By Matthew Barrett
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The blogger Guido Fawkes has launched a campaign to bring back the death penalty, in light of the government's proposed "e-petition" scheme. "E-petitions" mean members of the public can post petitions on a dedicated government website, and petitions attracting 100,000 electronic signatories will be "eligible for debate in the House of Commons".
The petition says:
"We petition the government to review all treaties and international commitments which may inhibit the ability of Parliament to restore capital punishment. Following this review, the Ministry of Justice should map out the necessary legislative steps which will be required to restore the death penalty for the murder of children and police officers when killed in the line of duty.
The findings of the review and the necessary substantive legislation to be presented to House of Commons for debate no later than 12 months after this petition passes the acceptance threshold."
Since it was abolished, polling has always shown majority public support for bringing back the death penalty for certain crimes – and so the campaign is likely to obtain the requisite number of signatures, but support for the death penalty within Parliament is unknown, and certainly not likely to be strong enough to force any changes in the law (especially when doing so would involve reviewing "treaties and international commitments"). There is also the strong possibility that Parliament may decide that the petition won't be debated at all, eligible or not.
However, three Conservative MPs are supporting the return of the death penalty. Two are reported in the Sun today:
"Tory MP Philip Davies said: "It's something where once again the public are a long way ahead of the politicians. "I'd go further and restore it for all murderers."
His fellow Conservative MP Priti Patel, who also backs the death penalty, added: "It's about time the public had a greater say on the issues that we debate. I'm not surprised that this issue has been raised. "We need strong deterrents to make people think twice about the crimes they commit.""
Guido Fawkes also received this message of support from a third Conservative Member:
Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner says “Congratulations on your campaign. If there is anything else a humble back-bencher can do to help…”
Mark Pritchard , the Member for The Wreckin and Secretary of the 1922 Committee, took a negative view of the e-petition scheme, saying the government would be unlikely to take action on any serious topics debated as a result of a petition. Pritchard told the Mail:
"This scheme is a gimmick. It is vacuous and meaningless. The Government already ignores debates and motions in Parliament that are inspired by backbench MPs. So what notice are they going to take of debates forced by petitions? Of course petitions are a legitimate and important part of democracy, but at the end of the day people have elected MPs to Parliament to represent them. Do we really want debates about UFOs or Big Brother?"
Not a very high view of the public from Mr Pritchard.
11.45am Update: David Nuttall, the Member for Bury North adds his support for the return of the death penalty, writing in the comments section below this post:
"I have always supported the return of capital punishment for murder and my website includes the following unequivocal statement in a section on 'My views' Capital Punishment I would vote to restore capital punishment for murder."
> Yesterday, Tim asked: Should the centre right blogs unite behind a parliamentary petition campaign?