Petitions to Parliament from Cambridge

For some time now the UK Parliament has provided a petitions website, allowing people to sign petitions for consideration by MPs. If a petition reaches 10,000 signatures, the Government will publish a response, and if it reaches 100,000 signatures, then it is considered for a debate in Parliament. The petitions website has been very successful, with thousands of people supporting a huge range of causes, and many of the petitions being given Parliamentary debating time.

The data behind the petitions is available, and people have used it in a number of different ways. For example, there is a Petition Map website that shows the geographic distribution of petition signatures. Here’s the map for a petition about the steel industry, with signatures unsurprisingly concentrated in South Wales:


The availability of this data naturally got me wondering about which petitions people in Cambridge tend to support most. Of course there are more Cambridge signatures on the petitions that are most popular nationally, but it’s interesting to look at which petitions have the highest proportion of Cambridge signatures. With 650 constituencies in the UK, on average you’d expect about 15 in every 10,000 signatures to come from a particular constituency – or slightly less, as UK citizens living overseas can also sign. However, it turns out that people in Cambridge are fond of signing petitions, and account for around 30 in every 10,000 signatures.

I looked at the 242 petitions that have gathered at least 10,000 signatures nationally, and calculated the proportion of those signatures that were from Cambridge. This lets us rank these petitions in order of how “Cambridgey” they are. Here are the top ten:

  1. Statement on UK steps to ensure a full investigation of Giulio Regeni’s death (1198)
  2. Exempt grants for academic research from new ‘anti-lobbying’ regulation (191)
  3. Stop the Government from cutting funding for Routes into Languages. (148)
  4. Give EU citizens living & working in the UK the right to vote in EU Referendum. (138)
  5. Government to abandon all ideas of trying to ban strong encryption. (126)
  6. Scrap the £35k threshold for non-EU citizens settling in the UK (120)
  7. House of Commons to have Free Vote on Imposition of Junior Doctors Contract (119)
  8. Amend the immigration bill to allow 3000 lone child refugees to enter the UK (111)
  9. Stop Destruction Of British Archaeology. Neighbourhood and Infrastructure Bill (98)
  10. Allow transgender people to self-define their legal gender (83)

The numbers in brackets show how many signatures out of every 10,000 came from Cambridge residents. The leader by a very large margin is the petition about the horrible murder in Egypt of Cambridge University student Giulio Regeni. Amongst the others, there’s definitely an academic flavour, with concerns about languages, archaeology, and anti-lobbying regulations for researchers. There’s also an internationalist theme, with support for migrants and refugees. Concerns about encryption, junior doctors and transgender rights also make it into the top ten.

At the other end of the scale are a number of petitions about local issues that don’t have much to do with Cambridge. Here are the bottom five:

  • An independent investigation into the new layout at Dartford river crossing. (1.8)
  • A Petition for Southern Rail (Govia Thameslink Railway) Franchise Review. (1.6)
  • Don’t close Poole Hospital’s A&E or Bournemouth Hospital’s A&E! (1.2)
  • End the cuts to Merseyside Police (0.8)

The last on the list, supporting Ealing Hospital, has just four signatures from Cambridge out of its total of over 100,000.

Looking at the larger petitions that have garnered over 100,000 signatures nationally gives a somewhat different view of Cambridge’s concerns. Here are the most Cambridgey of these 100,000+ signature petitions:

  1. Scrap the £35k threshold for non-EU citizens settling in the UK (120)
  2. Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work (67)
  3. The DDRB’s proposals to change Junior Doctor’s contracts CANNOT go ahead. (67)
  4. Jeremy Hunt to resume meaningful contract negotiations with the BMA. (63)
  5. Accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugee migrants in the UK. (57)
  6. Stop retrospective changes to the student loans agreement (56)
  7. Consider a vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary (49)
  8. To debate a vote of no confidence in Health Secretary the Right Hon Jeremy Hunt (46)
  9. Include expressive arts subjects in the Ebacc (40)
  10. Prevent the scrapping of the maintenance grant. (40)

The recurring theme here is the Junior Doctors’ dispute, which is featured in four of the top ten. Support for students is also (perhaps unsurprisingly) popular. The recent controversy about compulsory high heels at work also seems to have struck a chord in Cambridge. Number five on the list, one of the biggest petitions nationally with over 450,000 signatures, again shows Cambridge’s particular concern for refugees. This is also evident when looking at the least Cambridgey of these larger petitions. Here are the bottom five:

  • Make an allowance for up to 2 weeks term time leave from school for holiday. (9.0)
  • Stop allowing immigrants into the UK. (8.6)
  • Restrict the use of fireworks to reduce stress and fear in animals and pets (7.4)
  • Stop all immigration and close the UK borders until ISIS is defeated. (6.8)

As well as Ealing hospital, Cambridge people are relatively unconcerned about term-time holidays from school and the effect of fireworks on pets. But I have to say I’m particularly pleased to see the anti-immigrant petitions getting so little support locally. Good for you, Cambridge.


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