Sometimes the most unlikely things open a world of fun you never knew existed. As the recent recipient of a rejected parliamentary petition email (a failed, but not entirely serious attempt, with others to prevent the Conservative Party using the word ‘conservative’ in its title; unfortunately, it is not something the U.K. Government or Parliament is directly responsible for) I realised that this was ‘a thing’ and decided to dig a bit deeper to see what other petitions had been rejected and why. Indeed, I wanted to know if such a list even existed. It did not take long; I simply Googled ‘rejected petitions’ and this took me to a page on the Petitions webpage of the U.K. Government and Parliament website headed Rejected Petitions. On June 7th 2023 there were 35,842 with the most recent entry for June 4th.
The vast majority are rejected on the basis that they are “about something that the U.K. Government or Parliament is not directly responsible for”. And it turns out that the U.K. Government is not directly responsible for very much. The remainder are rejected on the basis that there is “already a petition about this issue”.
The range of issues that provoke people to try to raise a parliamentary petition vary from disgruntlement and frustration to the genuinely aspirational. Some are just daft. Almost without exception, they are amusing.
Using the past month as a sample, among the disgruntled petitions was one requesting a re-vote for the 2023 Britain’s Got Talent final to make Lillianna the winner because “it was an unjust decision”. Another person had clearly failed his citizenship application test, the Life in the U.K. Test, demanding that it “should stopped” (sic). Part of the explanation offered by the applicant who considered the test was “just money making business” (quoted verbatim) was: “I have tried my self three times and every time all funny questions, when we r preparing fro exam, we r reading completely different and exam is completely different.” Clearly, this disgruntled applicant, in addition to demonstrating a poor grasp of the King’s English, did not grasp the nature of an exam. ‘No reply’ emails clearly got someone’s gander up as they tried to raise a petition to “Ban all no reply emails from the internet” on the basis the these were “annoying, impersonal and rude to the users who receive them”. They considered that “no reply emails are a form of digital rudeness and disrespect that should not be allowed in the modern world”.
Animals were the subject of nearly 1,000 rejected petitions and mostly about their welfare. “Change the law as regards rabbit welfare… to improve the lives of rabbits and stop rabbits from being Britain’s number 1 most neglected pet” was the basis of one attempt which also called to “make vaccinating rabbits compulsory”. Was this, perhaps, the first indication of a nascent Rabbit Liberation Movement? An especially ambitious attempt at a petition called to “Make killing birds Illegal!” as this was “destorying (sic) our wonderful nature!” This also demonstrated a common feature of many rejected petitions, a tenuous relationship with the rudiments of spelling and a fondness for exclamation marks. The applicant justified the attempt as “It is such a nice world we live in and birds play a big part in it”. Others on the animal welfare front clearly have not done their homework and requested for “Cats to not be classed as vermin” on the basis that “Cats are pets that many families around the world they are loved and nurtured like humans and for them to be classed as vermin is unfair they are not disgusting animals the (sic) are kind and loving”. In fact, cats are not classed as vermin in the U.K.
While I do not doubt the sincerity of the any of the above rejected petitions, some efforts really did stretch credulity. I don’t know which one of the blob has the job of reading applications for petitions but there cannot be many dull days. One of the best was the request for “Sun cream to be excluded from luggage weight” on the basis that “The weight given for luggage on airlines can be low for families going on holidays, when taken (sic) into account all the things that need to be taken. The amount of suncream and maybe medicine and medication can add a huge bulk to this weight”. They continued, saying that “good quality suncream is imperative” and that suncream is “a necessity not an option!” In addition to the grammatical and exclamation hallmarks of many petitions, this one also suggests that the petitioner does not realise that there are pharmacies in other countries.
Not within the past month but unable to resist seeing if any of the rejected petitions referred to COVID-19 — and many did — I was in two minds about whether this one was serious. I am still not sure. Someone tried to raise a petition in 2020 to “Allow healthy men to volunteer and be infected with COVID-19 for herd immunity”. The person had clearly given this a great deal of thought and called “for healthy men 18-40 to be infected voluntarily and wait out the infection with free beer!” A rigorous medical test would have to be passed prior to getting their hands on the beer as the volunteers “will need to prove their lungs are healthy by running round the schools field in a set time”. If the scheme ever got going the applicant, being the instigator, was “happy to volunteer first”. My guess is the person is fit and likes beer.
The person petitioning to sell the crown jewels, which may only be valued at £3 billion, wanted to give the money to the NHS. Given that the NHS annual budget is £71.5 billion, selling the crown jewels would keep it going for about a fortnight.
Some petitions came from school pupils. One was from some pupils of Imberhorne school in East Grinstead who had clearly been excluded from the year end prom. Their attempt at a petition was titled “Help us go to prom” reckoning that they should be allowed “to attend prom and say goodbye to there (sic) school years and friends”. Another rejected petition reckoned that “teachers should be doing there (sic) jobs properly”. This referred to pupils being prevented from using the toilet on demand and the petitioner wanted this alteration to the rules “so i dont shit my self or pe thanks”. When I noted that teachers were being exhorted to do their “jobs properly” I hoped it referred to the rudiments of spelling.
The not so daft
Finally, a petition with which I agreed and was glad to see that it had only been rejected due to the pre-existence of a petition on the same issue, requested that we “Have ‘None of the above’ added as an option on all ballot papers”. In explaining the request, the petitioner said that “By allowing people to vote ‘None of the above’ it empowers them to explicitly express their discontent with the political system”. Split infinitive apart, I’d vote for that!
Dr. Roger Watson is Academic Dean of Nursing at Southwest Medical University, China. He has a PhD in biochemistry.