To what extent are Referenda Harmful in a Representative Democracy?
Referendums are very harmful to a Representative Democracy. They undermine Parliamentary Sovereignty, allow our politicians to abdicate responsibility for major political decisions, prevent them from exercising their informed judgements, and can be manipulated by Governments. This is to say nothing of the premise of allowing important decisions to be made by an uninformed electorate that can be swayed by the Media Industry at the drop of a hat. And indeed, the worst case scenario of Tyranny by Majority is one that should not be disregarded. Of course, Referenda are not entirely harmful. They are useful tools for ensuring that elected Governments do not overstep their boundaries for Constitutional Reform, and they do have the potential to educate the electorate. Firstly, elections undermine Parliamentary Sovereignty, and indeed the very purpose of politicians. As the MP for Bath John Patten put it, “They undermine Westminster. What they ensure, as we saw in the last election, is if you have a referendum on an issue politicians during an election campaign say oh we're not going to talk about that, we don't need to talk about that, that's all for the referendum.”. One example of this occurring would be the General Election of 2001, where one hotly contested topic was the prospect of Britain joining the Euro. Many arguments should have been made regarding our relationship to the Single Currency – none were, however. This is because Gordon Brown indicated a referendum would be held, effectively sweeping the entire issue under the carpet, and it was never seriously considered again. Incidentally, the referendum was never held, and the enormous Constitutional Issue ceased to be a topic of note, at the whim of the Government. This isn’t to say the reverse is not true. Blair’s Government held a referendum in 2004, on the proposition of North-Eastern England devolving to have its own elected assembly....
Please join StudyMode to read the full document