View Full Version : A possible way forward for the UK ?

04-09-2006, 07:30:45
It'll probably fall by the wayside as these things tend to, but you never know...

People are losing faith in politics. Politicians themselves admit it. Fewer and fewer people vote in elections or join parties. Many of us don't even respect our system of government any more. Itís time to face facts: democracy isn't working. (http://www.our-say.org/default.aspx)('Our Say' Website.)

Probably because we don't have democracy, and won't while we have parties that insist their members toe their party line rather than represent their constituents properly.

Former The Apprentice contestant Saira Khan is launching a campaign to give people a greater say on major issues through the use of referendums. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5310288.stm) (BBC Article.)

04-09-2006, 08:40:58
Referendums cost a fortune and are open to manipulation in the way you phrase the question.

Should the UK cut income tax by 1% and use the money to cut the NHS budget by £5 billion leaving thousands of extra dead children a year or should we install lots of new speed cameras?

04-09-2006, 08:45:19
that's the least of the problems

The nasty one is that the specific question is highjacked by other political consideration: pleibiscite for a "strong man" (that's how both the Napoleons, I and III used to govern) or closer to us, general disatisfaction (ref on EU reform, highjacked by people unhappy about Chirac)

04-09-2006, 08:49:05
Not to mention the dangers of actually letting the public decide stuff! :eek:

Lazarus and the Gimp
04-09-2006, 08:52:40
We might end up like Switzerland.

04-09-2006, 09:08:09
Better that than Swaziland.

04-09-2006, 09:19:46
If there was enough genuine public debate then the question can be phrased properly. It's not beyond ability to ensure it is independently scrutinized and thus fair. As for cost, what price democracy ?

04-09-2006, 09:21:03
Who chooses what questions to ask?

04-09-2006, 09:34:40
The issues are decided by petition. The system for 'wording' the question is presumably a procedure yet to be agreed. I only know what is on the sites, and whilst it's not ideal, I'm generally in favour.

04-09-2006, 09:41:12
Originally posted by Lazarus and the Gimp
We might end up like Switzerland.

that's what most political analysts reckon: the only way for referendums to work properly and democratically is to do them at local level (smaller population base), and on very specific/pragmatic issues, aka Switzerland (where the direct democracy at Canton levels is very strong)

They tried something similar in Italy I think (at local level, although you also have national referendums)

Provost Harrison
04-09-2006, 09:55:10
I think the essence of the opening post is correct though. The major parties promise one thing and do another...whatever the public want they don't get. I know there has to be a certain level of common sense though, but the War in Iraq is a prime example where strong popular opinion was ignored and the opinion was justified. The Tories also supported the same war. The result? Large scale disenfranchisement of the population. Blair may have won the last election, but by less than a quarter of the popular vote? That is hardly a popular mandate...

04-09-2006, 14:12:08
Referenda are dangerous, since they don't take in effect other policy or budget plans. California is the worst example of one issue referenda. People voting in favor of a referendum called: "Should more money be spent on education", another on "Should more money be spent on healthcare", another for road maintenance, etc. Then have a referendum asking: "Should we raise taxes to pay for all this" and people say NO. And look, a huge budget problem!!??

04-09-2006, 15:15:07
That's what comes of phrasing questions badly. Asking for a direction without the options of how to fund.

There's no reason that the public should make worse decisions than an elite, if given the necessary information to make an informed decision and a synopsis of the pro and anti arguments.

Especially when considering the recent elites attempts at it, who have brought in over 3,000 new offences in the last decade, for all of which, of course, ignorance is no excuse.

04-09-2006, 15:30:42
if given the necessary information to make an informed decision and a synopsis of the pro and anti arguments.

And how do you make sure an ambivalent electorate gets that information and doesn't make their decision based on a few politician/pressure group soundbytes?

04-09-2006, 20:35:41
One could ask much the same question of the politicians' ability not to be swayed by skilled oration rather than by the issue. To mistrust the population's ability to come to a decent decision is to mistrust the concept of democracy.

All systems have risks associated with them. Ultimately it is up to those on opposite sides of the discussion to put a good case and point out the weaknesses in the opposing point of view.

05-09-2006, 07:57:46
So why change to a completely new system with it's own complications and problems rather than try and fix the problems within the current system?

05-09-2006, 08:46:01
It's hardly a replacement, just an enhancement. And it does help fix problems. It gives a voice to the citizen, (in certain situations) which is something they don't currently have (unless you count demonstrations and petitions, which can be ignored). A voice to each citizen is a fundamental necessity if one is to claim one lives in a democracy.

05-09-2006, 09:51:35
But the citizens still don't choose what they get to have referenda on so I don't see what difference it really makes.

05-09-2006, 11:54:34
In Switzerland, we have the following rights

- referendums: i.e. voting on a new law / modification of an existing one proposed by the government (parlement), either because a certain number of citizens request it (via gathering of signatures), or because the nature of the law makes that mandatory (e.g. change to the Constitution)

- initiatives: proposal for a new law at the request of a (group of) citizens, supported by a sufficient number of other citizens (again, gathering of signatures)

Both rights exist at the 3 levels, Communal, Cantonal and Federal levels.

That said, don't imagine that everything is great here - participation in votations rarely exceeds 40%, and there is also strong dissatisfactions with politicians.

05-09-2006, 14:53:57
But the citizens will get to choose. They just have to get enough signatures on the petition.

Folk who don't vote can reasonably be assumed not to have strong feelings either way. And I can't see any scheme making politicians popular :D From what you say Aredhran, that seems a very good system you have to improve the situation. Better than we have over here anyway IMNSHO

05-09-2006, 15:22:27
We do direct votes by the people here in California as well. It is only at the state level and not the local level and can be put on the ballot if it gets enough signitures and follows a series of rules (it must deal with just one issue, it must be very specific in its wording, etc).

It works well but lately the partisan bastards have been trying to run a muck with the system. The Republicans put up ballots to remove Democratic Politicians from office and vis versa not to mention every election the anti-abortion people put up a proposition to ban abortion dispite the exact same measure getting an 80% no vote in the previous election. I wish those fuckers would just go away and save the proposition system for important matters which actually stand a chance of passing.

05-09-2006, 15:42:06
Originally posted by Gary

Folk who don't vote can reasonably be assumed not to have strong feelings either way.

There are two caveats to that statement:

a) Only if the range of opinions on the voting card includes an option that appeals to you. e.g Do you want Saddam Hussein as your leader? a) Yes b) Definitely yes c) Praise Allah yes!

A non-vote often means 'I don't like any of the options' rather than 'I dont care which one you pick'

b) Only if they have been given adequate time and information to prepare. If that is the case, then sure, fuck the lazy ones, but if it is not the case, then oops, you've got all kinds of problems.

I'm a strong advocate of public participation, i think political apathy is a bad thing. But people's lives are in many cases maxed out as it is. Economic freedom, freedom of movement and simple things like day workers spending time with their families in the evening mean that people are often not in one place for a considerable period of time or do not have the time to devote their non-working hours to political study.

As maroule said earlier, the referendum concept is probably not workable except on the smaller scale, though i think big national referendum, where a major single issue is at stake, is also valid.

Scabrous Birdseed
05-09-2006, 20:04:24
It's fairly dangerous to put an issue that the public cares little about to referendum. It's likely that a marginal issue will attract marginal groups...

05-09-2006, 20:40:40
that's marginally true/probable

05-09-2006, 21:00:59
Christ almighty we'd get even less done if everyone debated ad nasueum on referendums. There's a reason that word has dum in it. Because they're dumb.

05-09-2006, 21:03:39
That's dumb.