The government's e-petitioning system may have backfired. Over 15,000 people have signed a petition posted on the Downing Street web site last week calling on prime minister Gordon Brown to resign.
And numbers are rising fast: at midday today, the petition had gathered 12,000 signatures, and by 3.30pm the number had reached 15,300, so it's going at a rate of around 1,000 new names per hour at present.
"There are many reasons why we might want Brown to resign, but rather than having lots of narrow petitions on this topic (most of which have been rejected), I wanted one for all of us," said the petition creator, Kalvis Jansons.
As long as an e-petition has more than 500 signatures, it will be passed to the government for a response. Every person who signs such a petition will receive an email detailing an official reply to the issues raised.
The government launched the e-petitioning system in late 2006 as a way to open up channels of public debate. However the launch also followed the introduction of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act in 2005 that made it a new offence to demonstrate within a kilometre of Parliament Square.
With the Labour Party eager to keep protestors off the capital's streets, the anti-Brown petition taking place over the internet could actually be seen by the government as a positive rather than a negative. The effect of an e-petition against Brown is likely to be a lot less damaging to the government's reputation than mass demonstrations.
And there is evidence the signatories view their action as more of a stunt than high level activism to take Brown down. A quick skim down the few thousands of names throws up a few Tony Blairs and one David Miliband.
UPDATE: Another anti-government e-petition has been filed on the Downing Street web site. This time the petition calls for Chancellor Alistair Darling to be fired for "incompetence in office". So far, only Max Kuhnke, the Petition Creator, has signed this petition.
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