Democracy is a means to an end. The objective being to empower people to make them masters of their own destiny. Empowerment means choices. Today’s perception in the UK is that we vote in a government based on promises made during the election campaign which are never fulfilled once in government. The people than have to wait for the forthcoming general election to change the government. Worst still, even at elections most people believe they are voting for the lesser of the evils rather than a party that truly represents them. Moreover, over a third do not vote at all because they consider their vote will make no difference to what happens in their lives.
People feel whoever they vote for the political establishment always wins. The remedy is to extend the democratic process by enshrining constitutionally the principle that referendums should be evoked on every issue of vital importance to the people. I am not advocating a referendum to approve the budget. I am saying the British people are entitled to have their choices respected, that they have the common sense to make their own decisions and it is anathema to suggest that that they are incapable of doing so but the political elite are. I am saying that politicians do not have the right to ignore the people that put them there, whilst turning on the spin at election times to get re-elected.
In Switzerland referendums are used more frequently than other parts of Europe to determine the will of the people on overriding issues. The recent Scottish referendum was a spectacular example of democratic engagement. There is no logical reason why we shouldn’t have the right to decide on how our NHS is run, on whether we want wind farms or grammar schools and so forth. My philosophy is simply empower people by engaging them, by giving them the right to choose.
As UKIP Housing spokesman I have introduced the policy of local referendum giving communities the power to decide whether they want a new hypermarket or major residential development in their neighborhood. People have the right to be informed, and to participate, to ensure that governments keep to their promises.
Perhaps several referendum each heat on key issues of government would suffice to begin with. Gradually extending this further still. Politicians need to remember that they are elected by the people to serve the people and not us to serve them. And so we must eliminate the ‘what’s in it for me?’culture of politics by emphasizing ideology less and cross party consensus more. Referendums offer the opportunity for politicians to operate as genuine representatives of the wishes of their constituents beyond the party mold.
Referendums are not only an extension of democracy but a signal that the voice of the people must not only be heard but trusted. Referendums far from making government impotent would make them more legitimate, bridging the gap between the government and the governed.
We have the mother of all parliaments. Our country has shone the lights of social justice, the rule of law and parliamentary democracy brighter than any other country. It’s time for us to pioneer the next democratic revolution by integrating referendum and with them the forgotten voice of the people into our constitution.