Referendums - Electoral Systems

  • Created by: abbeyy01
  • Created on: 05-03-18 17:37


A referendum is a vote on a particular issue, requiring a yes/no response. Example of direct democracy within a representative system. They are called at the discretion of the government, there is no constitutional mechanism for them. 

  • They have to be approved by parliament, which has legal sovereignty 
  • 1st 1973 when Northern Ireland were asked if they wanted to stay in the UK 
  • 1st national referendum held June 1975 Wilson vote on whether to stay in the EEC 
  • Now expectation that a referendum will be called when an important, possibly irreversible, constitutional change is contemplated
  • The decision of leaving the EU wouldn't have occured if left to parliament 
  • Conduct regulated by Electoral Commission, independent body. Make sure wording is subjective, monitors expenditure by rival campaigning groups, designated one main approved leading campaign for each side - they are entitled to recieve a pre-determined amount of public funding 
  • In the EU referendum the two sides were 'Vote Leave' and 'Britain stronger in Europe' 
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The use of referendums

Legitimising a major government initative - Since Blair it is accepted practise to gain public support before embarking on major constitutional changes e.g. 1997 devolution referendums for Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland on 1998 Good Friday Agreement 

Getting a government out of a difficult situation - may face internal disagreement. Referendums insist that colleagues rally behind the popular verdict, help maintain unity. Wilson 1975 split between pro and anti-European factions. If her personally insisted on a side he would have faced resignations. Can also hand off responsibility, makes the gov. less accountable 

A result of a deal between political parties - AV referendum 2011 was part of the coalition agreement in establishing the government in May 2010 

In response to pressure to hold a referendum - Cameron didn't want to hold a referendum initially, he joined forced with the Lib Dems and Labour October 2011 to defeat pressing Conservative backbenchers. He changed his mind Jan 2013 he began to fear the loss of Tory voters to UKIP, he annonced that he would hold an election in re-elected 2015, took issue off the agenda 

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