When I last delved into the world of rejected petitions there were 35,842 of them. Now there are 37,176 of them, so people have not lost their enthusiasm for trying to find a solution to the things that irritate them by means of a debate in the House of Commons. It is also clear that that the pattern of petitions varies with the seasons and with issues that are in the news. Thus, the most recent batch of rejected petitions is dominated by calls for silent fireworks and the banning of noisy fireworks. Another common topic in recent weeks was the issue of American Bully dogs: some demanding they all be shot and others asking that the owners are not stigmatised.
But, scattered amongst these are some attempts at having a petition raised that demonstrate the sheer eccentricity, the sense of humour and a widespread inability to master the rudiments of English grammar that is prevalent among those who raise rejected petitions.
Outrage at the price of confections is quite common and the absence of a fast food product stirred one failed petitioner. “Lock the price of a Freddo at 25p” demanded someone who justified his attempt saying: “The price of a Cadbury’s Freddo is absolutely abhorrent. The U.K. is in a cost of living crisis, and one can’t even purchase oneself a Cadbury’s Freddo without breaking the bank.” But, at least Freddos are available, even if overpriced, unlike the McRib which appears to have been banned. “Bring the McRib back to the U.K.” demanded one person who asked: “Unban the McRib, get McDonald’s on the line and tell them to bring the McRib back to the U.K.” Sadly, the McRib will remain ‘banned’.
Demonstrating an enthusiasm for exclamation marks but not for spelling, Transport for London (TfL) will never know how close it came to being the subject of an early day motion as a result of one hopeful request to “Make TFL free!!!” Why, well it is clearly explained that we need to “make TFL free as there (sic) scammers”.
As a country we have mainly dealt with prejudice and discrimination. We have legislation covering race, religion, age and sexual orientation. You would think we had it sorted, but no, there is a group of people who continue to suffer — mainly in silence — but no longer, or so hoped one hopeful petitioner who, we can assume, had ginger hair. So “Make picking on people with red/ginger hair a hate crime” was the title of one rejected petition which specifically asked: “To make picking on people with red or ginger hair a crime.” Sadly, for this red-haired person, his particular petition will not be debated but he clearly had tapped into the zeitgeist as his rejection was on the basis that “there’s already a petition about this issue”, which is quite a common reason for rejection. He was pointed to another petition which was more eloquently worded and which asked Parliament to “Make hair colour a protected characteristic covered by hate crime legislation“, stating: “We want hair colour to be made a protected characteristic to protect people with red or ginger hair from discrimination. Hate crime laws should also be extended to cover offences motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s hair colour.”
An old chestnut, which appeared in my last article on rejected petitions, is school toilets, or restricted access to them. Someone requested Parliament “To make schools allow students to go to the bathrooms during lessons“, asking: “What if someone has some sort of special needs the school doesn’t know of and doesn’t let them go? It will make them super embarrassed about it. Also what if a girl was on her period? She will obviously have to go to the bathrooms to do whatever that is needed.” This was another example of a petition rejected on the grounds that there was already one on the same topic. Maybe so but I searched Hansard in vain for any debates on the topic. In fact, the subject of toilets has barely arisen in Parliament except for one mention by Tory leader hopeful Kemi Badenoch who raised the issue of public toilets in July 2022.
One rejected petition requested “The Police should use water cannons and tear gas at demonstrators and protest (sic)” reckoning that “Water cannons (sic) and tear gas are often used in conjunction with other crowd control methods, such as batons and shields. They can be especially effective at dispersing large crowds or crowds that are resisting arrest”. What astonished me most about this petition, with which I have a modicum of sympathy, was not that it should appear but that it was rejected because: “It’s about something that the U.K. Government or Parliament is not directly responsible for.” If not in the Government’s purview, then whose?
The above are, remarkably, some of the more serious attempts at raising a petition. Clearly from someone who was used to burning the candle at both ends came “Make mondays (sic) start at 10:30 for work and school” because: “If you do this, then it will give people time to adjust and wind down before the first day of the week, making their attitude to working better and increasing their productivity.” The fact that both school and work were mentioned makes me suspect that this came from a teacher who makes the best of the weekends.
As a former duck enthusiast who kept a few as pets I was not sure what to make of the petition — rejected because “It’s not clear what the petition is asking the U.K. Government or Parliament to do” — requesting that we “Don’t class ducks or pigs as live stock (sic)so it’s easier to have them as pet’s (sic)“. And that we should, therefore, “Class ducks as household pets”. As far as I know nothing can stop you from keeping a duck as a pet, although the petitioner may have a point about pigs as, according to GOV.UK: “If you keep a pig or ‘micropig’ as a pet, you’re considered a pig keeper” and that leads to a world of pain and regulations. Trawling through rejected petitions is educational if nothing else.
Finally, my favourite among the most recent rejects was one asking Parliament to “Increase the number of police officers on a motorbike“, which compounded the ambiguity by requesting Parliament to: “Vote for Increasing the number of police officers on a motorbike.” The reasons, according to the petitioner, were that taking this action would “allow quick capture of a thief who usually is on a motorbike too”. The person clearly had not considered the time it would take to get several police officers on to a single motorbike, nor did the person suggest an optimum number. We will never know what Parliament would have made of this request as the petition was rejected because “It was created using a fake or incomplete name”. Shame.
Dr. Roger Watson is Academic Dean of Nursing at Southwest Medical University, China. He has a PhD in biochemistry. He writes in a personal capacity.