Will Robinson

The big problem with the ‘Revoke Article 50’ petition

Writing a piece on why the ‘Revoke Article 50’ petition is a waste of time, for an audience consisting of the student body of the fourth most Remain city in the country (Oxford), is not the easiest task. So I’ll try to avoid making the arguments that the petition-signatories amongst you might be expecting me to make: I could frame my argument around the fact that some of the signatures appear to have come from all over the globe – including from North Korea – and that, therefore, this petition is broken and should have no bearing over our politics: this is why we register to vote and then do so at a local polling station. But I won’t. I could frame my argument around the fact that the petition, as little more than an online survey, is intrinsically broken: it is vulnerable to duplicated signatures through multiple email addresses, or to bots as the site has no ‘captcha’ verification; nor does it for age. Petitions are not good at reflecting the wider electorate – this is why we have proper polling methodologies, with control and sample groups and statistical analysis at one end of the scale, and actual voting at the other. But I won’t. I could frame my argument around the fact that the petition was started by a Europhile and that this is just another example of a remainer not accepting democracy. But I won’t. I won’t frame my arguments around these points, not because they are not legitimate, and not because they are necessarily bad (although they’re not great – looking at you number three). But because even if all were true, it would be churlish to deny that this petition is remarkable: it is remarkable that the website has repeatedly crashed under the weight of traffic it has received; that a tenth of the eligible electorate of the country has signed it (if we are to take the six million figure entirely at face value); that it is the most popular in the history of the Commons Petitions Committee.

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