A while ago I signed a petition on the Prime Ministers website asking for the government to introduce legislation that would empower ordinary citizens to call a referendum on important matters. According to the petition details a system, called Citizens’ Initiatives, exists in Switzerland, New Zealand, Hungary and 24 states in America.
The petition asks that a referendum be called on an issue when a petition is signed by 2.5% of the population. For national issues this would be the entire UK population, with 2.5% being around one million, and for regional issues about 3-4,000.
The governments response posted today states that powers already exist for local councils to hold referendums and have access to the full electoral register in order to do so. On the issue of national referendums, the response states that The Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000 allows government to call national referendums but “does not however set out any criteria for using referendums.”
The government is obviously guilty in this instance of not listening to the public. The petition clearly asks for “legislation allowing citizens to trigger referendums” not allowing government to trigger referendums. It’s about real democracy – giving the public the power to show they are unhappy and make sure something is done. All that the public can do at the moment is shout and even that has been limited by legislation like the Serious Orgnaised Crime and Police Act 2005.
Not only is it disturbing that the power to trigger referendums lies solely with government but that it is a government led by an unelected Prime Minister. I know many would say that we elect parties, not the prime minister, but how can we accept that we have no say in who leads our country especially when the new prime minister has already started undoing the work of his predecessor.
If you’re interested in this issue I suggest a trip to the site for the Campaign for Direct Democracy.