HELEN BURTON: This is the age of people power

Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001
Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001

On February 17 the Foodbank announced that Asda had asked them to remove their food collection points from their shops nationally. Petitions were started to get Asda bosses to change their minds, people in their droves (myself included) boycotted the store and wrote to tell Asda what they thought of the decision to stop supporting the Foodbank. On February 26 the Foodbank announced that Asda had reversed the decision and would start collecting food for them again. This is just one example of how individuals can effect change, and with our ability to connect and work together online, this truly is the age of people power.

Organisations like 38 degrees and the People’s Assembly Against Austerity have sprung up because people have realised that they are able to campaign for what they want and make a difference. Websites like www.change.org allow people to create petitions and share it with thousands of people immediately. The popularity of these websites means that local issues can sometimes garner national attention very quickly and sometimes the cause will reach the media and an even wider audience. A petition can be set up in a few minutes and they only take a few seconds to sign and share, so sometimes even small issues can be campaigned for. This week I signed one petition to change back the recipe of Jammy Dodgers so that they remain vegan. No small issue for vegans I can assure you! On a slightly more serious note I have also signed petitions to stop the government wasting billions on the Hinkley power plant, stop the cuts to the fire and rescue service, protect the children of the Calais refugee camp, and another petition against the contract changes for junior doctors. My favourite petition lately though was one to block Donald Trump from entering the UK.

The government has its own petition site, and if a campaign is created on that site after 10,000 signatures an official response will be given. After 100,000 signatures a petition will be considered for debate in Parliament. Think about the power that gives us as individuals for a moment. It’s an easy way to let the government know what is important to us. Petitions created on this site are reviewed by a cross-party committee of MPs when they reach the signature threshold, and I can’t help thinking that it’s the most democratic initiative the government has seen for a while. Anyone who has seen the bun-fight that is Prime Minister’s Questions will know what I mean, it’s hard to watch politicians exchange jibes like schoolchildren and not be angered their behaviour.

People power is resulting in an age where even huge companies can’t get away with bad behaviour. We can decide whose services we use and where we spend our money, and that is a huge power in itself. Campaigning groups are forming all of the time and are proving that if we organise ourselves, we as individuals working together can make a huge difference.