Moving our countries, cities, towns and districts towards real "democracy-by-the-people" is not a party-political issue.
So what are the effective ways to return some "power to the people"? Several well-tried "tools" of democracy are available including:
– the Citizens' Proposal (also known as "initiative" and "proposition").
– the Referendum.
Some illustrations follow:
a) The Citizens' Proposal tends to act as an "accelerator" or stimulus in public affairs. Governments may fail to act on an important matter of policy, or assign low priority to another. By formulating a proposal and collecting an agreed number of endorsements, members of an electorate can put the proposal on the public agenda, obliging parliament to debate and decide on the proposal, and if need be triggering a decision by the whole electorate in a referendum ("ballot").
b) The Veto-Referendum, the "brake", may be used to strike out part of a law, annul a law or block a government law before it comes into effect. For current government law, usually an agreed number of signatures must be collected within a few months, in order to usher in a referendum on the legislation which has been challenged.
c) The Recall is a form of Citizens' Initiative which can lead to the sacking of an MP (or councillor) in the period between normal elections. A proposal to "recall" the elected representative must be endorsed by a large number of members of her or his constituency. A successful "recall" must usually be followed by a by-election.
These procedures of democracy are of course not meant to replace, nor would they weaken, parliament and government.
It is of interest to note that the Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties have repeatedly promised to devolve power to the "lowest possible" level. After gaining power the Conservative/Libdem coalition put forward some surprisingly advanced proposals for improving democracy in Britain. For instance, the coalition agreement among other related ideas promises:
– We will give residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue.
– We will give residents the power to veto excessive council tax increases.
– We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall ...
Elsewhere David Cameron promised to introduce "The right to initiate local and national referenda" ('Fixing broken politics' speech May 2009).
It is by no means certain that the Con/Libdem coalition is sincere about the above described reforms nor is it clear that their leaders can realistically hope to deliver in the face of anticipated opposition from their own back benches and elsewhere. They need our help and encouragement!
Those many citizens (more than seven in ten adults according to surveys) who yearn for people-powered democracy in all parts of the UK could rise to take these politicians AT THEIR WORD.
Moving our countries, cities, towns and districts towards real "democracy-by-the-people" is not a party-political issue. Whatever your political views, so long as you want better democracy then please join in yourself or support others who actively campaign.
I&R ~ GB Citizens' Initiative and Referendum
Campaign for direct democracy in Britain