Sunday, 5 April 2020

A Referendum Is An Act Of Self-Determination

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REGULAR READERS will know that the National Liberal Party (NLP) intended to stand up to 25 candidates in theGreater London Assembly elections – which were scheduled for 7th May.


Here, we were going to campaign on the issue ofSelf-Determination ForAll! The election would have provided us with an excellent opportunity to hone our social media skills and build a powerful Self-Determinist electoral bloc. However, as we reported two days ago – http://nationalliberal.org/public-notice – they have now been postponed for a year due to thecorona virus outbreak.


With this in mind, the NLP has cancelled its planned donors dinner (27th) and election meeting (29th) until further notice. But this doesn’t mean that we’ll be placing less emphasis on Self-Determination. In fact, we’ll be stepping up a gear! In the same way a dog is for life and not just for Christmas, we feel that Self-Determination is for life and not just for elections!

We believe that the principle of Self-Determination can be applied largely in three areas – National, Political and Economic. Our intended Greater London Assembly (GLA) election campaign would have mainly focussed on National Self-Determination. However, we also intended to look at matters relating to Political & Economic Self-Determination as well.


The first article (in this series of three) looked at Economic Self-Determination – see For Economic Self-Determinationhttp://nationalliberal.org/for-economic-self-determination However, in this article we’ll be looking at Political Self-Determination.

The NLP definesPolitical Self-Determination as a system which ‘seeks to ensure that the collective will of the people as well as the variety of political opinion is reflected in decision making. Thus, for example, we favour greater use of Referendums to meet the former, and PR to reflect the latter (we favour a system close to the Swiss model of Direct Democracy).’

As the title of this article –A Referendum Is An Act Of Self-Determinationsuggests, we would like to see representative democracy replaced by participatory democracy in the form of Referendums (as well as Preferendums). The NLP feels that direct democracy should be the only show in town.

For those who don’t know, a referendum isa method of referring a question or set of questions to the entire electorate directly.’ Since 1973 the UK has held 11 referendums, the most famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view!) being the EU Referendum of 2016. (1)

We would prefer that referendums were held on a much more regular basis – as they do in Switzerland. In future articles we’ll take a more in-depth look at referendums (and look at some examples from Switzerland itself).

Referendums are usually decided on a simple ‘Yes/No’ vote. However, it could be argued that preferendums are more democratic in that they allow the electorate toselect a range of different options (generally, three or more) in order of their preference. It’s thought that the use of a preferential voting system – rather than a simple majority – also accurately allows everyone’s point of view to be taken into account.

Other elements of Political Self-Determination must include replacing the ‘First Past The Post’ (2) voting system with one of Proportional Representation. As indicated in the articleFrom The Liberty Wall – Total Democracy – We Want Total Democracy! there also needs to be a ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option on the ballot paper (3) and a process of Voter Recall.

We’re also interested in the system whereby members of the public can create petitions which can be debated in parliament if they attract100,000 signatures or more (4). However, it has obvious flaws in that the Petitions Committee (which consists of around a dozen MPs) has the power to decide what and can’t be presented for debate.

Again, we’ll be looking at these issues in more depth in the near future.

So far we’ve concentrated on Political Self-Determination initiatives that are largelyNational in nature. However, we feel that many of them can also be adapted toLocal government. With this in mind, we’ve recently been advised of a system employed in Spain whereby locals have a direct say in the spending of a portion of the local budget. As this brief article (5) from The Post (a Spanish-based weekly English language paper) of early October 2019 notes:

‘Residents of San Pedro del Pinatar can have their say on the local budget until October 13, the town hall announced last week.

The council has allocated€200,000 to a participative budget scheme (presupuesto participativo), for which residents can send their proposals via the municipal website, www.sanpedrodelpinatar.es

Proposals can be made by any resident aged over 16, who is registered on the municipal register (padrón) and the cost of carting them out cannot exceed the €200,000 budget.

Council technicians will then select the most feasible proposals and these will be posted on the website so that they can be voted on between November 18 and 22.

The winning proposal will be included in the budget for 2020.’

The NLP feels that a similar system could be introduced by UK local authorities. This’ll give local communities some say over the spending of a proportion of their rates and would be an effective form of local political Self-Determination.

  1. https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/elections/referendums-held-in-the-uk/
  2. We believe that the current ‘First Past The Post’ (FPTP) electoral system is not fit for purpose. Indeed, it could be argued that FPTP is anti-democratic. It’s certainly injust as it actually allows governments to be formed with only a fraction of the overall vote. For instance, the 2005 Labour government only had the support of 35% of the electorate whilst in 2015, the Tories formed a government with only 37% of the vote https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/voting-systems/types-of-voting-system/first-past-the-post/
  3. http://nationalliberal.org/from-the-liberty-wall-–-total-democracy-–-we-want-total-democracy
  4. https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/sign-a-petition/
  5. https://issuu.com/rotativosdelmediterraneos.l./docs/post_628
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