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Definition of a referendum <ul><li>A vote by the whole electorate on a single policy proposal </li></ul><ul><li>A referend...
Why would the Government hold a referendum? <ul><li>Because they promised one in their manifesto </li></ul><ul><li>As a wa...
Facts about referendums <ul><li>The question is set by the Government, but Parliament calls a referendum </li></ul><ul><li...
What is the difference between a referendum and an election? <ul><li>Referendum </li></ul><ul><li>Example of direct democr...
How do referendums promote greater democracy? <ul><li>By giving the public a chance to register their views </li></ul><ul>...
However … <ul><li>Turnout for referendums has been low in recent years </li></ul><ul><li>Referendums also undermine the ro...
Recent turnout in the UK
Arguments FOR referendums <ul><li>More democratic than elections, as they give the people a direct say over government pol...
Arguments AGAINST referendums <ul><li>Undermines the sovereignty of Parliament </li></ul><ul><li>Far from being more democ...
Arguments AGAINST referendums <ul><li>Issues are often too complex for the people to fully understand (e.g. California 197...
Arguments AGAINST referendums <ul><li>Polarises public opinion </li></ul><ul><li>The question set is often poorly thought ...
Two main types of electoral systems <ul><li>The outcome of an election reflects the type of system used. Ultimately, the q...
Features of FPTP <ul><li>1 person = 1 vote </li></ul><ul><li>FPTP is used to elect MPs to Westminster  </li></ul><ul><li>S...
Advantages of FPTP <ul><li>Leads to effective, strong and stable government </li></ul><ul><li>Provides a clear link betwee...
Disadvantages of FPTP <ul><li>Unrepresentative of the electorate’s wishes </li></ul><ul><li>Discriminates against the Libe...
Disadvantages of FPTP <ul><li>The result is often a distortion of people’s choices. For example, if the Tories were to gai...
Proportional Representation  <ul><li>PR is designed to achieve a degree of proportionality between the number of votes gai...
History of PR in Britain <ul><li>1973 – The short;-lived Northern Ireland assembly was elected on the basis of PR </li></u...
Advantages of PR <ul><li>More equitable representation of what the people want </li></ul><ul><li>Leads to broad-based gove...
Disadvantages of PR <ul><li>Coalitions can be unstable (e.g. Italy had 48 governments in 45 years) </li></ul><ul><li>Small...
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As elections and democracy

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As elections and democracy

  1. 2. Definition of a referendum <ul><li>A vote by the whole electorate on a single policy proposal </li></ul><ul><li>A referendum allows the demos (or people) to register their views on an important constitutional or policy issue </li></ul><ul><li>34 referendums have been held in the UK since 1997 </li></ul><ul><li>Referendums are a form of direct democracy </li></ul>
  2. 3. Why would the Government hold a referendum? <ul><li>Because they promised one in their manifesto </li></ul><ul><li>As a way of resolving divisions within the party, as with the EC referendum held in 1975 </li></ul><ul><li>Because major constitutional issues such as devolution require the public to register their support </li></ul><ul><li>To gauge public opinion </li></ul><ul><li>To encourage greater democracy </li></ul><ul><li>To keep in touch with public opinion </li></ul><ul><li>Because there are in with a good chance of winning </li></ul>
  3. 4. Facts about referendums <ul><li>The question is set by the Government, but Parliament calls a referendum </li></ul><ul><li>The Government does not always get its own way (e.g. devolved assemblies to the English regions were defeated in 2004) </li></ul><ul><li>Government is bound by convention (i.e. an unwritten rule) to honour the result. However in practise, it does not have to do so! Governments have set the question a second time in order to gain their preferred result (e.g. in Denmark over the Maastricht Treaty). The Swedish government even ignored the result of a referendum one time, although this is rare </li></ul>
  4. 5. What is the difference between a referendum and an election? <ul><li>Referendum </li></ul><ul><li>Example of direct democracy </li></ul><ul><li>Can be called at any time, usually on an important issue </li></ul><ul><li>The Government does not, in practise, have to honour the result </li></ul><ul><li>The choice is either yes, or no </li></ul><ul><li>Election </li></ul><ul><li>Example of representative democracy </li></ul><ul><li>Many different types called at regular intervals </li></ul><ul><li>All political parties must honour the result of an election </li></ul><ul><li>Choice between several political parties </li></ul>
  5. 6. How do referendums promote greater democracy? <ul><li>By giving the public a chance to register their views </li></ul><ul><li>Changes to the constitution (such as devolution) gain greater legitimacy if they secure public support </li></ul><ul><li>By convention, the government must abide by the decision taken </li></ul><ul><li>Can also encourage greater political education, and … </li></ul><ul><li>… may increase public interest in politics </li></ul>
  6. 7. However … <ul><li>Turnout for referendums has been low in recent years </li></ul><ul><li>Referendums also undermine the role of MPs, who are (in theory) supposed to represent the people they were elected to serve </li></ul><ul><li>Referendums are also associated with extremists. The former Labour PM Clement Attlee once said that “referendums are the device of demagogues, and dictators ”, as was the case with Nazi Germany </li></ul>
  7. 8. Recent turnout in the UK
  8. 9. Arguments FOR referendums <ul><li>More democratic than elections, as they give the people a direct say over government policy </li></ul><ul><li>Can offer a precise answer to a question </li></ul><ul><li>Referendums have been used successfully in several democracies, and on several occasions in the UK </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage public participation, and stimulate interest in politics </li></ul><ul><li>On important issues, it is argued that the people should be consulted </li></ul><ul><li>Avoids elected representatives becoming out of touch with the electorate </li></ul>
  9. 10. Arguments AGAINST referendums <ul><li>Undermines the sovereignty of Parliament </li></ul><ul><li>Far from being more democratic, referendums tend to enhance the power of the “ elected dictatorship ” (e.g. the government sets the question) </li></ul><ul><li>Associated with extremist regimes – to the extent that referendums are actually banned in Germany due to their association with the Nazis </li></ul><ul><li>The way the question is phrased can greatly affect the result </li></ul><ul><li>In the referendum campaign, wealthy groups have an unfair advantage </li></ul>
  10. 11. Arguments AGAINST referendums <ul><li>Issues are often too complex for the people to fully understand (e.g. California 1978 Proposition 13) </li></ul><ul><li>The result can be determined by an apathetic public, as in the case of Welsh devolution where barely 1 in 4 of the electorate said yes </li></ul><ul><li>Governments can ignore the result </li></ul><ul><li>Simply a way for governments to deal with party divisions, as was the case in 1975 </li></ul><ul><li>Referendums are little more than a judgement about the government of the day, rather than the issues at stake </li></ul>
  11. 12. Arguments AGAINST referendums <ul><li>Polarises public opinion </li></ul><ul><li>The question set is often poorly thought out </li></ul><ul><li>Can be used to discriminate against minorities </li></ul><ul><li>Simply a snapshot of public opinion on one given day (e.g. on the EU constitution in France during 2005) which binds all future generations to the result </li></ul><ul><li>The media has far too much influence over the campaign, and the eventual result (e.g. the media was largely pro-European in the 1975 referendum, and this may have affected the result) </li></ul>
  12. 13. Two main types of electoral systems <ul><li>The outcome of an election reflects the type of system used. Ultimately, the question is “Do you want effective government, or do you want to accurately reflect political opinion?” </li></ul><ul><li>FPTP = strong, stable government </li></ul><ul><li>PR = leads to coalitions, and is more representative of the people’s wishes </li></ul><ul><li>FPTP is a majoritarian system </li></ul><ul><li>PR is a generic term used to describe several different methods of electing representatives </li></ul>
  13. 14. Features of FPTP <ul><li>1 person = 1 vote </li></ul><ul><li>FPTP is used to elect MPs to Westminster </li></ul><ul><li>Single member constituencies </li></ul><ul><li>A party needs just one more seat / a candidate needs one more vote than their opponent </li></ul><ul><li>FPTP is also known as the single plurality system </li></ul>
  14. 15. Advantages of FPTP <ul><li>Leads to effective, strong and stable government </li></ul><ul><li>Provides a clear link between MPs and their constituents </li></ul><ul><li>Prevents a minority party holding an excessive amount of power. This was the case with the Free Democrats in Germany throughout most of the post-war era, because they effectively decided which of the main parties they would join in a coalition </li></ul><ul><li>Third parties that concentrate support in a particular area often do well under FPTP (e.g. PC and the SNP) </li></ul><ul><li>Easy to use and widely understood amongst the electorate </li></ul><ul><li>The UK’s parliamentary system is widely respected, and FPTP is undoubtedly a part of that </li></ul>
  15. 16. Disadvantages of FPTP <ul><li>Unrepresentative of the electorate’s wishes </li></ul><ul><li>Discriminates against the Liberal Democrats. In 2005 they secured 22% of the vote, but gained around 10% of the seats </li></ul><ul><li>Governments often fail to gain a majority of the votes. Last time a government gained over 50% was in 1935 </li></ul><ul><li>Can encourage tactical voting </li></ul><ul><li>Creates artificially big majorities – sometimes known as the ‘winners bonus’ </li></ul><ul><li>Government can be elected with less votes than their nearest rival (as was the case in 1951 and February 1974) </li></ul>
  16. 17. Disadvantages of FPTP <ul><li>The result is often a distortion of people’s choices. For example, if the Tories were to gain slightly more votes than Labour at the next election, they would still find it very difficult to gain a majority of seats </li></ul><ul><li>Perpetuates adversarial, two – party politics </li></ul><ul><li>Leads to wasted votes (e.g. approximately 100,000 Labour / Lib. Dem voters in Surrey have no representation at Westminster) </li></ul><ul><li>Does not always result in strong government </li></ul><ul><li>Women and minorities are under-represented. Only 20% of MPs are women, in contrast to 50% of representatives in the Welsh Assembly </li></ul>
  17. 18. Proportional Representation <ul><li>PR is designed to achieve a degree of proportionality between the number of votes gained, and the number of seats won </li></ul><ul><li>PR tends to produce coalitions. This is true in the case of the Scottish Assembly, the Northern Ireland Assembly, Germany, Italy, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>A coalition consists of “two or more political parties who work together to form the executive” </li></ul><ul><li>Once called “unBritish”, coalitions have become more common in the UK since devolution </li></ul>
  18. 19. History of PR in Britain <ul><li>1973 – The short;-lived Northern Ireland assembly was elected on the basis of PR </li></ul><ul><li>1997 – Jenkins Commission appointed </li></ul><ul><li>1997 – AMS (a mix of PR and FPTP) adopted for the devolved assemblies of Scotland, and Wales </li></ul><ul><li>1998 – STV used in elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly </li></ul><ul><li>1999 – Party list system adopted for the election of MEPs </li></ul><ul><li>2005 – Campaign was launched by the Independent newspaper to change the electoral system for Westminster </li></ul>
  19. 20. Advantages of PR <ul><li>More equitable representation of what the people want </li></ul><ul><li>Leads to broad-based government, rather than the “elected dictatorship” that can result from FPTP </li></ul><ul><li>Ensures that a cross-section of society is adequately represented </li></ul><ul><li>Ensures that smaller parties, such as the Greens and the UKIP, are represented </li></ul><ul><li>Can result in a higher level of electoral turnout </li></ul>
  20. 21. Disadvantages of PR <ul><li>Coalitions can be unstable (e.g. Italy had 48 governments in 45 years) </li></ul><ul><li>Small parties can hold too much power, such as the German liberals (the Free Democrats) </li></ul><ul><li>Weakens accountability </li></ul><ul><li>A small party can switch alliance against the wishes of the electorate </li></ul><ul><li>Can lead to greater representation for extremist parties </li></ul><ul><li>Can take months to form a coalition (as with the case of Germany during 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Weakens the link between constituent and elected representative </li></ul><ul><li>Leads to decisions that offend no one, and achieve nothing </li></ul><ul><li>Each system of PR has its own particular flaws. For example the STV system is quite complex </li></ul>

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