On referendums

Nick Tyrone on the 350 million pound problem:

And that’s the main problem with referenda: anyone can promise anything because there is no political cost to making promises that won’t come good.

I’m not sure about this being the “main problem” but it’s certainly one of the many significant problems with referendums.

Fundamentally, referendums are not democratic. In a democracy, no decision is truly set in stone — we elect a parliament and that parliament enacts laws. There is nothing to stop the next parliament from repealing every one of those laws if the electorate decides they were a bad idea. The problem with referendums is that they do fix a decision in stone and provide no mechanism for amending, adjusting or reversing a decision.

And, of course, referendum decisions are always binary — yes or no; leave or remain; stay or go. But reality doesn’t fit into neat little mutually exclusive boxes, so no referendum can ever fully reflect the range of opinions that people want to express.

For any democracy to function properly, we should be having fewer referendums — preferably none.

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