Tag Archives: referendum

Is it time to ditch referendums?

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Is it now time to accept that referendums are no way to decide anything? Or is it time to say that they should only be used, if the result produces a clear majority, of say two thirds of the voters, or 50% of the entire electorate?

The decision to use a referendum to decide major constitutional issues has always appeared, in the past, to be the sensible way to tackle those issues, as people vote at General Elections on a wide range of issues and it was thought that a referendum would give a clear answer on a single issue.

The UK remaining in the EU, or Scotland leaving the UK have both been put to a referendum where the side getting 50% of the vote could claim victory, but it was clear in both cases that people would vote each way for a variety of reasons on both issues, leaving the question, “What is the point of a referendum if it doesn’t clearly answer the question put?”

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 56 Comments

Options to Remain

An option to remain in the EU is an essential part of any people’s vote. But should it be just one option? That immediately creates a disadvantage compared to the Brexiters, who habitually have at least two options on the table – for example, a negotiated settlement or leaving with no deal.

On the surface of it, a 3-way vote might seem workable:

  • Remain in the EU
  • Accent the negotiated settlement
  • Leave with no deal

Indeed, some might argue this would favour Remain, since the Leave vote would be split. If the alterative voting system …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 50 Comments

Referendums: an addendum to the conundrum

In my previous post I reviewed some of the problems associated with referendums, in particular the conundrum posed by the “once in a lifetime” proposition. It is no wonder that two of our previous Prime Ministers described them as un-British, and a tool for dictators and demagogues.

Here, as a break from all the election talk, I add a few more criticisms for good measure. But despite the shortcomings that referendums undoubtedly have, my conclusion remains the same: we still need another one. 

Chancy outcomes

Referendums can have perverse and unexpected consequences. To take a rather silly example, suppose the British Medical Association called a vote on whether flower remedies should replace the MMR vaccine. The BMA might think it was a sure win for the vaccine, which does a wonderful job of protecting our children. But in reality it would be an enormous gamble.

The problem here is that, just like the benefits of the EU, the benefits of the vaccine have been taken for granted for years. People have forgotten how serious illnesses like measles, mumps and rubella can be.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 14 Comments

What the UK can learn from the Dutch referendum

With just under three months to go the EU referendum, the low turnout and overwhelming majority against the Ukraine-EU Association Treaty in a Dutch referendum is not a good omen. It is a good moment to take stock. The campaign is about to start, with the official designation of the Remain and Leave campaigns due soon. What lessons can the UK learn from the Dutch referendum experience?

The good news first: the UK referendum really matters, whereas the Dutch one did not. The Ukraine-EU Association Treaty is important geopolitically but for the average Dutch voter, ratification will not change their daily lives. It allowed them a protest vote seemingly without consequence. Those that could bother to vote – less than a third of voters, with many supporters staying at home in the hope that the required 30% threshold would be missed – predictably took that opportunity with both hands.

Here, the EU referendum will have a very real impact on people’s daily lives. That should focus minds but there is a risk: a referendum is rarely about the subject on the ballot paper. Only when the question is crystal clear and on a topic of relevance to the voters will the campaign focus on that. The Scottish referendum campaign was a good example of where that worked well. Everybody could relate to the question at hand and because it was such a momentous decision, people were extremely engaged in the debate.

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Tim Farron writes: ‘renegotiation not a game changer’

Thursday 18 February

Arriving at St Pancras for the Eurostar early on Thursday morning, I found myself amongst a small gaggle of lobby journalists, all clutching tickets to the same destination – Brussels, presumably with ‘open returns’ with no one being sure how long the negotiations would take.

We were, of course, heading to Brussels ahead of the summit at which David Cameron would try and thrash out the last minute ‘grand deal’ that would allow him to campaign for Britain to stay in Europe.

The substance of the deal has been held up as the greatest political settlement of our time by his more loyal supporters and dismissed as entirely irrelevant by the usual Eurosceptic suspects in the Conservative party.

Neither styling is fair. The renegotiation is not a game changer, but it shows that our European partners are open to working together to achieve reform in Europe.

I was heading to Brussels to talk to the liberal leaders and Prime Ministers from across Europe at the ALDE Pre-Summit meeting.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 3 Comments

Opinion: How about a cross-party declaration on an EU renegotiation and referendum?

referendum2One way or another, there’s going to be an EU referendum, and we must not just let it happen.

Pressure is mounting on David Cameron to move before 2017 and on Ed Miliband to shift from a perfectly clear position to one which is more “acceptable” to the sceptical groundswell. I’ve seen Tim Montgomerie suggesting that the spitzenkandidat system is a transfer of power to Brussels and might therefore trigger the referendum lock. Unfortunately for him, the legally enshrined vote is an in/in decision, and there’s no formal move – treaty …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged | 35 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Evershed 4th Jul - 2:29am
    Some define their left wingness by how much they hate Conservative policies rather than any positive criteria.
  • User AvatarMike Read 4th Jul - 12:23am
    Good post, thank you. As someone who voted in every leadership contest the party has ever had I am very undecided this time! In the...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 4th Jul - 12:04am
    The coalition is only the disaster it is for some because it was then a one off, as far as some think. This is skewed....
  • User AvatarAlan Jelfs 4th Jul - 12:02am
    Could someone explain to me how Britain is a better place now than when the coalition ended in 2015?
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 3rd Jul - 11:57pm
    Actually the description of George about left wing failure or otherwise, is very interesting but I disagree with it. It would be more a case...
  • User AvatarJohn O 3rd Jul - 11:54pm
    Don't want to do another coalition but want to change the voting system to PR that would result in coalitions?