Earlier today on Facebook a friend posted a link to a 38 Degrees petition to “Stop naming the August Bank Holiday as Margaret Thatcher Day”. I think in the back of my mind I knew that there was some sort of proposal to rename a holiday in honour of the Iron Lady but I had successfully blocked it from conscious thought. I see a lot of requests to sign petitions and because they are from generally like-minded Facebook friends I often agree with the cause. Sometimes I sign but there are so many that I do have to pick and choose. I would have signed this one but since it is an issue that the Government is responsible for I first checked the HM Government e-petitions website where I found petition 52411 created by Alan Jones “We oppose the poposal to change the August Bank Holday to Margaret Thatcher Day” (yes there really are two missing letters in petition title). I can’t agree with Alan’s suggestion of Winston Churchill Day as a possible alternative but I signed anyway. The advantage of the HM Government e-petition system over the likes of Avaaz and 38 Degrees is that the Government responds to petitions that receive more than 10,000 signatures and considers them for debate should they pass the 100,000 threshold. This petition has reached 48,165 signatures and the relevant Government department has responded. Apparently the proposal was put forward in a Private Members Bill introduced by Peter Bone MP but “there is no precedent for naming public holidays after individuals and the Government has no plans to do so”. What I want to know is what the hell was Peter thinking? For many the only really appropriate way to observe Margaret Thatcher Day would be full on rioting, and August seems like a prime month for it.
Part of the reason I decided to write this post is that I was reminded again of the Baroness when I watched a Ken Loach Film this evening. It was a screening at the Hatfield Trades and Labour club organised by local activist Barry Cross who has been fighting the closure of our hospital for years (the Queen Elizabeth II in Welwyn Garden City was the first full hospital to be built by the National Health Service and is where I was born). Unfortunately that battle was basically lost. Although a new smaller facility is being built on the site, the existing hospital building is due to be demolished and people are already having to travel north to the Lister in Stevenage to access services that were once available locally. Barry has also been involved in the wider campaign to Keep our NHS Public and this screening of the 2013 Ken Loach documentary The Spirit of ’45 was intended to galvanise support for the formation of an official local branch of the campaign before he moves away to Wales within the next few months. It is a worthy cause but I have got too much on my plate to get involved in any significant way – I need to focus, not spread myself even more thinly. The film is definitely worth watching though.
Before I wrap up this post I want to return the subject of petitions. I don’t know how much effect they have but it is interesting to look at which ones are gathering the most signatures on the HM Government site. There are currently 5,677 open petitions and I will run down some of the top ten. Three of them have more than 100,000 signatures. At number one is “Stop Holiday companies charging extra in school holidays” – I find it hard to disagree with the Government’s response but feel that the real issue is why things are not organised in such a way that parents have more freedom to take children out of school during term time. Number two is “Ban the sale of young puppies & kittens without their mothers being present”. Number three is “Stop FGM in the UK Now” which I signed a while ago (I can’t help recalling a video by somegreybloke titled Advice for parents on child modification – and he also did a good one about Thatcher’s Funeral). Number four I am pleased to see is “Promote cycling by implementing the recommendations in the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report”. The one opposing Margaret Thatcher Day has the seventh highest number of signatures and number ten is “Do not force ISP Filtering of Pornography and Other Content”.