Opinion: The reason an EU Referendum is a bad idea is one that no politician dare utter

European Union flagWe are constantly told that we “need” a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. Here’s the thing: we don’t. We don’t actually need a referendum on anything just now. Referenda are, in general, actually a bad idea.

They are vital every once in a while: the vote happening in Scotland on September 18th of this year is a good example. The government of Scotland is made up of nationalists who want to make Scotland an independent country. To legislate directly for this would be unthinkable, so it is put to the people, as such a huge decision should.

But referenda are seldom a good idea for one, simple reason. And it is a reason that no politician these days dare breathe out loud: direct democracy – I’m not going to mince words here – sucks.

It has become impossible for any elected official to make this argument, so engrained has the idea that direct democracy is some sort of saviour become. “You want to deny the people their say?” goes the logic. It is supposed to be the answer to flagging interest and faith in the democratic process.

Except when you look at direct democracy in action around the world, the results appear to be disastrous most of the time. In California, the state spent itself broke though referenda on capital projects. In Switzerland, the people have just voted to crack down on immigration. We have yet to see the results of the Swiss vote, but it could be very bad news indeed as it affects many current agreements.

It’s not that people are too stupid to make these decisions. It’s just that they have busy lives and lots of things on their minds. They do not have the time nor the inclination to pore over Treasury reports. That’s why they pay politicians to do that for them.

But this is the heart of the matter. The direct democracy craze is a result of diminished faith in representative democracy. But the answer isn’t having referenda all the time; it’s fixing the system we have so that people have more faith in their elected representatives. People want a referendum on the EU? Then vote for a UKIP government, they’ll give you one. Oh wait, that’s a completely impossible result under First Past the Post. Too bad people voted to keep it in a referendum.

There, I’ve said it. Direct democracy sucks. Say it yourselves – you’ll feel better, I promise.

And one final thing on British democracy, since Nigel Farage likes to reference the Magna Carta so much: one of the sacred traditions of British democracy is protecting minorities from persecution as a result of the whims of the majority. So following on in this tradition, I’ll make the Eurosceptics a deal: so long as I get to keep my EU citizenship regardless of the result, you can have your precious referendum. Deal?

* Nick Tyrone is a liberal writer. He blogs at nicktyrone.com and is an associate director at CentreForum.

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63 Comments

  • Richard Dean 3rd Apr '14 - 12:31pm

    The famous “I disagree with the people, so the people must be wrong” approach? Democracy is, inter alia, a process by which a population learns to make good choices. Learning is, inter alia, a process in which “mistakes” are sometimes made, and hopefully learned from. Can the clever people who think they’re always right learn these simple things?

  • So, only your view counts and if the majority want a referendum? You no doubt support Ukraine who wanted to be IN the EU but would withhold the democratic right of those who want out. Strange democracy that. UK Spring anyone?

  • Charles Rothwell 3rd Apr '14 - 12:41pm

    I have been coming around to precisely the same point of view. Why not a referendum on capital punishment or the introduction of euthanasia or abortions? I was thinking of this in recent weeks among the misty-eyed nostalgia for Tony Benn, ‘national treasure’ and, in my view, one of the most disastrous figures modern British politics. It was his idea to hold the first-ever UK referendum and Harold Wilson (another disaster for modern British politics) seized the opportunity with both hands (as he had the stupid proposal to ‘renegotiate’ the UK entry terms) as a way of keeping the ramshackle Labour Party together (which it just about managed to do for another eight years (by which time, of course, Wilson was well out of it and living in his retirement bungalow on the Scilly Isles). Of course, there IS an argument for referenda and no-one in their right mind would deny the Scots, since electing the SNP, the right to hold theirs this coming autumn, but they should be used with extreme caution and in the full awareness that they are de facto on every occasion underling the representative democracy which the UK has always had since the time of Burke etc.

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Apr '14 - 12:50pm

    Actually there’s a far simpler reason not to have referenda.
    The governmental system in the UK is one of representative democracy. We elect people to make decisions for us, because we can’t make every decision ourselves. If you don’t like the representatives you’ve got, then there’s an election every 1 – 5 years (depending on which level of government) and you can chuck them out and get someone else. Those MPs, councillors, MSPs AMs and MEPs are representatives, not delegates and are elected to exercise their judgement on the issues of the day. In my view you have to allow our representatives to get on with the job until the next election.
    People call for referenda when their elected representatives don’t vote the way they want them too – on the EU, on capital punishment, on independence for this or that part of the UK on climate change, the list is endless.
    Direct democracy undermines representative democracy, because it basically says that our elected representatives can’t be trusted to do the job we sent them there for.
    We have to strengthen representative democracy by having a fair voting system, recall of representatives and a democratically elected 2nd chamber and devolution of power to bring it nearer people.
    We should reject referenda and campaign for better government.

    p.s @richard dean. I probably am quite clever because I’ve got a doctorate, but whilst I can see the arguments for referenda, I reject them in favour of representative democracy.

  • Again. Another very good point Nick Clegg should have made during the debates but didn’t.

    The fact is that we could have endless referenda on everything from Trident replacement to next year’s NHS prescription charges, but that wouldn’t lead to coherent, joined up government policy. It would make the UK impossible to run.

    What were his advisors doing between the two debates, or did anyone advise him at all?

  • RC, is this the same Nick Clegg who supported an In/Ourt referendum in 2008? What has changed?

  • Brian Johnson 3rd Apr '14 - 1:07pm

    I feel that the decision over who makes the laws that apply to this country is significant enough for the clever and not so clever people who live in this country to be consulted on.

    If our parliament decides to or has decided to pass this on to another body then I want know what has been passed on and I want a say in whether that happens. I don’t see what business it is of the EU how many hours a week people work in this country, how much we are paid in bonuses, that because we decide to spend our taxes on certain benefits that anyone in the EU can pop in an take adantage of our generosity, etc. So exactly where are the boundaries of what the EU can if it wishes decide on and what can’t they. I think this is a legitimate question and one that I don’t have any idea of the answer to. It’s a decision that quite reasonably should be put to the citizens of the UK.

    I’m not pro or pro out but I want a referendum as I thin this is the only way we’ll get the facts in the open. If the clever people we’ve voted for can’t clearly set out for the benefit of the rest of us what is being passed up (?) to Brussels then perhaps they aren’t clever enough to be allowed to make these decisions.

  • Brian Johnson 3rd Apr '14 - 1:31pm

    Nick, so we can’t trust the clever people to tell us the truth but we can trust them to make the right decisions for us. I think I’ll put my money on a referendum!

  • If Nick Clegg had suggested that a referendum is a poor idea he would have been pounced upon by all sides. The current policy of a referendum in the event of major treaty change is also incoherent, though I appreciate that the formula was arrived at as a pragmatic strategy in the circumstances. A treaty is the product of lengthy negotiation. If treaties were subject to referendums on all sides, there would be no treaties. It is not possible to negotiate by referendums.

    To Tristan: the only factor in favour of the proposal of an IN/OUT referendum at the time of the Lisbon Treaty is that this makes more sense than a referendum on the treaty itself. If you decide to walk away from a negotiation, you can, but you cannot cannot simultaneously claim to still be at the table.

    A referendum is almost always more about who is putting the question than the question itself. This is what makes Cameron’s plan of a treaty mid term in the next parliament so recklessly quixotic: he seems to think he can rely on Lib Dems and Labour campaigning to stay in on the basis of concessions that neither support. He also seems to think that, in contrast to all other governments anyone can think of, he will not be affected by mid term unpopularity.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Apr '14 - 1:41pm

    Perhaps we should also abolish General Elections? After all, as LibDems, it’s obvious that the electorate has been making mistakes for years, isn’t it?

  • Richard Dean 3rd Apr '14 - 1:53pm

    Politicians tell us the truth? Wow, this stuffs good, I see roses everywhere!

  • Direct democracy would work if people were brought up from childhood with a firm understanding of their moral responsibility for the governance of the country, and lived in an atmosphere of intelligent political discussion; where they were supplied with facts, not sound-bites, and devoted a part of each day to researching policy options.
    There is certainly time for this (and increasing the size of the legislature to the size of the electorate could make the burden less, but allowing issues to be crowdsourced); and if there is no inclination, it is because the system is still, in essence, a mediæval one, where the vast majority of people were considered too dull or unimportant to have a voice in things that directly concerned them.

    However, there is not such an understanding upon the part of voters; nor is there any obligation, moral or otherwise, to participate fully in the body politic. Referenda in such conditions are a mockery of direct democracy; they are, instead, a fig leaf behind which politicians conceal their intellectual nudity. Lacking the will to take firm action, they say “let the voters decide,” expecting that the referenda will give them cover. By now, however, it should be plain that referenda do no such thing; they simply kick the can farther down the road.

    As for the Scots referendum, it too is pointless. The Union of England and Scotland was accomplished by direct legislation of the parliaments in question, no referenda needed. What the SNP should have done is simply to legislate for immediate negotiations for a treaty of independence, and then gone to the polls to see if voters approved of their action. If they were returned with a majority, that alone should have given them authority; if they lost on this crucial issue, then the legislation could be revoked by the successor government.

  • Charles Rothwell 3rd Apr '14 - 2:10pm

    Gladstone’s view still has much to commend it:

    “Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence.
    Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.”

  • Michael Ingle 3rd Apr '14 - 2:14pm

    I agree that we do not need a referendum. We had one in 1975 in which a large majority (67%) approved the UK’s membership of the EU. Everyone is saying that the 1975 referendum was only about the “common market” and free trade. The question asked in 1975 was: “Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?” I was 24 at the time and I know that I always thought being in the European Community, as it then was, was about much more than trade. This had been obvious to all in the many years of discussion that preceded the UK finally becoming a member in 1972. Unfortunately we have been told so many times over the past few decades by various newspapers and politicians that the 1975 referendum was only about free trade, that even people who voted in it now believe that story. The fact is that if we have another referendum and we decide to leave the EU, it could take a very very long time (if ever) to get back in when people realise what a serious error it was to leave. Let’s all accept that the UK has been an integral part of the EU for over 40 years and the EU is now an integral part of the UK – and let’s get on with reforming it from within.

  • David-1 3rd Apr ’14 – 2:08pm
    Direct democracy would work if people were brought up from childhood with a firm understanding of their moral responsibility for the governance of the country, and lived in an atmosphere of intelligent political discussion;

    Nice idea David-1.
    But in the meantime we live in a monarchy in which we are supposed to drool over pictures of royal babies and are treated to TV nonsense like last night, in which two rich public schoolboys take part in a poorly acted ‘play within a play’ that more than sixty millions people simply ignored.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Apr '14 - 2:31pm

    Nick Tyrone

    People want a referendum on the EU? Then vote for a UKIP government, they’ll give you one. Oh wait, that’s a completely impossible result under First Past the Post. Too bad people voted to keep it in a referendum.

    Indeed – it’s amusing to find Conservative Party supporters going on about the need for an electoral pact with UKIP to avoid them splitting the vote when the solution to that problem was offered three years ago and rejected with almost all Conservatives and Conservative supporters arguing strongly for its rejection.

    On thing to start with this is to ask why is it that most of the calls for referendums are on issues where the political right think they will win? Why no call for a referendum on the privatisation of the Post Office? Why no call for a referendum on the top-down reorganisation of the NHS pushed through in direct contradiction to the Coalition Agreement? Because referendums are not REALLY about the view of the people, they are a tool the rich and powerful can use when it suits them – they will use their wealth and power to ramp up the demands for referendums on topics that suit them.

    A big problem with referendums is that they are often used for constitutional issues which most people find boring and hard to understand, so the referendum gets used in practice instead for something else. So people denied themselves the power that electoral reform could have given them because thinking about it was a bit complex and, shock horror especially for our journalists most of whom think innumeracy is something to boast about, it involves a bit of maths. Instead they turned the referendum into one on Nick Clegg – do you like him and his involvement in the coalition, Yes or No?

    Most people haven’t a clue on the real powers of the EU, what it really does, so they are easily misled by silly stories. The reality is that the big money behind the anti-EU line which much of the press is pushing hates the EU for what international co-operation can do against the power of the super-rich and the way they are taking over our country. So what better than to con the people by using a line which implies the opposite, suggesting that being anti-EU means going back to the cozy pre-Thatcherite past? They don’t put the word “pre-Thatcherite” in, of course, because that would give the game away.

    Most people are aware of the idea of conmanship, of being sold something on a false prospectus, being told to sign the dotted line, and forever afterwards being told “You made the decision, it was your choice”. The wave after wave of financial selling scandals shows this. A referendum can easily be something similar.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Apr '14 - 2:35pm

    Would it make a difference if we took on board the likely fact that a party may gain extra votes in 2015 if it promises that there will indeed be a referendum? Or the imaginable fact of a Ukraine-style popular coup in the UK if a referendum is not delivered?

  • @Mick Taylor
    p.s @richard dean. I probably am quite clever because I’ve got a doctorate, but whilst I can see the arguments for referenda, I reject them in favour of representative democracy.

    So you have a Phd in something you are probably very knowledgable about because you have boned up on it, yet you are probably worse than useless at a thousand things that those without a Phd excel at.

    I knew a bloke who left school at 14 could barely read or write, but could work out to a penny in his head how much his winnings were for a seven horse accumulator at the bookies. There are plenty of multi-millionare businessmen and at least one former prime minster who by your definition would be considered less than clever.
    Having a piece of paper in a frame on your living room wall, and a capacity to churn out 80,000 words on a topic that nobody is interested in doesn’t make you clever, it makes you dogged and persistent.

  • The Lib Dems are never going to get over being jilted by the voters in May ’11, are they?

  • jedibeeftrix 3rd Apr '14 - 5:11pm

    don’t worry, A.V. Dicey has got your back:

    http://www.planet-thanet.fsnet.co.uk/referenda.htm

    “If one accepts that policy in the UK is largely driven by the majority, and also accepts Dicey’s ‘obvious conclusion’77 that policy is driven by the sovereign’s opinion”78 then the sovereign and the people are indistinguishable. The electorate trusts its representatives to apply their minds to legislate, but they are not given the authority to delegate their power. Bogdanor suggests that such a power “can only be obtained through a specific mandate” – a referendum.79 Even though Dicey was of the opinion that there is no law in the state which parliament can not change,80 he took his argument one step further when arguing that in practice the people must consent to all constitutional change in Britain81.”

    “Dicey foresaw, the referendum has in practice become “an instrument of entrenchment” since it “prevents the powers of Parliament from being transferred without the approval of the people” 84 He is implying a shift in sovereignty. Whilst this may have occurred in ‘real’ or ‘practical’ terms, in law the position has remained the same. Dicey wrote that the referendum was “the one available check on the recklessness of party leaders [and it would yield] formal acknowledgement of the doctrine which lies at the basis of English democracy – that a law depends at bottom for its enactment on the consent of the nation as represented by the electors.”85 The next logical step is the legal acceptance of this doctrine.”

    You gonna duel with the Dicey!

  • Raddy “Having a piece of paper in a frame on your living room wall, and a capacity to churn out 80,000 words on a topic that nobody is interested in doesn’t make you clever, it makes you dogged and persistent.”

    Why are you attacking Mick Taylor at great length instead of debating the topic ?

    (For all you know he has been working on something which improves people’s lives or tackles climate change)

  • Richard Dean 3rd Apr '14 - 5:22pm

    Right on, jedibeeftrix, every and any internet blogger is an authority, nay, a God, yeah!

  • Remind me again what the Lib Dem’s last euro manifesto said on the subject?

  • It’s ok I’ve found it…..

    “Britain will only win the case for a flexible, democratic Europe in Brussels if we settle our arguments at home on whether we should be part of the EU or not”

    That was the logic for offering an in/out referendum then, and we are no closer to settling those arguments at home as the recent debates show.

  • Leekliberal 3rd Apr '14 - 7:13pm

    For those not old enough to have voted in the last EEC referendum, it was a classically cynical referendum job. Both the pro and antis were allowed a scrappy paragraph or two on a black and white piece of A5 while Harold Wilson’s ‘stay in’ piece was in full colour with all the authority of the Government. I liked the result but the mechanism, a referendum, to deal with Labour’s divisions on the EEC, stank! They have their place but in referendums the average voter sadly does not have the discipline to answer the question asked.

  • Matthew Huntbach makes the point that most calls for referenda are made by the political right on issues they think they can win. And they think that because by and large they control the media and can ‘manufacture consent’.

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0375714499/?tag=libdemvoice-21+consent

    From the blurb: “… contrary to the usual image of the news media as cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in their search for truth and defense of justice, in their actual practice they defend the economic, social, and political agendas of the privileged groups that dominate domestic society, the state, and the global order.”

    So, unless you think Chomsky is badly wrong about that, be very careful about promoting referenda.

    Scarily, I once read where Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister said something along the lines of (unfortunately I can’t trace the quote so this is from memory), “If we want to go to war we will go to war and the people will find they support it whatever they used to think.”

    Another issue with referenda is that invite campaigns from small but vociferous groups with a strong interest in some particular outcome that the great majority have no concentrated interest in opposing but will nevertheless lose from. Hence referenda hinder consideration of the inevitable trade-off that exist between policy choices. Perhaps the best example of this is California Proposition 13 of 1978 which limited property taxes to 1% of the value of the property and restricted annual rises to 2%. This cut taxes for vested interests like big commercial property owners and others but is also credited with so starving the school system of funds that it went from one of the very best in the US to one of the worst in the following 30 years.

    As it happens I wrote a relevant comment here on LDV just a few days ago that bears on direct democracy in relation to the Lib Dems and OMOV (it’s towards the end of the thread).

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/ldv-debate-could-one-member-one-vote-work-for-liberal-democrat-conference-38912.html

  • Richard Dean 3rd Apr '14 - 8:23pm

    What the anti-referendum comments do seem to boil down to is “I don’t like the expected result, so I deduce (a) the electorate aren’t qualified to vote and (b) we shouldn’t have one”. I’m not being rude, I’m just being descriptive. If we saw this kind of argument happening in, say, Ukraine, we’d probably call it corrupt.

    By participating in TV debates with Nigel, Nick implicitly acknowledged that the In/Out question is debatable and that the people’s choice is sought and valued. If the Libdems now say they want to change that, they will likely damage the credibility of both themselves and the In campaign.

    In essence, we are now committed to a referendum, we just need to have the courage to say so out loud.

  • @Michael Ingle. In 1975 I voted against the Common Market. We were assured that what we feared would not happen. I did not believe and along with the 33% was proved right. People were misled or was it lied to?

  • @Ivan – “Nick Clegg is not “an extremist” (as Cameron has labelled him) for wanting to maintain the status quo of the last forty years and retain our membership of the EU”

    Very well put Ivan. The irony is it is Cameron who is the extremist as he is proposing to tear up international treaties unless the other parties to them bow to his demands. Clegg, on the other hand, is happy to conserve them as they are “liveable with” – a political position which has enabled the UK to conserve all sorts of “obviously” archaic institutions for hundreds of years from the monarchy on down.

  • I get the feeling that the terms of reference for the proposed EU referendum have been moving largely because the subject is being chewed over. So now people are talking about a straight In/Out referendum rather than what was talked about a few years back of a referendum before further sovereign powers were ceded to Brussels, as and when this occurs.

    I therefore think that in talking generally about an EU referendum in terms of In/Out we are actually making an In/Out referendum more likely than one more focused on greater political integration.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Apr '14 - 11:01pm

    Richard Dean

    If we saw this kind of argument happening in, say, Ukraine, we’d probably call it corrupt.

    We are seeing it happen in Ukraine – do you think the recent referendum in Crimea was an accurate reflection of the views of the people there?

  • Richard Dean 3rd Apr '14 - 11:10pm

    Matthew Huntbach
    Many commentators do think it’s an accurate reflection of the majority view in Crimea, it seems – see much of the Western media’s TV footage. If Putin chose to not have an election because he expected the result to go against him, we’d label that corrupt. If an African dictator did it, we’d label it corrupt. A decision by representatives on whether a referendum is appropriate should not be made on the basis that the representatives won’t like the result.

  • @Roland
    The Lib Dems were offering an in / out referendum in the 2009 Euro Manifesto…

  • Ivan,

    It’s fundamentally dishonest to argue that Nick Clegg wants to maintain the status quo. He wants further deeper integration.

  • To expand on my previous comment a bit (which I must apologise for, it was overly harsh), we really don’t have a choice between “out” or “The status quo”. We have a choice between “out”, a Europe that has shown as a organisational entity the drive to pursue greater integration whatever its own treaties say and populations want, or somehow changing Europe. Anyone who isn’t pursuing the first or third option supports ever closer union by default, whatever they may say.

    Personally I think Cameron’s position comes from a decision that the first two options are both unacceptable to him (and of course a firm helping of tactical maneovering against UKIP and members of his own party). Unfortunately I’m not really seeing a route to the third option either. I guess he’s hoping something turns up.

  • I am somewhat Eurosceptic, but the reality is that membership of the European union is about the fourth most important political issue to UKIP voters and it is virtually their only policy! For everyone else it is around the 8th or 9th most important issue. Only just over a million viewers even watched the debate. What is really happening here is that twe are being forced to view the Tories internal split as a national crisis.
    In other words there is no real clamour for a referendum and the Tories only want one to shut the more swivel eyed members of their party up.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Apr '14 - 9:54am

    @ Glen,
    Spot on Glen.

  • Simon Oliver 4th Apr '14 - 12:31pm

    How about this – we have a referendum, but to qualify to vote you must pass an independently verified multiple-choice quiz (which you can take several times if you fail, but the questions change randomly) on the facts of the issue – if you have the knowledge to make the decision, you can make the decision.

    I’m fairly sure most UKIP voters would fail on the question “Is the ECHR run by the EU?”

  • to qualify to vote you must pass an independently verified multiple-choice quiz (which you can take several times if you fail, but the questions change randomly) on the facts of the issue

    What does the marking scheme say is the correct answer to the question, ‘How many British jobs depend either directly or indirectly on the EU?’

  • Richard Dean 4th Apr '14 - 2:28pm

    People have a right to participate simply because they are people who are affected by choices. Whether they vote on “facts” or fictions or mixtures or emotions is their right to determine. Many so-called facts are just opinions, and much of the debate about the EU is not only about facts anyway, it’s about (gu)estimates of what will happen in the uncertain future, and it’s about feelings of identity. We are humans, we are diverse, feelings count.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Apr '14 - 4:35pm

    @ Richardrd Dean,
    Sorry Richard, I don,t want the added stress of having to vote to stay in or out of the EU. I really don,t have enough information to make an informed choice.

    I will vote in the Eu elections and the General election, basing my choice on who I think comes closest to representing my values about the sort of society I want to live in, and who I find the most trust worthy of the politicians on offer.

    I like living in a representative democracy. If my elected representative lets me down, it is enough that I get the chance to vote him or her out.

  • Richard Dean 4th Apr '14 - 4:51pm

    @Jayne Mansfield
    Well done! You are exercising your right not to vote.
    That’s no reason to infer that no-one else should be able to vote, of course.

  • I also voted for the Common Market in 1975. Being only 20 at the time, I can’t say I knew or had the inclination to study all the pros and cons at the time. The UK had been tying to get in since Macmillan was prime-minister. The EEC had been up and running since the 1950’s, offered a tariff free market for British manufactured goods and a common agricultural policy for food security. All important issues in Britain at the time as was European security and co-operation within Nato against the Soviet threat.

    Having coped with the introduction of VAT, read voluminous reports and articles in the ensuing 39 years from the Maastricht to the Lisbon treaties and been involved with EU committees and lobbying of the European Commission at times, as well as observing the operation of the Eurozone in recent years, I am better informed than I was in 1975.

    I agree with the author when he says “It’s not that people are too stupid to make these decisions. It’s just that they have busy lives and lots of things on their minds. They do not have the time nor the inclination to pore over Treasury reports. That’s why they pay politicians to do that for them.”

    In the absence of a treaty change, I see no pressing need for another referendum on EU membership. It is a matter that can and should be determined by elected representatives until a constitutional change is sought. However, if there is one, I would still vote ‘yes’ largely for the same intuitive reasons that I voted ‘yes’ in 1975.

  • Steve Comer 4th Apr '14 - 6:19pm

    The right wing always say “lets have a referendum” when they think they can win an argument that they can’t win through representative democracy, so they call for it on the EU, Capital Punishment, Tax rises etc. I’ve never heard any politician argue that we should have a referendum on the UK’s continued membership NATO, even though it can be argued that (as with the EU) its remit has changed from that f the organisation the UK originally joined.

    As Mick Taylor and others have pointed out, most issues do not just boil down to a simple ‘yes/no’ interlude. So in the case of Proposition 13 quoted above was the question:
    “1) Should property taxes be restricted to 1% of the value of the property and restricted annual rises to 2%.”
    or was the question on the ballot paper:
    “2) Should our state be so starved of funds that it goes bust, and should our school system be left so short of funds that it goes from one of the very best in the US to one of the worst in the next 30 years.”

    That’s assuming people even vote on the question, but as we know from the referenda on Maastricht in the ’90s even that isn’t true. And look at how the NO side managed to turn the vote on the AV referendum into a vote for ‘losers to become winners.’

  • Mick Taylor 4th Apr '14 - 7:31pm

    @ Raddiy
    Dear oh dear. My tongue in cheek comment about a PhD has got your dander up. I am certainly dogged and persistent – that’s essential for getting a PhD. However, I’m sorry to disappoint but in my 64 years I have done a lot more than learn lots about my thesis topic. I have had six wholly different jobs including working for myself and in my spare time built a house and am currently building stuff in my garden, not to mention 22 years as a councillor and fighting 5 general elections.
    I thought your rudeness was wholly unnecessary. It’s what spoils Lib Dem Voice for me that people can’t argue without being vitriolic and personal.

  • @Brian Johnson
    ‘doesn’t care how many hours people work’ gives the right wing game away. The working time directive enables fair competition between trading partners without exploitation of the workforce. He is clearly in favour of sweatshops on libertarian grounds. The irony is that this would be just one very likely outcome of our exit from the EU.
    We lost a party member in 2008 because of the Lib Dem proposal for a referendum. He was the retired former Ambassador to Iceland(during the Cod War) . He believed that we should not vote to renege on a series of treaties in which we had entered in good faith.

  • By the way how is it that Farage isn’t given his correct title of “Banker”. That is what he is.
    There was wicked politician Nick debating with a man-of-the people Banker. How could he hope to compete with a horny handed son of toil?

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Apr '14 - 9:04pm

    @ Richard Dean.

    Before any referendum, shouldn’t we first be given a referendum on whether we wish to continue to have a representative democracy or to change to having direct democracy.

    Who is setting the agenda for this plebiscite?

  • Phill Vague 4th Apr '14 - 10:42pm

    everyone seem to use the word democracy but I dont think we have a democratic government anymore. They seem to think we owe them & it`s a fact they were not elected by a magority vote . So how can people tell us they are elected by us to make the desitions.

  • He believed that we should not vote to renege on a series of treaties in which we had entered in good faith

    Surely it is possible to withdraw from a treaty without ‘reneging’ on it. Treaties cannot possibly be regarded as absolutely binding in perpetuity; otherwise it would be possible for a Parliament, by entering a treaty, to bind its successors, and that we know Parliaments cannot do.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Apr '14 - 5:16am

    “The Lib Dems were offering an in / out referendum in the 2009 Euro Manifesto…” which was rather pointless considering that the European Parliament has no power to call a referendum in the UK.

  • “The Lib Dems were offering an in / out referendum in the 2009 Euro Manifesto…” which was rather pointless

    And the go-to line is of course, ‘You could say that about any Liberal Democrat manifesto promise.’

  • “And the go-to line is of course, ‘You could say that about any Liberal Democrat manifesto promise.’”

    That IS the crux of the problem with voting Lib Dem. The Manifesto promises are only applicable if there is a Lib Dem majority and this is never going to happen. So really none if us know what we are voting for if we vote LibDem (orany of the other small parties).

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Apr '14 - 10:36pm

    @ phil vague,
    We had a referendum and people voted to keep FPTP. It is no good grumbling now.

    I would prefer a STV but I voted for the ‘miserable little compromise’ on offer, hoping that it would be one step towards as eventual SVT system. I was in the minority so that is that.

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