This book is a series of 'remarks' and 'sketches', which together form a mosaic to show how the use of the referendum followed a strict, almost Hegelian pattern of the 'unfolding of freedom' throughout the ages. It outlines how referendums have been used in Britain and abroad, presenting some of the arguments for and against this institution. The book commences with an outline of the world history of the referendum from the French Revolution to the present day, and then discusses the British experience up to 2010. The book examines the referendum on European Economic Community membership in 1975, considering the alternative vote referendum in 2011 and the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014. Next, the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum in 2016, especially the campaign leading up to it, is discussed. After the analysis of the Brexit referendum, the book touches on the Maltese referendum on divorce in 2011. It summarises some of the trends and tendencies in the use of the referendum internationally, highlighting that Britain is not a unique case in holding referendums. The book shows that, notwithstanding the general assumptions about referendums, these are not usually associated with demagogues and populism, but the referendum has tended to be used as a constitutional safeguard. However, in Britain, a country without a formal written constitution, these safeguards were not in place. For the referendum to work, for this institution to be a constitutional safeguard, it must be a people's shield and not the government's sword.
filled rather more pages on the 1975 vote. Thus this referendum looms large in Chapter 2 , though we also consider the alternativevotereferendum in 2011 and the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 .
Chapter 3 pertains to the United Kingdom European Union (EU) membership referendum in 2016, especially the campaign leading up to it. As in the previous chapter, this vote is analysed empirically but with several excursuses into the political theory.
After the analysis of the Brexit referendum, Chapter 4 reverts to the wider world and summarises some of
Representational democracy is at the heart of the UK’s political constitution, and the electoral system is central to achieving it. But is the first-past-the-post system used to elect the UK parliament truly representative? To answer that question requires an understanding of several factors: debates over the nature of representation; the evolution of the current electoral system; how first-past-the-post distorts electoral politics; and how else elections might be conducted. Running through all these debates are issues over the representation not only of people but also of places. The book examines all of these issues and focuses on the effect of geography on the operation of the electoral system.
No one saw Brexit coming. Certainly not David Cameron when he announced the in/out referendum for 23 June 2016, a prime minister who had seen off two previous referendums, on Scottish independence in 2014 and on electoral reform with the alternativevotereferendum in 2011. Clearly Cameron was a man who knew how to hold and win referendums and while he called the in/out referendum on EU membership, he did so fully expecting that he would win it. There was a broader general complacency, perhaps derived from previous referendums, that incumbency
been suggested for simultaneous negotiations in the UK 2010
case, including Clegg’s desire to satisfy those within the Liberal Democrats who favoured a
deal with Labour. The existence of a theoretical alternative partnership may have compelled
Conservative acceptance of the alternativevotereferendum, as signified in William Hague’s
statement on 10 May 2010, but the perception of bad faith may also have, in fact, reduced
Liberal Democrat bargaining power in subsequent Conservative negotiations. Quinn, Bara
The myth of coalition 127
and Bartle, ‘The UK Coalition
have been some democratic effects, most notably the creation of a new
independent body controlling MPs’ salaries and allowances, the Independent
Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). In 2015 a Recall Act allowing constituents to trigger elections for errant MPs was introduced explicitly as a result of what
happened in 2009 (Wright 2015). The scandal triggered a Labour manifesto commitment to introduce Proportional Representation, a Conservative commitment
to reduce the size of the House of Commons and strongly informed the debate
around the 2011 AlternativeVote