My comment 28 Apr 10, 11:44am (about 3 hours ago)
Party volunteers who turn out for election campaigns, being politically interested and committed, may wish that they could participate in politics more effectively in the periods between elections.
"Ordinary" voters also, according to surveys, would like to have more opportunity to debate and decide on some issues of policy.
In UK we have failed to progress beyond an entirely INdirect, delegatory way of running our public affairs, giving away a vote once every five or so years and having nothing to say during the life of a parliament.
By extending our rights to take part in politics as citizens we could, by focussing on important issues, strengthen democracy and improve the quality of governance.
Modern direct democracy allows citizen-led procedures to complement the indirect governance provided by elected politicians and political parties.
Some well-tried "tools" include the electors' law-proposal, the veto-referendum (which can block unwanted government law) and the recall of corrupt or incompetent MPs.
More detail may be found via the links below.
I&R ~ GB Citizens' Initiative and Referendum
Campaign for direct democracy in Britain
http://www.iniref.org/ election campaign call
My comment 27 Apr 10, 12:03pm
"David Cameron left clear wiggle room this morning by attacking electoral reform but not ruling out a referendum (which means he could even agree if necessary to an open-ended referendum on electoral reform but with the Tories campaigning for a "no")."
What is an "open-ended referendum"? Has such a thing ever been held in Britain?
To illustrate how we could organise reform of our electoral system and indeed also other constitutional reforms, we could well consider an example from New Zealand. In 1992 the people of New Zealand were asked (a) if they want a change then (b) which of four electoral systems they would prefer! (See below*) This illustrated the principle, entirely foreign to our british (or should that be english?) way of doing things, that important matters of state should only be decided by all of the people after adequate deliberation, in binding referendum (plebiscite).
* Mixed Member Proportional, Supplementary Member, Single Transferable Vote, or Preferential Voting.
More about citizen-led democracy via link below:
My comment 27 Apr 10, 10:15am
You link to an article by Janet Small in which she writes: "If we are to have electoral reform then the various voting methods should be put to the public and debated on their individual merits, not shoe-horned in by a Government in its last days of power."
There are important implications:
1) The way in which we elect MPs is part of our constitution.
2) Constitution should be changed only after public information and wide debate.
3) Final decision on state constitution and changes to that should be made by the people in binding referendum.
4) The process of deliberation and decision-making briefly described in 2) and 3) is an example of direct democracy, rule by the people.
There are precedents for this sort of constitution building. For instance, New Zealanders in 1991/2 decided to introduce a new electoral system. First they were asked, do you want reform? Then they could choose among four electoral systems.
Can we expect the next government to empower the UK electorate in this way?
My comment 26 Apr 10, 9:51pm
Electoral reform (this only concerns INdirect democracy) is just one of numerous constitutional changes which we urgently need. All of these should be done after high involvement of the people followed by referenda which address graduated steps of reform.
To correct our democracy deficits in order to manage the above challenges we should introduce, as a matter of urgency, elements of direct democracy to complement indirect, representative governance.
My comment 19 Apr 10, 12:32pm
edmundoconnor 18 Apr 2010, 9:45PM wrote
Fascinating stuff, although I come at it from a slightly different angle.
The words of the manifesto are:
local referendums on any local issue if 5 per cent of the local population sign up
Now, what exactly is local? A city? A county? A region? A nation?
We campaign for the introduction of partial direct democracy in UK and its countries, at all levels of government.
Last year we wrote to ask the Conservative Party if the local (that probably means towns, maybe cities, counties, districts, parishes) referenda which they proposed would be legally binding. The reply, which came from the office of the party leader David Cameron, was that, no, the result would not bind the local authority. So referenda would be only advisory. The Council could ignore the will of the people.
Regarding central government of the UK, there are proposals in the 2010 manifesto which from a democratic perspective are weak. They offer a glorified petition, which they wrongly term "initiative". The essential aspect of direct democracy, that a large number of electors can force a proposal to go to plebiscite, binding referendum, would certainly not be allowed by the Conservatives in power.
My comment 17 Apr 10, 7:09pm
Recommendation 24 of the Rowntree Trust funded Power Inquiry (Report: Power to the People 2006) is that from across UK, 400,000 voters by endorsing a proposal can cause it to be put before parliament for debate. During signature collection a lot of media attention and public debate (ICT assisted) would be expected. If parliament rejects the proposal then a further 400,000 endorsers could demand that a binding referendum be held.
dennymeta 17 Apr 2010, 6:29PM wrote
mjm568: A weakness of Denny's idea is that there is no effective way for electors to put forward a proposal, which might be a law or policy.
Sorry to contradict you bluntly, but yes there is.
If you look at the demo site (http://hackneysouth.org.uk) you'll see that anybody can add a new issue, not just me.
Denny, you have perhaps missed the word "effective". If elected you would be one MP taking a local proposal to the Commons. You could try an early day motion or private bill. From the record, not very effective or promising. The sort of country wide, citizen-generated process which we propose would, in terms of making law or changing policy, including constitution, be effective or at least influential.
My comment 17 Apr 10, 3:45pm
There are better ways to take part in running (our own) public affairs than just giving away your vote to a representative, even if s/he promises to listen more to voters. (Of course, there is nothing to be said against better communication between MP and constituents.)
A weakness of Denny's idea is that there is no effective way for electors to put forward a proposal, which might be a law or policy.
There are well established methods of "doing" democracy better and, to address your suggestion to use internet etc. (ICT) for political communication, ICT has been used in other countries to assist direct democracy.
What I'm getting at is "partial direct democracy". For this we do not have to get rid of politicians, parties and parliament but rather add in the voters' law-proposal, the veto-referendum triggered by the electorate and, if we want, the constituents' initiative which can lead to sacking an errant or incompetent MP.
An introduction to these democratic "tools" can be found here
our strategy for the General Election here http://www.iniref.org/
My comment 09 Apr 10, 2:47pm
OurPlanet wrote 8 Apr 2010, 10:32PM
The only disagreement I have, is that so-called party politics with party whips , spin masters has always been, in my opinion a subterfuge for a real mature democracy , plus the secretive dishonesty of our political masters er I mean servants whom we, in our gullibility and lameness allow others so much power. There is always a cost in life . It's like we learnt when we were children too many sweats will rot our teeth. Sorry to go off on this track but I really believe that true Democracy requires full participation and often sacrifices and absolutely not just going to a ballot box to draw a cross every 5 years.
Yes, just giving away your vote once every few years, with nothing to say in between, cannot be regarded as mature democracy.
Partial direct democracy enables every citizen to take part in developing policy and deciding important public issues. The "tools" for this have been tried and tested, they include the law-proposal, the veto-referendum, the constitutional referendum and the recall of elected officials.
Politicians are in the main opposed to this type of democracy, so to achieve reform will need lobbying and campaigning.
My comment 30 Mar 10, 12:01pm
So the general election road show revs up. Dazzling talk show heroes attempt to convince us of their competence to deal with all problems, political and global eventualities for another five year term. Of course, they also wish to distract attention away from serious flaws in our democracy and governance.
Just giving away your vote to a candidate once every five years is seen by many as inadequate. Events crop up, many policy areas cannot be covered during an election campaign. Do we not need better democracy than this?
Have you decide to stay at home on polling day? To abstain? To modify your ballot paper by writing "None of the above"?
If so you may consider using our Constructive Protest Vote
My comment 29 Mar 10, 11:39am
aleclanglois 29 Mar 2010, 10:59AM
When will they ever learn?
I shall not vote for any of our present politicians, even though my own MP is a decent man. .....
I do not wish my vote to be wasted. Why is there not a section on the ballot paper allowing me to say that I demand reform and improvement?
As a decided abstainer or rebel why not consider our Constructive Protest Vote? You can indeed write a proposal or protest on your ballot paper, accepting that it may be classified as invalid. If enough people do this, especially if some publicise what they are doing, word will get around.
We recommend writing an appeal such as "Direct Democracy Now". If there are no suitable candidates write "None of these".
My comment 29 Mar 10, 11:29am
Surely we, the electorate, should be able to veto laws which are unwanted or bad. Having this right to veto certainly make the political parties pay, in advance of legislating, more respect to the interests of voters.
This is the facultative (optional) referendum. With a bit of practice it's easy to operate ;-)
In order to force a referendum on a bill in parliament, a large number of voters' endorsements must be collected within a fairly short time period, say three months.
More about citizen-led democracy at our web site.
I&R ~ GB Citizens' Initiative and Referendum
Campaign for direct democracy in Britain
http://www.iniref.org/ election campaign
My comment 22 Feb 10, 9:20am
Major reform of parliament is a matter of state constitution. Such
things (and electoral system) should be decided, after adequate public information and debate, by the whole electorate. It is accepted across the world, in advanced and developing societies, that matters of constitution, either "revision" or change, can only be finally settled by plebiscite, binding referendum (See: Citizen-led democracy is essential for sustainable constitutional reform .... crucial question remains, namely, how can we make ourselves a modern constitution when the "constitution" and related tradition which we appear to possess provide no suitable tools for the job?)
Further, parliament would represent us better, were the right to
initiate referendum, propositive or veto, available to the electorate.
Curious? More detail at the below web site.
My comment 15 Feb 10, 3:13pm
Trust between the people and politicians has broken down, but the demonstrations should give us reasons for hope, not disillusionment. Most major political advances in the UK and abroad have come through protest, whether it is women's rights or civil rights. Wars corrode our political system. But protest is the engine of democracy, and may again be our best, if not only, hope.
There is no reason why her majesty's government should pay any attention to protest demonstrations. Protest can help to publicise a cause but it may have no effect on government policy and action.
Democracy can be designed better than ours, to enable expression of the will of the people on particular issues. Elements of citizen-led democracy would enhance the current system of political parties and parliaments.
For instance, if the half-million or more anti-war protestors' votes had appeared on a citizens' law proposal (or veto), the Iraq invasion could have been stopped by calling a plebiscite (binding ballot). Many more areas of public policy could also be addressed by an electorate more empowered in this way.
For more detail see http://www.iniref.org/index.enter.html
My comment 10 Feb 10, 12:07am
9 Feb 2010, 11:32PM
There remains a place for the strike as a political tool
In a democracy there certainly does NOT.
Such an offense should carry a charge of treason.
Democracy? So in UK we should not worry about such "a charge of treason".
I&R ~ GB
Citizens' Initiative and Referendum
Campaign for direct democracy in Britain
My comment 09 Feb 10, 8:54pm
@ Anomie83 9 Feb 2010, 11:18
"On the contrary, constitutional drip-feed reform most cetainly is enough for an indolent population that accepts a majority government voted in by 21% of its voters and then whinges about it with awful monotony.
Even worse they will follow like sheep and allow more of the same very soon. The world is rightly laughing at the UK.
Solution? Wait for the Tories to settle in - then organise a general strike with a coherent set of political demands."
There remains a place for the strike as a political tool but it will not be enough. (Sometime dangerous, with our Democratic police riding people down with galloping horses, others attacking bystanders -- which century are we in?) A "coherent set of political demands" must be articulated and communicated better than we did in the past. Our lack of direct democracy remains a hindrance to "new politics" because, even if people could become informed and then convinced about the need for action, they have no effective ways to act, beyond voting for a politician or party once every few years. A blunt instrument of governance, with no "fine-tuning" button.
Gordon Brown as PM on democracy: In response to public discussion around the Power Inquiry (1), which called for a debate about citizen-led democracy (contrast recent statements by the Power Inquiry's red baroness chair, Helena Kennedy, that she is NOT in favour), Brown offered "citizens' juries". Brown's Ministry of Justice (2) in a "green paper" vowed to make NO change to the way in which referenda can be initiated. Now he offers another weak reform, to slightly change the electoral system. Let us be clear: That is about INdirect democracy, so the electorate would retain its purely spectator role, except at occasional elections.
The other political parties which may take or share power? At their conference the LibDems voted against citizen-initiated referenda. Fragments of the Conservative Party have debated (for vote-catching?) the possibility of more citizen participation, for instance the group which called itself Direct Democracy. Beyond this, remarkably, David Cameron has recently apparently announced that he would if elected introduce citizen-initiated referenda at all levels of governance. Does he mean it? Could he possibly persuade his party to follow him?
Why does not the Labour Party steal Cameron's excellent-sounding proposal for more democracy? Stealing Tory policy has indeed worked for Labour before ;-)....
1. Our reply to the Power Inquiry. Comments on "Power to the People", the Report 2006* of the Rowntree Trusts? Power Commission http://www.iniref.org/latest.html
2. DEMOCRACY AND THE UK MINISTRY OF JUSTICE 2008 (I)(II)(III) http://www.iniref.org/blog.html
My comment 03 Feb 10, 11:02am
The "debate" about how we should elect our parliament shows up the desolate state of our democracy. As a last minute "life-belt" for a sinking party, Labour graciously offers We The People a plebiscite (but of course not legally binding) with the choice of a single reform: "take it or leave it". In New Zealand 1992 the people were able to select an electoral system from several and could then go on to install one of these by BINDING referendum.
Indirect "representative" governance has a basic flaw which will not be corrected by making a minor change in the way we elect MPs. Most people will have experienced this flaw when, after voting for a candidate and the promises of a party, they note with frustration that the electorate cannot influence government policy, even if important new events occur, until the next election.
A way to "check" unfettered government and also to enable more electoral influence on public policy is to introduce methods of citizen-led democracy. More about how this can be done may be found here
My comment 21 Jan 10, 11:05am
The present government response to public estrangement from politicians and dissatisfaction with government appears to favour "internal" reforms in areas such as parliamentary procedure. Calls to reform democracy are met with suggestions that the electoral system might be improved. These possible changes cannot deal with a fundamental flaw in the way we govern ourselves.
A widely held attitude is reflected in statements by "ordinary" people along the following lines, "We sent representatives to a London Parliament by horse and carriage and trusted them to act in our best interests. Nowadays with instantaneous communication why do we need to continue this archaic practice? Why can?t I vote for issues that I have views about? What political candidate or political party can I vote for with the certain knowledge that my own values, concerns, ideas will be represented? Political parties do not always deliver on their promises or election manifestos and anyway the differences between the main political parties seem to be in name only." (Source and further detail available on request from www.iniref.org)
Far from being apathetic about social, political and global issues, many citizens have realised that a purely indirect system of governance cannot adequately represent our interests. Stronger and better "checks and balances" and political input are perceived to be necessary. Repeated surveys of UK adults have for over ten years shown strong support for statements to the effect that the electorate should be able to intervene on public issues in the periods between elections and that an agreed large number of voters should be able to demand and obtain a referendum on any matter of public concern.
The Labour government knows the public view described above but defiantly resists. In a green paper from the Ministry of Justice (signed by Michael Wills) we the people are informed that HM government will not change the way in which a referendum can be initiated, in other words the power to put public issues before the electorate for decision will remain with the Prime Minister (formally nodded through by parliament). Also from the green paper, no more frequent use of referendum is to be anticipated.
Politicians are in general hostile to "giving back" power to the people who elect them so public pressure will be need to change attitudes or replace MPs.
In order to obtain reforms such as the citizen-initiated referendum and recall of MPs a campaign has been launched, see
http://www.iniref.org/carta.htm election campaign call
http://www.iniref.org/index.enter.html web site index, contact: info AT iniref.org
My comment 14 Nov 09, 7:06pm
Well, as regards "the electorate has insufficient resources to manage a campaign". As long as people are not overloaded with numerous issues all at once, I think (from long experience with contact to people of all sorts and regions) that we could indeed focus on some quite difficult problems and come to reasonable and intelligent decisions. There's a lot of evidence for this from places where direct democracy is in use. People are more aware of public affairs. On "big issues" up for referendum the citizens become as well informed as many MPs.
There are enduring changes brought by having or introducing stronger democratic rights, such as "having a bigger stake", greater involvement and interest in common affairs, higher self-esteem as a citizen-member of the community. Etc.: there is lot more to report and argue here, to back up our case.
Your write "I am not persuaded that calling referendum is the answer". You're right but that is only part of the direct democratic process and culture. (Of course, if referendum can be called only by government its value in all of the ways which we mention above is reduced.)
The problem of career politicians with experience of little else is a serious one, not only in GB. It came up in the Power report (Power to the People 2006) -- for instance they suggested a lower age limit (40 i think) for elected members of the second chamber. Again, a partial direct-democratic system could better manage such reform of the political system than a purely indirect (representative) one, which is supposed to reform itself (turkeys, ... seasonal banquets ...) !
I&R ~ GB
My comment 14 Nov 09, 4:50pm
TheotherWay 14 Nov 2009, 4:15PM
...reform we need is an extra box on the ballot paper called "None of the above candidates" and if there are more votes for it all candidates on the ballot paper should then drop out of politics.
If your are going to abstain, then why not convert your protest into a "more democracy" vote?
Below is a "plug-in" for the "None of The Above" tactic, a way to send a powerful message to the political "class":
The election-campaign plan-of-action
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Register as a voter early or check that you are still on the roll.
Select one or more parliamentary candidates who could perhaps win your support.
Suggest that they publicise this STATEMENT ON DEMOCRACY and place a signed copy on their web site ;-). If you agree with their politics then consider voting for these pro-citizen-democracy politicians.
Tell candidates who refuse to sign and refuse to support the direct democracy campaign that as a result they will NOT receive your vote.
If there are no suitable candidates standing in your constituency then use your vote to protest! Do NOT vote for any candidate. Write on your ballot slip, REFERENDUM ON DEMAND! and DIRECT DEMOCRACY NOW! Drop your ballot slip into the BOX. If enough people do this word will get around, other people will join in and perhaps some politicians will be persuaded to change their ways ;-). Future candidates will be more likely to support direct democracy reforms.
Tell your friends to join in! Use internet, mobiles etc., facebook, twitter and co. to spread this plan-of-action!
My comment 14 Nov 09, 1:36pm
SherpaBass, wrote without spellcheck ;-) 14 Nov 2009, 11:27AM
We do not need a referendum on electoral reform, we need a reform in the way referendums are called. A Mechanism needs to be put in place where the electorate can bypass their unrepresentative representatives and call for referendums directly, say by petitions that pass a set threshold of signatures, that would then bind the current government till the next general election.
Excellent point. Improving our electoral system is just one of numerous urgently needed reforms, as a glance at the Power Inquiry report 2006 can show -- 30 or so recommendations were made for reform of our governance and democracy. The right to citizens' initiative (law proposal etc.) would enhance our democracy and accelerate (after centuries of delay) reform of our constitution and other matters.
There is no reason why successive governments should get away with claiming that only they (formally parliament) may order that a UK referendum be held. It's a (bad) tradition, no more. International treaties which we have signed support this view.
Of course, political elites will struggle like toothy, claw-bearing eels in order to avoid the introduction of stronger, citizen-led democracy.
Some suggestions about how to get around this problem may be found at
I&R ~ GB's web site http://www.iniref.org/