I&R ~ GB Citizens' Initiative and Referendum
The Campaign for Better Democracy
1st December 2019
Government out of control?
Methods for Citizens' Political Rights
Is our Government system out of control? A well established pro-democracy group writes, "... wherever you stand, at the centre of our political system there is a lack of accountability. Once in government, politicians are free to act as they wish and we have no way of restraining them until the next election. Our super-centralised political system gives the prime minister - whoever it is - immense power." (1, 2)
A basic principle of our state constitution is that our elected parliament, acting on behalf of the people, is "sovereign". This means that parliament holds political power in our UK state. In general this power is exercised by legislating – making law which binds all persons, bodies, organisations and companies. Recent governments under Theresa May and then Boris Johnson have attempted to assert their own political power above those of the elected parliament – House of Commons – and therefore above the democratic power of the people.
These recent abuses of power and of our "unwritten" state constitution have led to numerous calls for reform, by means of a "royal commission", or a parliamentary commission, or a convention. The organisers, who might be in government, parliament or civil groups, propose to recruit experts, politicians, lawyers and some citizens, or work with a citizens' assembly of randomly selected residents who would be supported and paid to learn and deliberate then propose reforms for a written constitution. Reforms proposed might be put before parliament for debate and possible adoption. Proposed reforms might (perhaps) be put in a referendum to the people for our opinion or decision.
What is not at all clear is just how the these discussions and possible proposals would get into public law or form parts of a new (presumably "written") constitution. Over the years there have been several committees and similar for constitutional reform or a new bill of rights which have fizzled out with little effect.
We at INIREF propose a way for the people of the UK and its countries to give themselves effective political rights with the powers to select and decide on public issues such as law and constitution. We need some methods of citizen-led democracy such as:
a. Citizens’ Initiative or Law Proposal
With the “initiative” a citizen or group has the right to put forward a proposal to introduce, change or veto law (for instance, see 3. below). In order that a proposal will be put to the electorate (in a “referendum” or “ballot”) an agreed number of voters' endorsements (“signatures”) must be collected and validated.
b. Legally binding referendum launched by voters
If the required number of endorsements is obtained as above, usually there is a phase of public information and debate about the proposal. Then the proposal is presented to parliament or local council, which must debate it. Parliament or council may adopt the proposal and pass it as law. Proposals which the authority rejects must be put to the electorate in a referendum. If a majority of the electorate votes for the proposal then the authority is over-ruled by the citizens and it becomes law.
To introduce these democratic "tools" we will need a Democracy and Political Rights Bill to be passed by Parliament. To achieve this we must lobby our MPs and candidates, and support reform campaigns – see an example HERE and our updated guide for the 2019 general election.
1. New parliament, same old system
An election has been called. As Britain lurches from crisis to crisis, it can be hard to know where to begin.
But wherever you stand, at the centre of our political system there is a lack of accountability. Once in government, politicians are free to act as they wish and we have no way of restraining them until the next election. Our super-centralised political system gives the prime minister - whoever it is - immense power. Unlock Democracy 20 Oct 2019. More
2. Does your next MP back a new constitution?
There is mass political disillusionment in this country, but little discussion about the solutions to solve it. 63% of people think Britain's system of government is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful, and 47% feel they have no influence at all over national decision-making. Unlock Democracy 22 Nov. 2019 More
Last week, numerous political parties released their election manifestos. I'm writing to you to express how Unlock Democracy feels about the manifestos and how the parties have promised to strengthen and deepen our democracy. .... the lobbying act is awful and stops civil society from speaking truth to power while giving big money a free ride.
There's so much I can't say. Various laws including the Lobbying Act 2014 (or the 'Gagging Law' as it's often called) prevent groups like us from speaking out on our main campaign issues. Unlock Democracy 25 Nov. 2019 More