We should "do"
referendum better! Other countries are ahead of us.
We should "do" referendum better!
After the damp squib of the Alternative Vote referendum (2011)
and the misleading or dishonest campaigns prior to the
"brexit" ballot (June 2016) it must be very clear to most
people that our way of conducting democracy should be brought
up to scratch.
Examples of good democratic practice in other places may help
to stimulate reforms in the UK, our countries and smaller
political units. Here is a very recent case.
An Optional Veto Referendum, also known as the Facultative
Parliament passed an Energy Law to put into effect a newly
developed "Energy Strategy 2050". This aims to reduce energy
use, to improve efficiency and to publicly support
regenerative ("clean") energy such as hydropower, solar, wind,
geothermic and biomass (fuel derived from organic materials).
Nuclear power is to be phased out. Existing stations will be
closed as they reach the end of their "lifespan", no new
nuclear power stations or replacements will be built.
Opponents of this law included powerful lobbies of the fossil
fuel (coal, oil, gas) and nuclear industries. Some citizens
feared that domestic energy prices would rise and were
unconvinced by the "pro" arguments e.g. that more alternative
energy would bring the country cleaner air, more prosperity
The democratic system allows that a law in parliament "on
demand" by many voters may be put to the people in a
referendum ballot, this is the "Optional Veto Referendum".
Soon after a new parliamentary law has been announced then a
small group of citizens may register their intention to
collect endorsements for a proposal to put the law before the
whole electorate in a referendum-ballot. In order to
succeed, within three months they must collect fifty
thousand endorsements, which must be validated by an office
similar to our Electoral Commission.
In this case of the Energy Law the hurdle of 50,000
endorsements was easily cleared and the campaigns "for" and
"against" could begin. A date for the country-wide referendum
Public information and debate about the Energy Law were
extensive. By law there must be official information
presenting content of the disputed law and summarising the
arguments for and against. This is available both on paper as
a "little book" and on-line. Printed press and electronic mass
media covered in detail. Numerous web sites, some for, some
against, some neutral, provided additional detail and views.
In short, the level of public debate and (in the main) the
arguments published looked more serious and honest than, say,
in the case of brexit.
Referendum result: Over 58 percent of voters were in favour of
the new Energy Law and so the veto proposal was firmly
rejected. In a government press conference the result was
warmly welcomed and some detail of plans to enact the law was
Campaign for direct democracy in Britain
Citizens' Initiative and Referendum I&R ~ GB
Link to site index
Voters' Guide for Election 2017 http://www.iniref.org/control+election2017.html