There’s been a fair bit of discussion and consideration given to “referism”. Many, who think and consider democracy, or what seems to stand for democracy these days, recognise a need for change. It’s obvious that the dialogue between the elected and the electorate isn’t working. The electorate feels disenfranchised and the elected seem to exist in a bubble, which is self-supporting, feeding and congratulatory. This is no way to run a railway.
Referism has been suggested as a potential way forward and why not? EUreferendum defines it as a “political philosophy, which states that, in the relationship between the British people and their governments, the people should be in control”. Dr. Richard North, through the EUreferendum blog, goes on to define further aspects of the term, which are based around the people taking part in yearly referendums to accept the budget on which all government activities are based.
On the face of it this seems like a reasonable and simple way forward. A simple mechanism, control the purse strings, control how much, where and when funds are spent. Politicians will, of course, take a different view. MPs have been voted for by the electorate to represent them, They are likely to cite “voter apathy”, a “lack of understanding by the voters” and any other number of views which in effect talk down the ability of the electorate to take on such responsibilities. The electorate can and does form opinions and can drive change although the present system is being manipulated to reduce the likelihood of that happening
Referism could, perhaps, be extended to directly involve the electorate more often and on a larger number of issues. Technology exists today to ensure that greater communication can take place between Parliament and the electorate. It might be unwieldy to require all the electorate to participate all of the time however, and there’s also the specter of 1984 examples, which are less than beneficial. Perhaps a model based on the current system in place for identifying jurors, may provide a working model. This could be expanded and developed to be electronic and be used to identify a number of people from each constituency for each vote, which would be required. These people would then be “referred” to by the government and the local MP/MSP/MEP and their views and electronic vote taken into account during the decision making process. Each issue would require different people chosen at random from each constituency being involved.
Of course changes would be required to achieve this. MPs would ask what their role would be? How about listening and actioning the views of their constituents? Their role would be perhaps be diminished, although it could be argued that their role has moved away from the intended model to the detriment of their constituents. Parliamentary debate and voting would have to take place within reasonable working hours and most importantly the “whip” would have to be removed completely.
Control would necessarily move further towards the electorate with the political parties, civil service and lobbyists having to find new ways of doing things. The media would also have to alter and adapt the way they deliver news.
Revolutionary? Utopian? Naive? Probably, but in Scotland at least, surely we can consider, debate and implement an alternative which may prove to be more inclusive, direct and sustainable for all.
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