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What Place for the Referendum in the UK?
Publication date: Feb 5, 2013 10:10:09 AM
Feb 21, 2013 5:00:00 PM
End: Feb 21, 2013 9:00:00 PM
21 February 2013
This event is free, no registration required
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. One difficulty with the referendum is that the question is decided by the politicians, not by the voters. The question 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.
Vernon Bogdanor CBE 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. He has been an adviser to a number of governments, including those of Albania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Israel, Mauritius and Slovakia.
This event is part of the School of Public Policy Seminar Series