Doing referendums differently

1 Sep 2016

There’s no denying it: referendums have become a central feature of our politics. So it’s about time we started thinking seriously about how we should run them.

Since 2011 we have had two UK-wide referendums (on voting reform and membership of the European Union), a Scottish independence referendum, and a Welsh referendum on devolution of powers. The UK is in an extended period of constitutional flux - and is showing few signs of coming out the other side any time soon.

As passionate believers in democracy, we wanted to see the best possible referendum debate during the EU vote. We tried to ensure the debate was as high-quality as possible, and learn important lessons in how good deliberation can be stimulated in living rooms, community centres and workplaces across the country.

Sadly though, the wider debate let voters down. So it’s essential we ensure that the mistakes made during the EU referendum debate are never repeated again.

That’s why we’re pleased to launch our landmark EU referendum report into the conduct of the referendum, ‘It’s Good to Talk: Doing Referendums Differently After the EU Vote’.

This report shows without a shadow of a doubt just how dire the EU referendum debate really was - and what we can do about it.

The state of the referendum debate

There were glaring democratic deficiencies in the run-up to the vote, with previously unreleased polling showing that far too many people felt they were ill-informed about the issues; and that the ‘big beast’ personalities did not appear to engage or convince voters.

The polling also shows that voters viewed both sides as increasingly negative as the campaign wore on. Meanwhile, the top-down, personality-based nature of the debate failed to address major policies and subjects, leaving the public in the dark.

It’s clear that the EU debate was in stark contrast to the Scottish independence referendum, which for all its faults undoubtedly featured a vibrant, well-informed, grassroots conversation that left a lasting legacy of on-going public participation in politics and public life.

There are so many lessons to be learned from the EU campaign – from the effect of a too-short campaign period to the fact that misleading claims could be made with impunity. This report lays out both the facts, and the way forward.

Where next?

Now that the dust is starting to settle, we need a complete rethink about the role of referendums in the UK. Instead of jumping from referendum to referendum at the whim of party politics, we should think carefully about how referendums fit into our wider democracy.

So it’s time for a root and branch review of referendums, learning the lessons of the EU campaign to make sure the mistakes that were made in terms of regulation, tone and conduct are never repeated.

We’ve made nine key recommendations to improve the conduct of future referendums. They are:

Laying the groundwork

  1. Mandatory pre-legislative scrutiny for any Bill on a referendum, lasting at least three months, with citizens’ involvement
  2. A minimum six-month regulated campaigning period to ensure time for a proper public discussion
  3. A definitive ‘rulebook’ to be published, setting out technical aspects of the vote, as soon as possible after the passing of any referendum Bill

Better information

  1. A ‘minimum data set’ or impartial information guide to be published at the start of the regulated campaigning period
  2. An official body should be given the task of intervening when misleading claims are made by the campaigns, as in New Zealand
  3. Citizenship education to be extended in schools alongside UK-wide extension of votes at 16

More deliberation

  1. The government should fund a resource for stimulating deliberative discussion/debate about referendum
  2. An official body should be tasked with providing a toolkit for members of the public to host own debates/deliberative events on the referendum
  3. Ofcom should conduct a review into an appropriate role for broadcasters to play in referendums, with aim of making coverage/formats more deliberative rather than combative/binary

We think our new report, ‘It’s Good to Talk: Doing Referendums Differently After the EU Vote’, will be a useful resource in tackling the big questions about where we go from here when it comes to referendums. We hope you agree.

More than that though, we hope the recommendations we suggest lead to some genuine change so that the public get the referendum debates they deserve in the future.

Comments

118 Responses to Doing referendums differently

Jill Phillips 1 Sep 2016
3:25pm

Some excellent comments are made above.  They would be given (or deprived of ) appropriate weight by adding thumbs up and thumbs down signs.
Meantime, how about considering  awarding 'referendum status', as originaly outlined above to this suggestion itself - and then discussing such comments as are made above in, at very least, the 'Laying the Groundwork' sectionabove?
 

Ian 1 Sep 2016
3:36pm

What is the evidence for your statements?

Sam 1 Sep 2016
3:42pm

@Jacq I think the "bad loser" rhetoric is getting a bit tedious now. Until we, the public get some idea of what post-Brexit Britain will look like you have absolutely no clue about what it is you have won. The reality is that there was no plan for this scenario - proven by two months of non-action (apart from being told that Brexit means Brexit - whatever the hell that means) whilst the politicians who made it all possible scramble to formulate some kind of plan. Unltimately the public have been lied to (this is an undeniable fact) and we're never going to have a referendum on the terms of Brexit - you do realise that? The terms will be decided for us by a government hell bent on destruction of the welfare state and NHS, victimisation of the poor and disabled and scaling back of workers’ rights. It may not have been a vote on rights (as you point out) but a lot of people saw it as a vote on immigration, and they will lose some rights as a consequence - for example the automatic right to live and work in 27 other countries.

Christopher Mar... 1 Sep 2016
4:07pm

Votes for 16year olds, really? The age should be raised to 21 if anything!  Young people need time to get a grasp of how things in the real world work outside of an educational environment!

Colin 1 Sep 2016
6:03pm

They are too young, not had any experience or worked in the real world, thats what people say, yet how many over 18 year olds really understood the EU issues?  What was getting the highest googles the next day after the referendum, What is the EU?  What countries are in the EU?  Please, if we go down the 'who should be allowed to vote' route there there could should be many more tests implemented and a lot of people would undoubtable fail.

Maurice Frank 1 Sep 2016
11:34pm

Young people need a polutcal voice they are not getting, about wrongs done to them in educational environments. About teachers who can misuse their authority to put a child under impossible breaking point work pressure, which is both an abuse situation and a modern slavery. Even after they are out of it, but with permanent lost life chances from it, they can find they have no vote and their recent ill-treaters do have a vote.

Grandpa1940 2 Sep 2016
9:30am

Voting ages raised to 21?
What a load of cobblers. Voting, and the right to vote, should be raised to somewhere around thirty years, and added to that, a proof that the IQ of the prospective voter should be above 100. That would fortunately rule out about 60% of the Labour-voting sheep in my area, and give us mere mortals a relief from the ever-present idea that their fathers and grandfathers knew what they were voting for.

Andy Leighton 10 Sep 2016
3:25pm

Indeed, Article 1 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines childhood as up to the age of 18 for a reason.
 

Andy Leighton 10 Sep 2016
3:27pm

Indeed, Article 1 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines childhood as up to the age of 18 for a reason.
 

Gerald Wiener 1 Sep 2016
4:13pm

I agree with those who believe that for referenda on major issues, tantamount of constitutional or treaty change, there is a minimum requirement for turnout - 80% would not be unreasonable - and a 60/40 percent differential in the vote for the result to be binding.

John B 2 Sep 2016
10:57am

We weren't givena  vote to join the EU. The 1975 Referendum was with less than 2/3 supporting on less than 80% turmout. Plus the EU now is totally different from the Common Market then. A simple majority is the fairest way

Outside the Mar... 1 Sep 2016
4:25pm

I can now vote for a party that can be held to account and removed by means of the democratic ballot box

Oh, I wish we had a democratic ballot box. My westminster and council vote has never had an effect. My constituency has been held by one party since before the franchise was equalised!
Curiously I have seen my MEPs change - but then the EU insisted on a responsive electoral system that ensured that there was a reasonable representation of the diversity of views in the country.
The EU parliament is far more representative and we can remove its members - a basic measure of accountability!
(The EU is also occasionally a bit of a pain to a UK Government that thinks it can impose its writ with the support of 24% of the electorate. Never mind; that will end soon.)

Ian Campbell 1 Sep 2016
4:26pm

From what we now know about the teenage brain, votes at 16 would be a mistake.(Logically, it should be 18 for women and 21 for men so it should probably stay at 18 or move back to 21.) 
We don't have referenda very often in this country (should we?) so I agree with the comment that the ERS should concentrate on reform of the Westminster voting system, e.g to tollow the STV system used in Scotland. It's hard to think of any country, about to introduce a new voting system, that would select first past the post.
If there are to be more referenda, which is probably unliklely, why not study a country that makes greater use of them, e.g. Switzerland? Or even California?
Your summary does not seem to cover who has the right to call a referendum so presumably you believe it should remain in the hands of the Government - which will only call one either when it cannot make up its own mind or it believes (rightly or wrongly) that it will win it or if it prefers, not win it - eg on AV. It may be that a petition that gathers sufficient public support must be put to a referendum.
Referendums, however organised, do not settle the issue. There is a legacy of bitterness and frustration among Remainers in the UK and among the Independence voters in Scotland. Adding a 60% hurdle might make it worse, always tipping the scales in favour of the status quo.
The solution therefore seems to be to reform Parliament so that we have a fair representation system and let Parliament decide, while retaining referenda for local government decisions where less is at stake..

Quentin 1 Sep 2016
4:36pm

16 is far too young to have a vote. I agree that the voting age should be 21. People mature physically much more quickly than mentally.
Your report reeks of the sentiment that 'those disgusting proles didn't vote the way we elites wanted them to.'
Next time you do a poll, I suggest you ask about sources of disinformation - I'll bet that the BBC would have scored very highly. You even touch on this in part 2 but don't bother to find out more. A very poor show.
A big reason for the Leave vote was that the elites lied to us and treated the electorate with contempt. It was very noticeable that none of the grandees who spoke out in favour of Remain staked their jobs on the result and only Cameron resigned. And we're still waiting for WW3 and the global financial collapse.
Despite that I was most surprised that Leave won.
By the way, the Scottish independence issue has been settled, despite Sturgeon. You need to understand that all Sturgeon is good for is demanding independence and blaming the English.
 
 

Paul King 1 Sep 2016
5:37pm

It is hardly a new comment to say that the EU referendum was unsatisfactory, almost from A-Z.Some proposals such as your 3 groups of 3 would help, but they would not resolve the underlying unsatisfactory state of British politics.
What a dog's breakfast the UK is, with different levels of devolution to N.Ireland, Scotland and Wales, no devolution to speak of in England, an unelected House of Lords, with Lords Spiritual' drawn only from the CofE, still a First-Past the Post system for parliament and for English local government, when we have various better sytems elsewhere and for MEPs - it is a long list.
Small wonder that a great many people feel uninformed and alienated and then, when there is the semblance of devolved decision making, make a pig's ear of it.
 

Andrew 1 Sep 2016
5:51pm

1. As others have already mentioned, the Scottish referendum involved dubious claims, personality politics, implicit campaigning as a vote against the UK government and bitter attacks on campaigners. Also, both had very high participation regardless. Why is one portrayed as so much better than the other (unless the authors preferred the outcome)  
2. The Brexit vote was essentially the promised Treaty of Lisbon / EU Constituion referendum Tony Blair promised - which was a constitutional change ( bill of fundamental rights, ECJ supreme over national courts, etc) this background is entirely lost  
3. There are many downsides to the proposed fixes. Would the population sustain interest in a longer debate? How much paralysis of other decision making by governments?  Who would choose the quango, and how neutral could they be given just about everybody has skin in the game on a constitutional question (academics / lawyers / judges). 

Robin MacCormick 1 Sep 2016
6:00pm

Can anyone justify the UK's exceptional view that -  unlike most modern states - it  needs no written constitution but that it can continue to muddle along on unwritten customs?
As for the Scottish Indpendence referendum, this was enacted by Scotland's SNP government  because independence is the party's principal policy..    Scotland has not only a separate legal system but radically different political traditions from the rest of the UK.   Most of all, Scotland, like most states, requires competent government achieved by a fair voting system.   These simple aims seem to be impossible under the antiquated UK system.

Brian Micklam 1 Sep 2016
7:10pm

In my opinion referenda are a cop-out by politicians, and they should not be allowed to waste our time with them.
We elect politicians in a tried and tested system that has all sorts of checks and balances built in, and it costs a lot of money to operate it. Why should we let the politicians off the hook when they find things getting difficult? They are paid to take these kinds of decisions for us and they should not be allowed to wriggle out of decision taking just because they find it too difficult, as Cameron did.
I don't think that we should kid ourselves that there is a higher level of importance for some decisions for which our politicians cannot be trusted. We are all of the same ilk, some more trustworthy than others, and that came out in the recent referendum campaigns.
If we have to have another referendum ever, then to pass it should need at least a 60/40 majority to pass. Much more important though, is to continue to tweak our current democracy, as we have been doing for centuries, so that it gets better and politicians remain responsible for the policies they implement. 
 

John 1 Sep 2016
7:15pm

The referendum was purely advisory and the result will not be legally binding until put to Parliament for acceptance , as no single person has the legal power to act . Only then can the legal constitutional decision be made to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty . There will have to be a procedure followed which may well be offered to the people again before  negotiations take place over the next two to 5 years , by which time a new Parliament will be in place . We  shall then see what the UK looks like and whether the timing of this referendum  was badly chosen !

John Bruton 1 Sep 2016
8:12pm

Before we attempt to devise a set of rules to govern future referenda should we consider if they deliver the democratic decisions that we need? My view is that we live in a representative democracy and therefore we elect representatives to make decisions for us. This is important when the decisions that have to be made are complex and carry far reaching effects.
The recent EU referendum was essentially a political device intended to solve problems of division within the Conservative party. Voters on both sides struggled to understand the issues involved and ended up voting on matters only partially related to the total issue of EU membership. No one knew what a leave result really meant and we probably still don't.
Part of the problem that has been highlighted is that people don't feel that by voting in elections they are able to express their views. They are correct in so far as most of us live in "safe seats" and so our votes don't count towards choosing who forms a government. If we had a representative voting system and got the representatives that we wanted we would not need to resort to the lottery that referenda turn out to be.
The EU referendum has resulted in a decision which virtually no main stream informed authority supported. My view is that it has damaged us very seriously. While others may disagree we should take care to understand that future referenda cannot be a substitute for an effectively functioning democracy

John Bruton 1 Sep 2016
8:20pm

 

Before we attempt to devise a set of rules to govern future referenda should we consider if they deliver the democratic decisions that we need? My view is that we live in a representative democracy and therefore we elect representatives to make decisions for us. This is important when the decisions that have to be made are complex and carry far reaching effects.
The recent EU referendum was essentially a political device intended to solve problems of division within the Conservative party. Voters on both sides struggled to understand the issues involved and ended up voting on matters only partially related to the total issue of EU membership. No one knew what a leave result really meant and we probably still don't.
Part of the problem that has been highlighted is that people don't feel that by voting in elections they are able to express their views. They are correct in so far as most of us live in "safe seats" and so our votes don't count towards choosing who forms a government. If we had a representative voting system and got the representatives that we wanted we would not need to resort to the lottery that referenda turn out to be.
The EU referendum has resulted in a decision which virtually no main stream informed authority supported. My view is that it has damaged us very seriously. While others may disagree we should take care to understand that future referenda cannot be a substitute for an effectively functioning democracy

 

D.T. 1 Sep 2016
8:26pm

The Bexiters wanted, so they said, to restore our sovereignty. That lies firmly with parliament. So they should respect their own principles and put their idiocy to the vote in the commons. The referendum is clearly not binding as it was only a lazy way of trying to dampen internal strife in the Tory tribe and was not passed into law as a national committment. It just suits May, for the moment, to put party unity ahead of yhe national interest. And it would be a good idea not ever to hold another one until we have a representative electoral system that can give access to a whole range of voices.

Robin 1 Sep 2016
8:37pm

Wouldn't it be good if there was some way of rating comments, so that interested readers could skip over all the bickering when looking for information? A lot of noise gets generated in Internet comments. We should try and improve the light-to-noise ratio.
 

Robin 1 Sep 2016
8:39pm

Wouldn't it be good if there was some way of rating comments, so that interested readers could skip over all the bickering when looking for information? A lot of noise gets generated in Internet comments. We should try and improve the light-to-noise ratio.

4caster 1 Sep 2016
8:51pm

I would agree that a two thirds majority should be necessary to change the Constitution, except for two things.
Firstly, we were offered no referendum when we joined the EU, and I doubt that Heath's government would have mustered a two thirds majority for joining the Common Market as it then was. Three years later we were given a referendum, with a clear majority for remaining, but not two thirds.
Secondly, the EU has changed enormously since we joined the Common Market, and we have never been offered a referendum on any of those changes.
So a vote on a simple majority is what was needed this year.
Look how the EU has treated Greece and Spain: bankrupted them.
Look how it is now treating the Republic of Ireland: dictating their taxation policy on Apple's subsidiary and backdating their demands for 11 years. Taxation is definitely the responsiblity of member states.
The EU(SSR) has become an undemocratic monolithic superstate, and it should not take a two thirds majority to release us from it.

4caster 1 Sep 2016
8:55pm

I would agree that a two thirds majority should be necessary to change the Constitution, except for two things.

Firstly, we were offered no referendum when we joined the EU, and I doubt that Heath's government would have mustered a two thirds majority for joining the Common Market as it then was. Three years later we were given a referendum, with a clear majority for remaining, but not two thirds.

Secondly, the EU has changed enormously since we joined the Common Market, and we have never been offered a referendum on any of those changes.

So a vote on a simple majority is what was needed this year.
Look how the EU has treated Greece and Spain: bankrupted them.

Look how it is now treating the Republic of Ireland: dictating their taxation policy on Apple's subsidiary and backdating their demands for 11 years. Taxation is definitely the responsiblity of member states.

The EU(SSR) has become an undemocratic monolithic superstate, and it should not take a two thirds majority to release us from it.

Philip 1 Sep 2016
9:32pm

The biggest failures by far on both the Scottish and EU referenda were (i) not stipulating the minimum voter turn-out required before any decision could be made on the natiion's constitutional future and (ii) not stipulating that any change from the status quo, ie staying in the UK or EU respectively, would require a significant majority of those voting, say 55% or 60%.
We could conceivably have had the ludicrous situation where there was a tiny majority for leaving the EU of under 50,000 votes on a turn-out of 35% across the UK.  If that situation or something like it had come about, how on earth could it have been argued that the Will of the People had been clearly expressed?
The fact that politicians of all shades did not face up to this potential democratic deficit issue was scandalous. Therefore, any sensible move towards setting referendum rules must set the bars for both voter turn-out and size of the majority vote for any decision to change the status quo came into effect. 

Clive Tooth 1 Sep 2016
9:52pm

1) A referendum should only be held if totally exceptional circumstances prevail. The vast majority of choices should be made by Parliament in "business as usual" mode.

 

2) In all referendums the voters' choice should be between two choices: "(A) Leave things as they are" and "(B) Change things to a certain well-defined state". That is, leaving things as they are should always be an option.

 

3) Referendums tend to be described as "advisory". Make all referendums binding on the government. Make sure that the voters, and the government, understand this.

 

4) Everybody who does not vote is deemed to have voted for "(A) Leave things as they are". So, not voting is equivalent to voting for (A). However, many people will probably want to actually vote.

 

5) The change will only take place if at least 60% of those entitled to vote choose option (B). Make sure that the voters understand this.

Paul 1 Sep 2016
10:40pm

I believe that changes in the Constitution should be required to gain a 60% vote in order to authorise or ratify the change. Equally, it should be necessary for 85% of the eligible electorate to validate such a vote. As things stand, about 36% of the eligible electorate has voted for an irreversible and ill-informed decision.
Certainly both campaigns were riddled with misinformation, and neither campaign deserved to win. Neither set of campaign leaders is fit for public office. I am convinced that politicians have become more concerned with winning a vote, without any regard for truth.
Democracy is not served by politics anymore.

ROSE 1 Sep 2016
11:10pm

Surely this work should have been done before the referendum. I looked up the rules on Your website on June 24th and was horrified to find nothing about referenda. The only statement that might apply was that candidates should not lie about their opponents. This referendum was one big lie and it should have been ruled unacceptable. As for 16 year olds voting, many are far more politically literate than people of my age. I am horrified by pensioner acquaintances who believe the rubbish in the media. At least kids these days are taught to think critically. There is also the obvious argument that they will have to live far longer with the consequences. Changing the way that people register for voting didn't help. 

hcl 2 Sep 2016
5:56pm

Rose, you surely jest?
A significant majority of 16 year olds do not even know what GCE's to take, never mind how to Vote.
Agreed they are (supposed to be) taught to research and think critically, but (Unfortunately) it is a fact that some can barely read and write.  And at that stage of their development their hormones are raging and what seems a 'wicked' idea today, 'sucks' the day after.
(Frankly, I believe it a mistake to have given the vote to 18year olds never mind 16's!  As far as I can see the only (arguably) 'benefit' is that as they can legally fight for the country, they should be allowed to Vote for it too (Quite rightly in that case).  However if the law was changed so that combatants must be over 21 (as it used to be, then the Vote should be the same.  I accept that you cannot put the genie back in the bottle so it has to remain at 18 - but younger?? No! No!  No! (to paraphrase, as it were))

robin lambert 1 Sep 2016
11:13pm

Thank Goodnews 52% voted to Come Out of the European Union A Corporate Fascist Organisation With Origins by Dr Goebbels in 1942.
Modelled on Todt Organisation which introduced A Single Currency.
The Scottish Referendum for Independence failed as Most Sensible Scottish people realised firstly EU would never admit Scotland if it didnt adopt the Failing €.Faling Oil revenues & Fishing fleet decimated by EU Fish quotas,detrimental to british fishermen.
The Sulking of 'Remain' voters & 479 Remain MPs dont seem to recognise Democracy & Want Owen Smith Labour,Tim Farron Lib-Dims,Nicola Sturgeon SNP, want another referendum so they can get Answer ''The Elites'' Banks,Corporations Want.Like Holland & France 2005 rejecting Nice & Ireland Told to think again in 2008.
I would favour a second chamber of 200-250 Senators elected every 4 years for two terms only. House of Lords Also trying to block UK Exit from EU are out of date..

Mike Edwards 1 Sep 2016
11:29pm

The problem with democracy is that it doesn't work if the public are ill informed prior to voting. I met people on both sides who knew very little about the EU.

I think there should debate about solving the oppositions problems. If enough of each side can concede and agree results would be very different.
For example how were Brexiters going to offer a solution for economic fears?
What were Remainers going do about those in poorer vocations keeping their jobs with so many Eastern block EU citizens flooding into the country?
How were Brexiters going to solve the problem of loss of free travel and ability to live anywhere in EU?
How were Remainers going to solve the fears of leavers concerning one government overriding so many other countries with things like the TTIP?

I believe that it's also about offering solutions. If one side can appease the other to trust in a certain direction then results may be different.

In this case I did feel that it was fears about real concerns such as the economy verses real issues around sovereignty and one parliment being influenced by super powers and banks.

I was a Remainer until the last month. I could see how Remainer issues could be resolved outside of EU e.g travel or economic solutions but I couldn't see how we could stop poorer people losing jobs or how we could stop further global corporations influencing and contracting so many countries in one go. Look at the sanctioning of Syria - all countries now have to sanction Syria which is helping ISIS. These things are better debated in our own parliments.

Mike Edwards 1 Sep 2016
11:32pm

The problem with democracy is that it doesn't work if the public are ill informed prior to voting. I met people on both sides who knew very little about the EU.

I think there should debate about solving the oppositions problems. If enough of each side can concede and agree results would be very different.
For example how were Brexiters going to offer a solution for economic fears?
What were Remainers going do about those in poorer vocations keeping their jobs with so many Eastern block EU citizens flooding into the country?
How were Brexiters going to solve the problem of loss of free travel and ability to live anywhere in EU?
How were Remainers going to solve the fears of leavers concerning one government overriding so many other countries with things like the TTIP?

I believe that it's also about offering solutions. If one side can appease the other to trust in a certain direction then results may be different.

In this case I did feel that it was fears about real concerns such as the economy verses real issues around sovereignty and one parliment being influenced by super powers and banks.

I was a Remainer until the last month. I could see how Remainer issues could be resolved outside of EU e.g travel or economic solutions but I couldn't see how we could stop poorer people losing jobs or how we could stop further global corporations influencing and contracting so many countries in one go. Look at the sanctioning of Syria - all countries now have to sanction Syria which is helping ISIS. These things are better debated in our own parliments.

denton 2 Sep 2016
12:06am

OWSTRANGE ITISTO READCOMMENTSHERE FROM SORE LOSERS  WHO WILL UNDOUBTLY SIGH WITH RELIEF AFTER THEY LEARN ,JUNKER = SAID IT ,IN A FEDERAL UNION THEIR CAN NEVER BE A PLACE FOR A PEOPLES DEMOMOCRACY.. ONLY REGRET I HAVE IS ,THAT THOSE WHO VOTED FOR THE REMAIN,WILLNOW BENIFIT FROM A FUTURE OF PROSPERITY ,AND WATCH THE EUROPEAN PEOPLES SUFFER UNDER ELITESWHO HAVE EVER KNOWN NOTHING BUT SILVER SPOON LIFE STYLES ,UNDER THE HARD WORK OF PEOPLE TREATED SHAMELESSLY ,JUST LOOKAT GREECE ,ANY OF YOU REMAINERS WANTING TO SUFFER AS  GREEK S DO.IHAVE SEEN IT ITS LIKE SOME THING OUT OF NEAR IRAQ AND SYRIA ,JUST WITHOUT THE BOMBS AND DEATHS DAILY,NO! THE GREEKS WILL CERTAINLY SUFFER TERRIBLE FUTURES OF STARVATION,SICKNESS .ALL BECAUSE YOU DONT HAVE THE TIME TO HELD UP UP AT PASSPORT CONTROL OFFICES STOPPING YOU ALLARRIVING AT YOUR HOTEL ,BEACH.ECT,SPEND A BIT OF TIME RESEARCHING THE CONTENTS OF THE FIVE PRESIDENTS REPORT .AND ASK A VERY LEARNERED FRIEND OR EXTREMELY EDUCATED MAN OF LAW ,TO EXPLAIN HOW ALL OF US WOULD SUFFER INDEFINATELY UNTIL WAR BROKE OUT ACROSS UROPE AND HERE IN UK,
GROW UP AND BEFORE YOU START SLINGING YOUR AXE IN DEFIANCE READ ALL OF THE EU TREATY CONTENTS FROM AGAIN A VERY LEARNERED EXPERIANCED MAN OF LAW,THEN COME BACK APOLAGISE ,OR SLING YOUR AXE IN DEFIANCE AS AN IDIOT WHO HAS NO UNDERSTANDING OF REALITIES OTHER THAN TO SUFFER AND LAY BLAME AT OTHERS WHEN THEY FEEL THE FULLWEIGHT OF THEIR DILUTED DILUTED FUTURES ,AND SERIOUSLY DAMAGE THEIR CHILDERNS FUTURES ETERNALLY IN THE EU ,THANK GOD THAT WE THE BRITISH PEOPLE WHO HAVE GROWN UP AND SUFFERED A LOT ,TOUNDERSTAND WHAT WE ARE DOING .BECAUSE WE LEARNED THE HARD WAY ,NOT LIKE THE YOUGTODAY WHO HAVE BEEN MOLLY CODDLED AND NO CLUE TO SUFFERING ,OUT OF THE EU ,YOUR CHILDREN CAN NOW FLORISH GROW AND BE SAFE ,TO HAVE CONTROL OF GOVERNMENT THAT INTENDED TO ENSLAVE US ALL BY HOGWASH OF EU OFFICIALS WHO SAY THAT THE BRITISH ISLAND OF UK NEVR CONQUERED BY THE GERMANS OR FRENCH AND WILL NEVER FORGIVE UK FOR THIS ,THEY BELIEVE BRITAIN BELONGS TO EU.WE ARE SEPERATED FROM EUROPE FOR REASON ,AND THAT BLOODY WATER MAY SAVE OUR BACON YET.
GROW UP GET EDUCATED ,AND UNDERSTAND IF YOU LOVE EUROPE SO MUCH ,AND I DO.IMMIGRATE GO OVER THEIR ,BUT I LOVE HERE IN BRITAIN .AND I AM HAPPY,

Nick Tatam 2 Sep 2016
12:36am

The Leave  campaign talked repeatedly of the need for the Westminster  Parliament to be sovereign and not to be over-ridden by the institutions of the EU. Whatever the imperfections of the voting syatem for Westminster, only last year we elected a Parliament whose members are overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU. I am surprised that anyone politically informed enough to use this web site could have voted to leave the EU but as some did could any of them explain why they wish to over-ride the wishes of the Westminster Parliament . If this parliament votes for any significant weakening of our ties to Europe it will be a betrayal on a monumental scale compared with the tuition fees reversal.

Les Leeds 2 Sep 2016
12:52am

The 52/48% squabble is irrelevant.  Look at the whole registered electorate to see that Leave had only 37.4% of that electorate voting to leave the EU, so 62.6% did not vote to leave.  How can one third browbeat two thirds into jumping off the cliff? Or are we no longer a democracy?
Reform? Easy peasy: Winners must achieve 60% at least; every registered voter must vote, even if a third option ("Neither of these"?) has to be on the form; voting method: postal only (everyone can reach a postbox or their carers can); penalty for not voting?: disfranchised for set period,;etc. 

John B 2 Sep 2016
11:00am

37% of electorate voted to Leave..but only 34% of electorate voted to Remain!
 
The EU now is totally different from the Common Market of the 1970s plus we don't have Two-Thirds Rule in the UK....Admit it, your disagree and disresoct the result!

Adrian Williams 2 Sep 2016
1:29am

It's meaningless to talk about forcing 100% turnout because the government can't force 100% of the electorate to register.  We are all supposed to but lots don't.
When the referendum takes place what do you do about:
people out of the country for a long time?
people in hospital on life-support?
prisoners who are not allowed to vote in national or local elections? Are they to be forced to vote if still on the register?
The turnout in the recent Scottish referendum was abnormally high and was for a simpler issue.  Don't let it kid you that it can be replicated for a more complicated issue.

Maurice Frank 2 Sep 2016
7:37am

A reply to agree with Mark Deacon above on the Scottish ref.The click on "reply" is not producing any post.
There was also the fear of attacks on homes causing few No posters to be displayed and vastly more Yes posters, even though it turned out that No won! There was the well known phenomenon of the aggressive Cybernats online, they set up a string of fake debate pages on Facebook where they turned on angrily and swiftly banned anyone who took any other position than faithful Yes.
I have to reveal where I think the rubbish has come from. ERS's Scottish office at the time was staffed by 2 Yes supporters. They never gave any answer to an enquiry about apparently burying an item that a local reform group brought to them about voters' questions for both campaigns. I left ERS partly because of this, [as well as because I had joined ERS in its push to reform itself after the AV ref but it never budged from insisting on STV]. Shortly after the ref I attended an ERS hosted meeting in Edinburgh, not even about indy but where a claim was made that Yes voters were measured as more intelligent and the chairing gave no chance to reply to it. Those 2 staff never answered about this either. They offered to deal with both these items only by a cafe meet to talk, which would have no written outcome.
I have to suppose that their filtered perception of the ref in favour of their side has informed national ERS's perception.

Dr Barry Barber 2 Sep 2016
7:46am

In almost all organisations a vote to change the constitution requires a higher percentage vote than an ordinary decision.  usually, it is 60% or 67%.  We have had this massive, irreversible, constitutional change inflicted upon us by a misreable 51.9% vote.  Even with the high turnout of around 70%, this is  much less than half of those eligible - this nonsense is presented as a massive decision by the British people!  This does massive damage to our position in the world where China and India are gearing up their economies and their scientific, political and military strength - pushing our small island into mid-Atlantic and in danger of a take-over by the USA.  It, also, deprives most of us of our long cherished right of entry across the EU for work, pleasure and residence.  Furthermore, none of the "Leavers" have done any serious planning for our departure - it is a "wing and a prayer".  No-one yet knows what the terms of our leaving will be, we are apparently to leave by anomalous ancient "Royal Prerogative", without parliamentary authority and we will not get a referendum on the actual terms of our leaving!
How is this all democratic?
I wish I could get an EU passport before we leave!

Romper Levis 2 Sep 2016
8:19am

What a hypocrite you are, Will Brett. Just because the referendum did not produce the result that you wanted, it was full of "mistakes" and was not "high quality" - neatly ignoring the reality that politics is and has always been a low quality business. As for your suggestion about an "official body" that should be in charge of impartial fact checking, would that be staffed by old Etonians appointed by Cameron and Osborne who would back up their claims of economic disaster and international isolation after Brexit? Shortly to be followed by peerages all round for the failed Bremain campaigners.
A vote by 17.4 million voters is a vote. I would have thought even the ERS could manage that one.

John 2 Sep 2016
9:16am

I lived for a while in a democratic country, Switzerland, which has an average of around 10 national referenda a year on all major issues effecting the country. This has the effect of engaging everyone in the political process and means major decisions are reached based on the benefits to society as a whole rather than on the self interest of one group. 
I find the concept of having 6 months to discuss an issue nationally truly frightening because by the end everyone would have been bored silly. What the UK does need is a move from our system of representative government where two parties fight on issues Punch and Judy style to a greater democracy where the population as a whole are more involved in the major decisions made at both national and local level and people can have the country they want rather than that imposed on them.

Michael McCarthy 2 Sep 2016
9:17am

What is missing from these reform recommendations is a citizens' right to call referendums. Why should the political elite be allowed to monopolise this power?

Malc jeffs 2 Sep 2016
9:23am

Further to Denis Turner's bleat about the referendum, I’m sick of hearing from sunshine retirees writing from their pool side loungers complaining about the referendum result and it’s possible impacts on their lifestyle.  Were  we UK citizens back here  in UK  expected to live forever under the increasing  Brussels/ Paris/ Berlin  yoke  just so that Mr turner  and his retired  like are not inconvenienced  with border controsl when they make their annual return to UK to top up on tea bags ? I don’t think so.
 
When they all  retired to Spain, Italy, France, Greece etc in search of sunshine and the good life, they forsook this country, with all it’s problems, without a second thought and with no care for the rest of us. Fine  - get on with it  but  don’t come whinging back here if everything  doesn’t turn out quite as you would have liked.  Circumstances change, nothing stays the same forever.  If you never accounted for  that then you are naïve –  your  problem, not ours. 
In ten years time the UK  will be prospering. I expect the EU to be slowly disintegrating. Thankfully the UK will not be found  amongst that pile of rubble.
For me, the key lesson for future leaders administrating referenda is - don't invite US presidents into the debate. Obama's " you'll be back of the queue " comments created a massive  surge of leave votes. Thankfully.
Malc Jeffs.

henry parr 2 Sep 2016
10:47am

The sentence in the email from the Electoral Reform Society illustrates one of the problems and I quote 'the result could not have been clearer' WHAT?!? Only 36% of the electorate voted to leave the EU. They say 'the people have spoken', and we are about to take the huge step of leaving the EU when two thords of the electorate didn't vote for it. I'm not sure we should have referendums at all. Governing is so complex, ordinary people have niether the time nor the knowledge to properly consider all the pros and cons. All we really need to do is to get rid of our idiotic first past the post voting system and then let the reultant properly representative coalition govern.

John B 2 Sep 2016
11:05am

There's no way we should campaigns lasting 6 months!
 
People, accept the result!
1) More people who voted, did do for Leave, by 52-48%
2) Amongst electoarte as whole only 34% voted to Remain!
3)The EU is different from the Common Market of the 70s, in which there was no vote to join and no two-thirds voting to Remain on 80% turnout in the 1975 referndum.
4) We may need a second referendum - not Leave/Remain. We voted Brexit, but what type of Brexit, EEA or World Trade Rules for example.
 
 

Tony Fehler 2 Sep 2016
11:51am

Why not just dump the whole idea of referendums.
We live in a representative democracy in which parliament is sovereign, and in which referendums can only ever be an advisory public opinion poll.
We pay politicians a shedload of money to take complex political decions on our behalf, so why should we allow them to duck their responsibilities and pass the buck back to us when a decision gets a tad hot to handle?
 

Kim Spence-Jones 2 Sep 2016
12:59pm

The body responisble for intervening when misleading claims should have serious teeth. The offending party should be legally obligated to publish a retraction:

  • at least to the same audience as the original claim
  • with at least the same prominance and visibility (font, colour, etc.)
  • in words and format approved by the overseeing body
  • in a timely manner

Where the offending party fails in its obligation it should be banned from taking any further part in the campaign. It should also be a serious criminal offense (punishable with jail) to ignore the recommendations of the overseeing body.

Sarah Anderson 2 Sep 2016
4:17pm

 
1          We should not hold referendums at all.  It has been observed that a referendum is the device of dictators and demagogues.  Hitler used 4 to consolidate his power, and as a consequence the German constitution does not allow them.  It is inevitable that many people will vote on the basis of issues other than the question on the ballot paper (not least to give the current government a kicking).  Also, questions are often highly complex (as with the EU referendum) and people do not always have the time or the inclination to go into all the relevant details.  We elect our MPs for this purpose.  Such decisions should be left to parliament.
 
2          What we should do is change our voting system for Westminster (and for local elections) to the proportional STV system.  Then our votes would always count.  Currently my vote never counts because I live in a constituency where there is unlikely to be change, so I can do nothing to change the government, even after Brexit.  (For me, the EU is a safeguard in areas where our own government would otherwise get rid of our rights.)
 
3          I agree with the report that we do generally need much better levels of political engagement, across the spectrum.  This would be helped by votes at 16 and compulsory citizenship education.  Many young people are interested in these issues and they should be encouraged to understand our political systems.  It is patronising to suggest they do not have sufficient life experience to be able to vote.  They can marry, and join the army.  They should be allowed to vote.
 
4          If we must have referendums, there should definitely be a minimum threshold (60%) and turnout (80%) on matters of constitutional change.  It is absurd that such an enormous change as leaving the EU should be decided on a 4% difference.  If the referendum were held a month earlier or later it might have been a different result.  There needs to be clearer evidence that the outcome is the settled will of the significant majority of the people.  I would be quite happy for voting to be made compulsory (with an appropriate option on the ballot paper eg none of the above or don't care.)
 
5          I do not agree that we need a much longer campaign period.  If people are generally more politically engaged then the key issues can be highlighted during a one or two month long campaign.  However, I do agree the campaign should be more deliberative and less combative.  I think the media have a great responsibility.  It seemed that in general they were more interested in showing conservative politicians against one another than in showing politicians from other parties who were mostly (boringly) in favour of Remain.  Although the responsible media supposedly tried to be balanced, the concept of balance paid no attention to the weight of expert opinion on each side, so a maverick view was given equal weight to the view held by the vast majority of experts.  This then gives the impression to viewers and readers that both views are equally valid. 
 
            There is also evidence that many people did not vote on facts or information but rather on gut feeling.  More facts and information were not going to change the minds of these people.  Rather, a campaign which spoke to the heart as well as the head, for Remain, was what was lacking.  A longer campaign period would have made no difference.
 
            

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