK Gov websites that go on and on, delivering under high loads, because some old-fashioned IT bods insisted on stuff like resilience, and load testing.

    Naming no names because a) we mustn't get the script kiddies too excited, and b) because we don't want to attract the attention of the skunkworks, who might then try to borg those sites into

    1. Nuke
      Thumb Down

      @ FatsBrannigan

      Wrote >>>

      The one that works so well for the USA? It clearly doesn't deter crime, innocent people are sometimes executed, and it's more expensive than life imprisonment.


      How do you know it does not deter it? One thing is sure - the executed killer will not re-offend.

      As for the expense, I guess that is because the US legal procedure is so glacial that the convicts have to be kept imprisonned for years.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        How do you know it does not deter it?

        Because they have more crime. Next question?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      To be fair

      I can understand why pretty well anyone should be more concerned about the penalty for murder than in the penalty for stopping in a box junction.

      And I'm not implying that's because they're all murderers.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Daily Mail

      'Why is it that the Daily Mail is vociferous in support of penalties for certain crimes, but not so much for others (phone hacking)? '

      You have to remember the same deranged moral compass that once had the Mail printing "Hurrah for the Blackshirts" has driven them on to the ideological rocks of the 1950s when everyone loved the Queen, there were no beastly foreigners around, everyone went to church and Europe could still be cut off by fog in the Channel.

      There was a death penalty in the 1950s so we need it back. And only nice proper people had telephones back then and they'd never dream of listening to someone else's messages, so why the fuss now?

  23. Adair Silver badge

    Just hang everyone who's guilty...

    then top yourself when you're done. Result.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I can't remember who proposed this - it wasn't me - but I find it ammusing:

    The death penalty lottery.

    1) Have a referendum for the death penalty

    2) When there is the inevitable miscaridge of justice all those who voted for the death penalty are put into a lottery.

    3) The lottery is drawn and the "winner" is executed.

    This nicely settles the need for vengence that the pro-death penalty lot have and for the family and friends of the person who was the miscarridge of justice must want (according to the logic of the pro death penalty lot).

    Funnily not many people go for this.

    1. Nuke
      Thumb Down

      @ AC Re: Ok...

      You like several others have raised the point that there have been miscarriages of justice in implementing the death penalty (eg Christie-Evans).

      I am not clear however how the miscarriage issue is only about the death penalty. The seriousness of the crimes which might bring the death penalty will otherwise receive very long sentences (like 20 years or natural life). Is it OK that these could be from miscarriages of justice? It follows from your concern that there should be no punishments for anything in case the guilty verdict is wrong.

      Yes I know that there have been long sentences overturned after two or three years, but we would not be aware of other miscarriages that were never overturned. Overturned cases are more often than not on a technicality (like "I didn't plant the bomb, I only made it") and I have not had much sympathy anyway. Christie-Evans type cases are very rare and it is unlikely that Evans would have been convicted with modern forensics available.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


        If a guilty verdict is overturned after someone has been imprisoned, they can be rleased and compensated.

        if a guilty verdict is overturned after someone has been executed... Oh dear, my bad!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      There is an e-petition to vote for!

      If you check, you'll see that there is a petition to get rid of e-petitions.

      Perhaps mass voting for this one will show the politicos how stupid "Government by Twitter" is!

    3. Tombola
      Thumb Up

      There is a solution

      Simple really; rally support for the petition that asks Parliament to ignore e-petitions.


  25. Anonymous Coward

    I don't support the death penalty, but...

    ...nowadays, if you aggressively harvested every transplantable organ from the executee, possibly while they were stll alive, you could actually save more than one life. So even a miscarriage of justice could lead to a net increase in life expectancy.

    1. IT veteran

      Larry Niven beat you to it

      Basically, the organs of executed felons are harvested, until the demand becomes so high that any felony carries the death penalty.

    2. Paul Johnston

      No need, we have all the organs we need!

      Well at least kidneys!

  26. Robert E A Harvey

    fuss about nowt

    I heard the BBC evening news as though a giant groudswell had been revealed. I went and looked, and the highest count was 2900 against hanging. The other 3 topics mentioned later in the story each had less than 400 votes. the SciFi poll on el reg was far more successful.

    I know its early days, but surely the mejia could have waited for more impressive numbers?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a shame the NotW is no longer with us

    The delicious Rebekah Brooks could have started a whole new 'Death to Paedos' petition had things not gone quite so spectacularly tits up for her and NI.

    And a correction to the original article. The government has not promised that any petition which gets 100,000 signatories will be debated, they have said it 'may be debated'.

  28. NotMyRealName

    Missing You Already

    It's obvious, innit? The Govt. has been forced to go it alone, since it now lacks the input of the Murdich Empire to the framing of populist policy issues. But, as has rightly been pointed out, it will be far easier to ignore the ePetitions than it ever was to ignore Murdich.

  29. Rentaguru

    Don't I recall

    That in the days before Guido left some Hull college without troubling the examiners he tried to persuade the college conservatives make common cause with the BNP .... so why the heck are you surprised he is a bloodthirsty hang'em and flog'em merchant (not that I'm saying he's like Max Mosley in his extra-ciricular activities)

  30. Rentaguru

    All epetitions prove

    is that democracy is a stupid idea if the voters are utter morons. Having said that being stupid enough to let people who want to be MPs do the job is an even worse idea, personally my view of politicians is that the only good ones are the dead ones.

  31. Dogface


    I signed the petition, got back a confirmation link, clicked on it, and get a page not found error.

    i.e. I am not able to confirm. I wonder how many other signatures they will 'accidentally' drop?

    They couldn't run a bath.

  32. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    May I suggest...

    The re-introduction of the death penalty, and the introduction of a law criminalising support for the death penalty, for which the penalty is death. Anyone who supports the death penalty is then executed. This way, everyone is happy.

    I, of course, am only suggesting this. I don't *support* it....

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Problem with petitions

    Is that when people sign one, the subject of which at some point in the future is deemed not to be compatible with the government of the time, they are creating a nice convenient list of "dissenters" who can be targeted or watched.

    Also, should the information ever fall into the wrong* hands, those people might be even more ominous in the actions they choose to take (e.g. animal rights activists and so on).

    In order for such a system to work there would need to be a means of ensuring that each citizen gets one vote, without actually revealing their personal identity. This would be compatible with the ethos of 'free speech' and 'democracy'. Technically, this wouldn't be very difficult, but I doubt highly that those in power would ever sanction such a thing.

    *Entirely subjective, of course

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