They're not voting because...
- Representative democracy sucks
I think true democracy is good idea. Asking the people of the country what they want done in their names is an excellent plan. Unfortunately the representative democracy we suffer from in the UK does NOT do this. It forces us to choose between two or three parties, the winner of which effectively becomes a dictator for the next five years. If something important develops two or three years into their term of office, do they ask the electorate to vote again in a referendum? Of course not - the best you seem to get is a promise of a possible referendum at some vague point in the future.
And how do you choose between the parties if you agree with some of their policies but violently disagree with others? Especially as their many policies and manifestos seem to be practically interchangable between different parties. Not that it matters much - once they are in power many of the election "promises" are soon forgotten or wriggled out of. WRiting to your
MP doesn't work either - you either get told that they won't be at the vote in the house, the personally disagree with it (hey, I thought they were supposed to represent us, not themselves?) or their party whip is telling them how to vote.
Wake me up when we get rid of representative democracy and we get true democracy...written 12th Apr 2005
Lou replies: You will wait a very, very long time my friend.written 12th Apr 2005
Bri replies: This is a nice post here. People venting their spleen on this website seems to calm me down somewhat. If only we could be assured that any politicians would read it. Is this a representation of the majority or are the people posting here just a tiny minority of people pissed off to the back teeth of the way our leaders are elected and the way the run the country?written 13th Apr 2005
Michael replies: Change will only come about if a large number of people struggle for it. Why not support a campaign for true democracy? We propose the introduction of citizens' initiative (law making), binding referendum and veto of unwanted bills. See http://www.iniref.org/written 13th Apr 2005
SW replies: Good for starters Michael; you deffo get my vote as Direct Democracy is something I've been banging on about for a good long time now. The only problem as I see it is getting an incumbent government to give up part of its power to allow this system to be introduced; as things currently stand I can't see that happening. That's partly why I'm praying for a ridiculously low turnout - then no political party can claim any kind of realistic mandate and we (ie, the electorate) can if necessary force this system on the tosspots who sit in seats of power...written 13th Apr 2005
Michael replies: SW on 13th Apr 2005 wrote
"you deffo get my vote as Direct Democracy is something I've been banging on about for a good
long time now. The only problem as I see it is getting an incumbent government to give up
part of its power to allow this system to be introduced"
We need to brainstorm about how to get direct democracy into regular use. Well, very small
steps have already been taken. In 1972 Parish Referendum was written into a local government
act. More recently the citizens' initiative for deciding on type of local gov. - the "boss
mayor" idea was brought in. Five percent of electorate must sign the proposal in order get a
To obtain general rights to direct democracy, without too much restriction of topic or high
hurdles, will be difficult. It has been achieved in other places. Switzerland, of course,
since the 19th century. Italy (partial DD) about 40 years ago. Just last year a campaign
persuaded the gov. of Amsterdam to bring in citizens' initiative and referendum for the city.
We can't discuss at length here how to get DD in Britain. A few points:written 13th Apr 2005
-- we need a campaign to make people aware of DD and what it offers them.
-- we can insist that parliamentary candidates will get our vote ONLY if they promise to
bring in the framework for DD (make 'em sign the pledge?)
-- we should observe the principle that DD, such as "citizens' initiative, referendum and
recall" are forms of (self) government which belong to the people. Fixing how all this works
can only be decided by the people in referenda. To get things going, working regulations and
some administration (e.g. a democracy commission) will be needed, which we should mandate our
parliament to suggest and enable.
SW replies: Is there a discussion page on www.iniref.org? Like I say I have thought long and hard on this subject but as you also say this is probably not the best place for them...written 13th Apr 2005
Jeffrey replies: After you. I'll vote and sign the pledge. But I'm not starting any great revolutionary campaign.written 13th Apr 2005
SW replies: Divven't worry yersell, Jeffrey - I'm all for starting great revolutionary campaigns meself :o>written 13th Apr 2005
Michael replies: DEMOCR@CY FORUM
(scroll down page)
welcomes SW, Jeffrey and others who wants to discuss and exchange about direct democracy, initiative and referendum, future of democracy in Britain + N Ireland.written 13th Apr 2005
Jeffrey replies: * heads over there to check it out *written 14th Apr 2005
monkeynuts replies: Ah, participative democracy. You'd think that in this day of high-technology we'd be able to work it out. Hell, you could do it with your digital TV's red button...
...Want to know more?written 14th Apr 2005
glenside replies: Direct democracy proponents: how do you propose to prevent kneejerk legislation and the tyrrany of the majority? How do you stop the rule of the people turning into the rule of the mob?
Look at what direct democracy has given them over in California: a lovely law that means you can get 25 years in gaol for stealing a slice of pizza. Thanks, but no thanks.written 14th Apr 2005
Michael Macpherson replies: glenside on 14th Apr 2005 wrote:
"Direct democracy proponents: how do you propose to prevent kneejerk legislation and the tyrrany of the majority? How do you stop the rule of the people turning into the rule of the mob?
Look at what direct democracy has given them over in California: a lovely law that means you can get 25 years in gaol for stealing a slice of pizza. Thanks, but no thanks."
Knee-jerk legislation is prevented by having well tried and tested procedures for effective citizen deliberation (proposal, information, debate). These procedures are already available "on the democracy shop shelf". It's a problem that they are hardly known in Britain.
There is a very broad public and experts' consensus that we need better governance, improved
representation, plus more and better opportunites for effective participation of citizens. And that politicians must sometimes be reminded, between elections, of just who is in charge of public affairs and funds. Elements of direct democracy, for instance the law proposal (citizens' initiative), the option to start a veto procedure against unwanted government bills,
the right to put an important issue to all of our fellow citizens in referendum, would, responding to this critical consensus, improve our democracy.
Common "arguments" put against direct democracy are that inhuman punishments will be introduced, that taxes will be abolished, that dictators exploit direct democracy to further their evil plans. None of these are convincing regarding a place like Britain. (More on this
The democratic tools which we suggest have built-in ways to ensure that ill-considered decisions will not be made, that unrealistic or bad proposals will fall by the wayside of open, public scrutiny and discussion. They probably will NOT reach the referendum stage.
Regarding inhumane punishments. Taking as an example the death penalty, there seems to be a trend against this, even in the USA where, importantly in the context of this NotApathetic exchange, it was introduced by politician-representatives, not by citizens' initiative. In two areas of Europe, the people recently ABOLISHED the death penalty by constitutional referendum.
(Answers to the question "Where was death penalty abolished" may be found by searching the web
pages of Citizens' Initiative and Referendum I&R http://www.iniref.org )
Michael Macphersonwritten 15th Apr 2005