Here is a table of petitions on the Westminster parliament website – they are ordered by their petition number (smaller numbers = earlier petitions). To get your petition into the system you have to write it (creation date; all dates are in July so 1 = 1 July, 22 = 22 July and 44 = 13 August) and get five people to sign it (moderation date; all dates are in July as above). Then your petition is published (all dates in July as above). The difference between the publication date and the moderation date is the delay in publishing a moderated petition.
You can see that many of the petitions I’ve listed were created and moderated around the 4 July. That’s the date when the Wild Justice petition was created (4 July) and moderated (5 July). Those petitions that were moderated around that time were published on dates between 24 and 51 July (ie 20 Aug, the last took a long time to gather its five signatures necessary to go forward, but when it did, it appeared after a mere eight days delay). The delays between getting five signatures and being published ranged from four days to 39 days.
[table id=52 /]
Guess which was the petition that experienced the longest delay? Yes, Chris Packham’s ban driven grouse shooting e-petition (#266770) which rather amazingly took 39 days from gathering five signatures to being published – longer than all the others.
Now I’m usually an adherent of the cock-up rather than the conspiracy theory when things go awry, but even to me that looks pretty suspicious.
I was one of the initial five signatories of the Wild Justice petition – in fact I believe I was the fifth as it was created over night and I go to bed earlier than Chris’s other friends, but I get up pretty early and so it was ready to go early on 5 July.
I was also asked, by Les Wallace, to be one of his first five signatories too, which I was happy to be, and he got his five signatures for petition 267060 on 9 July. So when Les’s petition appeared on 26 July (the day Chris and I were supposed to be at the Game Fair but were banned (and my Mum’s birthday)) I wondered where Chris’s was (as he had got to five signatures four days before Les). And we waited, and waited but not until Chris and Ruth and I were in a meeting in London with Natural England did the petition emerge on 13 August (two days after Hen Harrier Day). So let’s be clear, Les’s petition was moderated four days after Chris’s, and was published 18 days earlier. How did that happen?
You can see that several petitions created and moderated long after Chris’s, for example petition 268297 which was created 21 days after Chris’s, and moderated 20 days after Chris’s, appeared actually a week before Chris’s petition. That is queue jumping of a spectacular nature although it looks more like Chris’s petition was delayed in a spectacular way.
It takes quite a while to dig out this information as one has to go to individual petitions and click on the insignificant link near the bottom entitled ‘Get petition data (json format)’ for individual petitions and then scrutinise them for the information. And there are a lot of petitions and it’s a pain going through lots of them (and lots of petitions simply never get their five signatures so just sit there). But I spent quite a while going through petitions and as you can see, at around the time that Chris submitted the Wild Justice e-petition, and for a bunch of published petitons that emerged before Chris’s, his is the most delayed of all of the 21 I examined.
It looks very odd to me. As I say, I’m not much of an adherent to conspiracy theories but I’m not convinced that Chris’s petition was treated fairly and like all the others on the basis of these data. Particularly since I know that the Petitions Committee staff were alerted to the long delay quite a while before Chris’s petition eventually emerged.
I’ll be contacting the Petitions Committee to ask them what happened here.
But having said that, I think the ‘ban driven grouse shooting’ petition has more signatures, easily, than all the undelayed or less delayed petitons put together as it is phenomenally popular.