A one-word summary of Monday’s Westminster ‘debate’ on driven grouse shooting:
Bringing shame or disgrace on someone or something.
Synonyms: disgraceful, shameful, shameless, disreputable, discreditable, degrading, ignominious, ignoble, blameworthy, contemptible, despicable, reprehensible, shabby, shoddy, sordid, sorry, base, low, improper, unseemly, unworthy, unprincipled, unscrupulous, corrupt, untrustworthy, treacherous, perfidious, traitorous, villainous, shady, crooked, low-down, dirty, rotten.
Transcript of proceedings here
Video of proceedings here
The dissection of what was said (and more importantly, what wasn’t said) during this ‘debate’ will go on for some time and we’ll come back to that in due course. Discussions are already underway on our next move – rest assured, this is not the end. But for now, we just want to comment on the political process. Mark Avery has some initial thoughts on this here, and so do we.
The ability for members of the public to petition Westminster on issues that are of concern to them was set up quite recently. A Petitions Committee was established to consider e-petitions from the public as a way of getting items on to the political agenda. In a Government press release (here), Dr Therese Coffey MP, speaking as the Deputy Leader of the House, said:
“The new Petitions Committee builds on the reforms of the last Parliament to improve public engagement with politics. This is the first time voters will be able to petition Parliament electronically through the Petitions Committee for action by the government on topical issues that really matter to people – and we will listen to what they have to say“. [Emphasis is ours].
In light of what has happened with ‘our’ petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting, here’s a more accurate description of the process:
‘Start a petition, base your case on overwhelming scientific evidence, work your arse off to get it past the 100,000 signature threshold, come along to Westminster where you can give evidence in front of a hostile panel of MPs, some of whom will have a clear conflict of interest. The Petitions Committee Chair will be inexplicably rude towards you and you’ll be giving evidence alongside an organisation that doesn’t even support the aim of your petition. The Committee will then hear from two further organisations that oppose your petition, and they will be allowed to include anecdotes about what they’ve seen from their kitchen window as the basis of their evidence. One of the MPs serving on the Petitions Committee will also be a senior employee of one of the opposing organisations who will feed easy questions to your opponents. The Petitions Committee will ignore the written evidence of over 200 people that has been submitted in support of your petition.
A couple of weeks later, a member of the Petitions Committee will introduce your petition for a debate in Westminster Hall. He will set the scene by admitting that he doesn’t understand the basis for the petition, make wild assumptions about the motivation of the 123,077 people who signed your petition, and provide to the house a biased and uninformed opinion of the topic. A ‘debate’ will then ensue, whereby MPs, many with clear vested interests in opposing your petition, will refer to you as the ‘perpetrator of the petition’ (implying that you are a criminal) and will use parliamentary privilege to accuse you of being a liar, of using ‘premeditated malice’ and of being ‘dishonest’. They will either ignore or willfully misinterpret every piece of scientific evidence that has been made available to them that supports your petition and instead will deny that there’s any problem that needs addressing. They will tell lies and they will question the intelligence of the petition signatories. There will be no quorum required for this ‘debate’. The respective Government Minister will sit through the ‘debate’ with complete disinterest other than using the time to check her phone and clear out the contents of her handbag. At the end she will stand up and deliver a prepared speech that will reveal the Government’s total indifference to the topic, its total dismissal of all relevant scientific evidence, and its total disrespect for the views of the 123,077 members of the public who signed your petition’.