THE BLOG

Ever Get the Beale-ing You've Been Cheated?

06/05/2016 17:22 | Updated 06 May 2016

Outraged traders in Eastenders have this week started a petition against Cost Mart - a fictional cut-priced priced discount retailer it's feared will wipe out footfall from Walford's famous market and nearby business including 'The Caff', Queen Vic and Minute Mart convenience store.

A group of them started a petition against Walford legend Ian Beale's decision to sell his restaurant to the budget store. They gathered names on pages pinned to a clipboard, which the council then refused to accept - on the basis they didn't have enough signatures.

The soap's writers do a consistently excellent job of weaving in story-lines to raise awareness about topical often hard-hitting issues, such as Carol's breast cancer, Linda's sexual assault, Stacey's post-partum psychosis and Kyle's transgender identity.

However, the residents' petition sparked off a few thoughts. If they'd started it online they're likely to have got more signatures than whatever it was they did. At Change.org we talk about the value of starting petitions online instead of with pen and paper - or as well as - because tech helps you build an army of supporters much faster. You can then call on them to take action and start getting stuff done.

But it was the council's rejection in the TV drama that was most concerning because if this is going on outside Albert Square it must stop. If local authorities refuse petitions based on signature count or because they're not started on the council's own site - they're in danger of shutting down local democracy and ignoring the voices of their voters.

Fortunately off-screen, councils are listening to voters taking action on Change.org. In London, Boris Johnson marked his last day as Mayor by responding to scores of petitions on the site.

Any part of government whether it's local or national, that refuses to engage with its citizens online is sending out the wrong message. Politics works best when it's open to everyone. Laura Coryton who started her #Endtampontax petition on Change.org and won, got debated by MPs, as did Stevie Wise's petition aimed at Boots and Kevin Smith's calling on retailer B&Q to rethink it's National Living Wage plans.

These petitions and dozens more have bypassed government rules, secured masses of support, grabbed the attention of MPs and in the case of Laura and Stevie - won.

You don't need a certain number of signatures, the permission of a local council or Commons committee to get results, which is why 50 campaigns a month started on Change.org go onto win.

Time will tell how the residents' campaign will fare, but one things for sure, our politics is moving online for the better, whether in Walford or the real world.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS