Early Day Motion: a backbench MP’s petition

A year or so ago I wrote an article bemoaning those who seemed to see democracy as a General Election only experience. However, just because one party has a big majority, the matter of representing the people continues on a daily basis.

Early Day Motions

The level of ignorance about the Parliamentary system was brought home to me in a tweet when I started to plug Dawn Butler’s EDM (Early Day Motion, not that that helps!)

Credit where credit is due. David Cameron attempted to strengthen democracy between elections by introducing the Government Petition process, which has been hugely successful. It’s direct democracy, rather than democracy via MP. However, this diluted the previous emphasis on the latter, of which the EDM is a part.

A backbench MPs petition

If you like, an EDM is a backbench MPs petition. If enough fellow MPs sign it (300 I think), it will (or should…) be debated in the House. Just as if a people’s petition gets to 100k that will (or should…) be debated in the House.

EDMs are usually raised by MPs as a result of communications from their constituents. Even if debated in the House, there is no guarantee that legislation will follow. But it is a way for the people to use their MP to get the government to change its mind.

I suspect that the number of EDMs has reduced since people’s petitions were introduced, and that is bad for democracy. Debating controversial issues of the day (those perceived as such by the public, not by the government) should be what Parliament is about.

So next time someone looks puzzled at you when you say EDM, please enlighten them.


You can read more about Dawn Butler’s EDM here.

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