Something pretty odd here

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.

Please sign this e-petition by Chris Packham calling for a ban of driven grouse shooting.


24 Replies to “Something pretty odd here”

  1. 1 day after the Inglorious 12th when the media was filled with reporting Driven Grouse Shooting.

  2. I certainly think you are right Mark to be suspicious about the gross delay. When trying to find out the reason for the delay it might be worth finding out if you can who makes up the Petitions Committee, whether there is any government or political party representative on it and whether the decisions of the committee need government approval.

  3. Mark, I agree that something looks a bit odd, but I actually think the timing has worked in your favour, though maybe it would have been ideal if it had come out on the 11th or 12th August instead of the 13th August. That it came out the day after the start of the grouse shooting season meant that it was timely in the sense that this would be the point at which there would be most interest in the mainstream media, most activity on sympathetic social media sites and therefore at the forefront of public consciousness. If it had come out earlier in July, the media would probably not at that point have been interested in running stories on the subject. That coupled with the image of the golden eagle flying with its leg caught in a trap will also have helped. With large organisations like government, I tend to err on the side of cock up, rather than conspiracy, perhaps they review petitions that are the same as or similar to those that have been raised before and that incurs a delay? Have you considered a second wave of promotion such as a Thunderclap on social media?

    1. But any delay means it might be harder to get past and beyond 100,000 before a possible General Election. That is crucial.
      I would be more suspicious if there wasn’t also a delay of 35 days for petition 266747 which doesn’t seem very controversial.
      ‘End the IVF postcode lottery and demand equality of provision on the NHS which was also started on the 4th.’
      Maybe i am missing something.
      It looks like they got a lot of petition ‘applications’ on the 4th and 5th and this could be what slowed things down but i still think that Chris’s was probably given extra scrutiny. As far as government go and particularly ours, i would go for the conspiracy as the most simple explanation as a starting point, varying in proportion to how much of a threat it is to the status quo. Ockham’s Razor. To me this could have a bit of both cock up and political .
      If you want to see government interference at work just wait as the Scottish Indyref2 gathers momentum. We already have the Electoral Commission last week saying it can’t happen for 9 months when General Elections can happen within days.
      As Master of the Typo (i am not totally illiterate even though that was not what my English teacher wrote on one report) but Mark there is a typo with
      ‘on dates between 24 and 51 July (the last took…’

      1. I suppose if i were to be really suspicious, and i might if it were something really serious, the delay for the petition
        ‘End the IVF postcode lottery and demand equality of provision on the NHS’
        could have been to make Chris’s delay less conspicuous.
        That could be supported by the fact that the next longest delay is quite a big jump, 2 x 25 and a 24 but all those other petitions were started on the 4th or 5th.

      2. Prasad – that 51 isn’t actually a typo, but since you are the second intelligent person to point it out to me I have added some words to make it clear (I hope). Thanks

    2. Chris – it’s difficult to know about whether it has worked in our favour. Can you tell me when the general election will be called? If it’s soon, then we will have lost a month which is a long time. Also, we would have been much better tooled up for both HHDay and the Bird Fair if we had had more time to prepare. And there were some trapped Hen Harriers that made the news a few weeks ago too. but you can only play the cards you are dealt…

      I think thunderclaps are now extinct – but I might be wrong

  4. Never ascribe to cock up over bad faith. Those engaged in bad faith tactics use that desire to seem reasonable as a weapon. Always assume bad faith until overwhelming evidence of cock up is available. I used to work for a company which actively engaged in bad faith tactics as part of their business model, and we were all drilled in how to apologise for supposed cock ups as a form of salescraft, when they were really deliberate sales gambits.

    Yes there are real good faith cock ups; but while not all good faith cock ups are really bad faith tactics, all bad faith tactics come disguised as good faith cock ups. Always subscribe to malice first, and put the onus of proving innocence onto the acting party. Make the bar for that proof very high indeed, because some of the bad actors are very good at appearing innocent.

  5. Of course, the apologists for the shooting industry pointed to the timing of the release as though it was some cynical ploy to tie it in to the start of the grouse shooting season!

    1. Simon – well July is a good month to start a petition – it avoids February (which has fewer days than most months)! But including HHDay and the Bird Fair in the span is quite a good idea for this subject.

  6. I would go for cocked-up conspiracy: petition not available for HH Day but then coincided with the horrific and much-shared picture of the trapped eagle.

  7. Your heart is in the right place: I have worked in conservation most of my adult life and like you despair at the continuing destruction of wildlife, but please get over your obsession with banning grouse shooting. Is it the shooting which bothers you or the people who take part? I doubt most of those signing your e-petition calling for a ban know anything about the subject beyond what you and Chris Packham have told them and your opinions are less than objective. There may be a few bad apples but no more than in any other walk of life, including conservation. Put your efforts into tackling the real, critical problems facing wildlife- population increase, building, roads and airport expansion and you will have my support.

    1. Michael – you don’t play rugby do you? If you want to know what I think, rather than making it up, then read my book Inglorious.

    2. Perhaps Micheal you should ask the people who are adding to the world’s many woes by rotationally torching vast sections of our uplands so that they can shoot lots of birdies for fun to turn their attention away from that to those issues you mention? That would be killing two or even more birds with one stone metaphorically rather than slaughtering hundreds of thousands literally. If we can’t stop the utter destruction that goes with a particularly stupid hobby how do you think we’ll manage cutting population growth or urban sprawl? Incidentally I think you’ll find the area affected by grouse moors is much greater than that under threat from roads and airport expansion.

    3. Er, it’s not the shooting, it’s not even the grouse shooting, it’s the DRIVEN grouse shooting. Where have you been?

    4. What Mark and Chris Packham (among many others) have told people is supported by published, peer reviewed, scientific evidence, which is all in the public domain. As anyone who has actually “worked in conservation” is already well aware of.

    5. Michael, there are certainly plenty of other important conservation and environmental issues to worry about but who says that being engaged with one issue prevents you from actively engaging with others? I am pretty sure that most of the people actively supporting this campaign are also involved one way and another with a variety of other conservation issues.

      As to your question about whether it is the shooting that bothers people, that may be the case for some supporters of the petition but it has been made quite explicit that the petition is not aimed at shooting in general but driven grouse shooting in particular.

      Why DGS in particular? Because there is a mountain of evidence that it is based on an intensive management model that is totally intolerant of any predators, that this intolerance is reflected in widespread illegal killing of raptors and that the vegetation management through muirburn reduces overall biodiversity and contributes to flood risk and water quality issues. You suggest that the illegal raptor persecution problem relates to “a few bad apples” which is very much the line taken by the grouse shooting industry but if this is really the case then they must be extraordinarily prolific bad apples who have succeeded in making most of northern England a no go area for hen harriers whilst also bumping off golden eagles and yet more hen harriers in Scotland. If you are seriously suggesting that criminality is as rife as this amongst conservationists then I would love to see what evidence you have to support that.

    6. Michael. This feels like some of the rubbish I see on Chris Packham’s page. You should credit those who are against driven grouse shooting as being intelligent enough to do their own research and make up their own minds. I presume you want me to respect your depth of intelligence and ability to form your own view rather than accuse you of slavishly following what you are told by those who want to defend the driven grouse shooting industry. And with regard to your closing statement, we have the capacity to put effort into it all, both banning driven grouse shooting AND dealing with the other challenges wildlife and the natural landscape faces. There is no trade off. The reason a ban is the only option is that the DGS industry has repeatedly failed to self regulate and deal with those bad apples. Perhaps that is where the energy and effort of the DGS industry should be applied. If they dealt effectively with the bad apples and the illegal persecution of birds of prey dropped significantly or stopped altogether, it would make a ban less likely.

  8. I don’t think there’s been mention of the fact that this is a repeat petition on a subject that is BOUND to reach >100,000. This is bound to have genuinely (or emotionally) troubled one or more of the committee. It’ll be interesting to hear the outcome of Mark’s interrogation of the system.
    Keep up the splendid work, folks.

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