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Referenda undermine democracy

As the AV referendum looms ever closer it has become apparent that not many people have questioned the use of referenda in a representative democracy. The cost has been questioned, but the cost is not important.

Referenda are used to ask the public’s opinion on a specific issue and vote “for” or “against” the motion proposed. In a representative democracy we elect people to make those decisions on our behalf. Public consultations can be utilised to guage the public’s opinion before a decision is made.

What is the point of referenda?

Arguably they’re useful in direct democracies, such as the system employed in Switzerland. But, in representative democracies like the UK, they can be used as a way of absolving the government of the duty of responsibility on a potentially unpopular decision. This is why referenda undermine democracy – there is no accountability.

To quote Clement Attlee: “the referendum is a device of dictators and demagogues”.

Governments of all colours need to be responsible for every decision they make and be held to account by the electorate. Be responsible and stop using referenda.

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