Skip to site navigation

Video: What Place for the Referendum in the UK?

11 March 2013

Prof Vernon Bogdanor

Venue: Archaeology Lecture Theatre G6, Gordon House

The referendum is an instrument of popular sovereignty, an institutional expression of the doctrine that political sovereignty derives from the people. In Britain, it has been used on a small range of issues, primarily to secure legitimacy. Some matters, especially those which involve a transfer of sovereignty, are so fundamental that the public may not accept a decision made by parliament alone as legitimate. In the 1970s, it has been suggested, Edward Heath took the British establishment into Europe, but it was left to Harold Wilson to bring the British people into Europe. Today, the establishment continues to favour membership, the people do not. That is the basic case for an `in-out' referendum.

One difficulty with the referendum is that the question is decided by the politicians, not by the voters. The questionthat the voters wish to answer may not be on the ballot paper. In 2011, survey evidence indicated that the favoured option for most electoral reformers was proportional representation, not the alternative vote. Yet that option was not on the ballot paper. In Scotland, survey evidence indicates that further devolution is the favoured option rather than the status quo or independence. Yet that option is not to be on the ballot paper. On Europe. David Cameron proposes a referendum on renegotiated terms of membership, but survey evidence indicates that people favour an in/out referendum. Some means, therefore, should be found for taking the referendum out of the hands of the politicians.

Prof Vernon Bogdanor CBE will is Professor of Government at the Institute of Contemporary History, King’s College, London. He was formerly for many years Professor of Government at Oxford University. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies, and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences.

Find out more about the Constitution Unit's seminar series or the SPP seminars 

Related Blogs:  


Join the Debate

Blog

News

Deliver us from EVEL?

Mon, 20 Oct 2014 09:00:58 +0000

Bob Morris draws on the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure currently passing through Parliament to consider the viability of English Votes for English Laws. Yes, from EVEL (i.e. English Votes on English Laws), not evil as in sin. But, surely, now there is devolution all round except in England, it must be […]

Read more...

An English Constitutional Convention could benefit both main parties in the face of the UKIP threat

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 10:00:12 +0000

Last week Robert Hazell set out some of the options for a possible UK constitutional convention. Here Meg Russell proposes some more specific answers to the questions that he posed: for example on what a constitutional convention should be tasked to do, timescale, and membership. She suggests that a more limited convention than Labour proposes, […]

Read more...

Selecting the Justices: Four suggestions

Wed, 15 Oct 2014 09:00:00 +0000

As the UK Supreme Court marks its fifth anniversary, Graham Gee and Kate Malleson reflect on how the process of selecting the Justices can be improved. Earlier this month the UK Supreme Court celebrated its fifth anniversary. There has been a flurry of vacancies, retirements and new appointments during the Court’s first five years, with only four of […]

Read more...
Mailing List

Connect with us

RSSFlickr

Footer menu