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(Not EU) Referendums in General

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STEVIEBOY1

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Following the recent UK Wide EU Referendum and the Scottish Referendum of a year or so ago, both of which seemed to have stimulated public interest perhaps more so than in some general elections. Should we perhaps have referendums on other matters / legislation as they do quite often in Switzerland and some other countries? and if so, what topics would you like these referendums to include?
 
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Senex

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Following the recent UK Wide EU Referendum and the Scottish Referendum of a year or so ago, both of which seemed to have stimulated public interest perhaps more so than in some general elections. Should we perhaps have referendums on other matters / legislation as they do quite often in Switzerland and some other countries? and if so, what topics would you like these referendums to include?
Yes please -- but none of this simple majority rubbish any more and a requirement for a much better presentation of information.

First topic? For me, assisted suicide, where all the polling evidence is that parliament is completely out of touch with the electorate. I find the alternatives of Switzerland and the pretence that the NHS offers good palliative care to all both pretty horrible. Let the people speak.
 

Harbornite

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How about a referendum on prostitution? Having said that, it might not be the right subject for a ref and there already are some MP's who want to legalise it across the country. One of the only places where the law tolerates it is the Holbeck area of Leeds.
 

Howardh

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Seeing as we all are forced the pay the TV licence, apart from certain groups eg elderly pensioners and those sensible enough not to have a TV, any changes to the BBC's funding structure (ads? subs??) should be put to the electorate.
 

TheEdge

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First topic? For me, assisted suicide, where all the polling evidence is that parliament is completely out of touch with the electorate. I find the alternatives of Switzerland and the pretence that the NHS offers good palliative care to all both pretty horrible. Let the people speak.

Please, yes. I just cannot understand why this is stalled.
 

me123

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Do we really want more referenda? All the EU referendum has demonstrated is the ability to create deep divisions, and the gullibility of millions of people who supported a campaign founded on a bedrock of lies, lies and more lies. And actually, quite obvious lies.

To take the scenarios above, I can foresee a situation where a referendum on assisted suicide leads a campaign where doctors are portrayed as murderers, a referendum on the license fee leads to a campaign portraying the BBC as a communist propaganda outlet brainwashing your children, and a referendum on prostitution leading to a campaign stating that your children will be at risk of sex trafficking.

Based on the last referendum we've had, I don't really want more referenda. I do not want situations where politicians can lie their way to victory, only to bugger off into the ether afterwards. I think the British public have frankly demonstrated themselves to be a very poor judge of character in supporting an empty political campaign, and I do genuinely worry that decisions on other big issues will be hampered by similarly ridiculous campaigns.

I generally support the idea the referenda should be used to enact constitutional change, whereas policy decisions are best left to the elected members of parliament (whichever parliament that may be).
 

telstarbox

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For major constitutional changes - the EU, devolution, changing the method of voting - yes.

For general policy issues - no, that's what MPs are for. I'm not sure how many people realise that they can contact their MP to advocate their views in between elections.
 

Tetchytyke

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I think both the Scottish and EU referendums have shown the big problem with referendums in that they become adversarial and confrontational. Decisions like this are always nuanced- there are positive and negative aspects to either side- but referendums don't allow the nuance to be discussed. You can't seriously expect the electorate to weigh up the pros and cons when both sides are at each other's throats, calling each other liars and cheats whilst saying their position is idyllic and perfect in every way.

Both the Scottish and EU referendum campaigns degenerated into slanging matches which left a nasty taste in the mouth long after the vote had been made. I don't see how you can avoid this in any referendum: if something requires deciding by referendum, it is contentious, and if it is contentious then the campaigns are going to become increasingly histrionic in order to secure victory.

Senex said:
First topic? For me, assisted suicide, where all the polling evidence is that parliament is completely out of touch with the electorate. I find the alternatives of Switzerland and the pretence that the NHS offers good palliative care to all both pretty horrible. Let the people speak.

This is an excellent example of how deciding nuanced positions by referendum is only going to be a bad thing. A referendum can decide if we, in principle, want euthanasia to be allowed. A referendum can't, however, decide how euthanasia should be implemented, what checks and balances should be put in place, who should be eligible for it and how vulnerable people should be protected from being coerced into an assisted suicide they don't want. And as with everything in life, the devil is in the detail.

People who give simple answers to complicated questions haven't understood what the question actually is, but referendums only ever allow a simple answer to a complicated question.

We saw that with the AV voting referendum. Some people voted no because they didn't want AV, they wanted something else, but their no vote was interpreted as satisfaction with FPTP. Similarly some people voted yes because they didn't want AV but they knew they wanted it more than FPTP. A simple yes/no vote doesn't actually answer the question of what people want.
 
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Senex

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For general policy issues - no, that's what MPs are for. I'm not sure how many people realise that they can contact their MP to advocate their views in between elections.
And what a total waste of time that is.
 

me123

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I think both the Scottish and EU referendums have shown the big problem with referendums in that they become adversarial and confrontational. Decisions like this are always nuanced- there are positive and negative aspects to either side- but referendums don't allow the nuance to be discussed. You can't seriously expect the electorate to weigh up the pros and cons when both sides are at each other's throats, calling each other liars and cheats whilst saying their position is idyllic and perfect in every way.

Both the Scottish and EU referendum campaigns degenerated into slanging matches which left a nasty taste in the mouth long after the vote had been made. I don't see how you can avoid this in any referendum: if something requires deciding a referendum, it is contentious, and if it is contentious then the campaigns are going to become increasingly histrionic in order to secure victory.

I would respectfully disagree that the Scottish referendum and the EU referendum can be compared in this manner. The EU referendum has proven itself to be pretty nasty and confrontational, a referendum that failed to capture the imagination of most of the public, and that has been highjacked in parts by the far right. A campaign that made me thoroughly ashamed to be British.

By contrast, the Scottish referendum was a much more positive campaign. I won't pretend that it was all nice - there were some pretty low moments. But on the whole, the country was motivated and involved in the decision. We had genuine debate and came out the other side relatively unscathed - divided, but unscathed.
 

gordonthemoron

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No, we elect politicians to make these decisions for us, we have a representative democracy which is different to Switzerland. We pay MPs to do their job, why should we do their job for them?
 

Mvann

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The problem is that referendum are supposed to be non legally binding. The other problem is that it's a straight yes no answer and all the legal wranglings with setting the question.
 

Mutant Lemming

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The most obvious one that would actually result in a change of the current situation is the death penalty.
I'm pretty certain if there was a vote tomorrow it would be back.

(well judging by opinions voiced in coffee shops, pubs, workplaces etc and that turned out right with the last one)

Once again though it would be close and highlight how divided our country is on many issues.

Incidentally does anyone know if regicide still carries the death penalty ?
 
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SS4

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I would be inclined to say no as news coverage has become more sensationalised, more polarising, more biased and less accurate. This means that any information that is given to the voters (instead of being sought by the voters) has passed through the filters of the media as thus distorted. I would still hazard a guess that a large number of voters still get their news from a major outlet and probably via TV, radio or newspaper (thinking more of the free papers like the metro)

Spin is a nasty little effect of politics over the last few decades. I also believe confirmation bias stops people looking past those sources known to agree with them. A full fact checked campaign would be great but I feel the neutrality of the checkers would be impossible to maintain

Yet what do we do to enforce the media's responsibility that comes with it's freedom from government (but not financial) interference? It's not an easy question to answer and I wouldn't feel comfortable giving people the power to vote yes or no based on incomplete and often false information.

Also I see a referendum as a hammer - it is a strong indicator of what the public want at a given time - it shouldn't be used to crack a nut on what are minor decisions for a lot of people (assisted suicide doesn't affect that many people even if the effect on those affected is high). A suitable topic would have gravitas - for example the abolition of the monarchy.
 

Busaholic

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I know about referenda for light rail/tram projects in Switzerland and parts of the USA in particular. Local citizens in the cantons/communities involved are invited to answer yes or no to properly-costed propositions, not left to speculate for themselves how developments will be paid for e.g. in the US a 1% extra sales tax might be invoked to pay for a project. In other words, the referenda assume intelligence amongst those voting and that there'll be a price to pay, and not random figures plucked from the air by dissembling politicians. Bitter about the EU referendum, moi? You bet.
 

STEVIEBOY1

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The most obvious one that would actually result in a change of the current situation is the death penalty.
I'm pretty certain if there was a vote tomorrow it would be back.

(well judging by opinions voiced in coffee shops, pubs, workplaces etc and that turned out right with the last one)


Yes that would be a topic for a vote / discussion.
 
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