Iniref, the Campaign for Direct Democracy in Britain, has called for lobbying and campaign action for instance at general election times and to improve government law. Recently we drafted a call to lobby the Communities minister to improve his Localism Bill (see 1. below for blog and Facebook links).
For friends who are new to the Campaign we want here to summarise what our demands are and to define some basic principles of democracy by the people.
Power to the People when it comes from political parties sounds like a promise which they have no intention to keep if they win the election.
To put and fix “The People” in stronger control of the politicians and governments we propose that elements, or “tools” of citizen-led direct democracy should be formally introduced in the UK, in the countries and at local government level. So, an electorate could decide to intervene or innovate in any matter of public policy and would have the right to demand a veto of unwanted law or official action.
Our main Campaign demands are as follows:
With the “initiative” a citizen or group has the right to put forward a proposal to introduce or change law. In order that a proposal will be put to the electorate (in a “referendum” or “ballot”) an agreed number of endorsements (“signatures”) must be collected and validated.
Legally binding referendum
If the required number of endorsements is obtained as above, there are two ways to proceed:
1. The proposal is put to the electorate in a referendum.
2. The proposal is first presented to parliament or local council, which must debate it. Parliament or council may adopt the proposal and pass it as law. Proposals which are rejected must be put to the electorate in a referendum. If a majority of the electorate votes for the proposal then it becomes law.
Power to the People: Principles of governance
The right to take part in running public affairs is a universal human right.
This right must be readily operable in politics and not subject to hindrances beyond reasonable regulation.
Democracy must include rule-by-the-people and may not be limited to indirect “representative” rule by politicians.
Some features of this rule-by-the-people include
The people can decide directly on public issues in addition to electing and removing politicians.
Formal proposals concerning public policy may come from the people and not only from an “authority” such as a parliament, government, civil service or a political party.
Proposals supported by a large number of the people must be put to the whole electorate for decision by ballot.
Can we expect “them” to improve the way our democracy works? The political parties in 2011
Modest proposals for democracy reform involving citizen-participation were put forward by the Labour government but were never put to Parliament for enactment into law. A number of proposals in this field have come from the ruling Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. These proposals give the impression of a response to longstanding popular demand for better governance, greater accountability and more public participation. Under scrutiny the Con/Libdem proposals are seen to offer only half-measures: In local government affairs the people may make proposals and if the authorities agree the electorate may even be called to vote on a citizens’ proposal. However, according to the Coalition the Council will not be obliged to accept the electorate’s decision! At the level of state, only a right to petition Parliament is foreseen, with no citizens’ right to demand and obtain a plebiscite for a proposal with massive public support and no right to veto unwanted government legislation. See our critical overview of Con/Libdem proposals about democracy http://www.iniref.org/conlibdem.html Further detail on request.
1. Letter to Communities ministry re. “state of the art” local democracy