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What is a Referendum and what are the arguments against them?

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Introduction

´╗┐Sophy Schleider 1) What is a Referendum? A referendum is when a citizen (18+) is asked to express their opinion on a certain issue or proposal. Unlike an election this process is not binding and the outcome is open to discussion. A referendum can result in a new constitution, law, amendment, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of direct democracy. 2) A referendum is when a citizen (18+) is asked to express their opinion on a certain issue or proposal. Many have been issued in the past; examples of this are, 11 September 1997. Tony Blair issued a pre-legislative referendum held in Scotland asking whether there was support for the creation of a Scottish Parliament with devolved powers, and whether the Parliament should have tax-varying powers. The reason for this was the Labor party had just won the election and included in their manifesto was the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. 4th November 2004, Tony Blair (Labor Party) issued a referendum in Northern England. The votes concerned the question of devolving limited political powers from the UK Parliament to elected regional assemblies in North East England, North West England, Yorkshire and the Humber. ...read more.

Middle

Referendums are useful, yes, but how does it make legislatures look when matters such as 'do you want a Mayer'- 1998, Tony Blair are issued. When was the time when legislatures took the bull by its horns and made decisions for the good of the nation and not based on doing what the people want so they'll get voted in the next election. As Margaret Thatcher once said, "if you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything wouldn't you and you would achieve nothing". Referendums seem to be a vehicle to become the apple of the nations eye to the point that in 1997 elections- The Labor party promised in their manifesto a referendum for the establishment of a Scottish parliament knowing that Scotland wanted it but just didn't get enough votes last time. Governments are also unlikely to hold them unless they are fairly confident they will win the vote, which was the case in 2004, the devolution referendum for the North East. Labor wanted to create English Regional Assemblies and thought they would win the vote therefore created three referendums only for the first one to be rejected by the public. ...read more.

Conclusion

can significantly influence the result. Whereas if the issue would have been dealt with in parliament alone- you would not get the opinion of people who are paid to keep people entertained. The real difference between direct action and the action of the legislatures are the voters cannot assemble and discuss matters and consequently the opportunity to arrive at truth is lost. Truth emerges from the clash of opinions. Which brings us back to the substantialness of referendums. Finally, some could argue that referendums undermine (or have potential to) Parliamentary Sovereignty. Parliament is certainly threatened by the use of referendums. Referendums put the people before the parliament. The sovereignty of parliament becomes the sovereignty of the people, introducing direct democracy into the political system, challenges the indirect, representative democracy that has been the essence of UK political system. If the people vote one way, their representatives another, who should prevail, who is sovereign? In conclusion the manner in which the referendum is used reflects greatly on the government and at times can make you question the quality of the governments political parties. The referendum can be of great use but whether the pro outweigh the cons or vice versa is relative to the issue at hand. Using the drawbacks we've discussed one can assume or hope that if legislatures had an option, referendums would not be their first choice. ...read more.

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