Tomorrow, a major new initiative will be launched with the aim of bringing democracy closer to people. It is seeking to emulate the Swiss and various US States where people can trigger national referenda by signing a petition. The pressure group is called OUR SAY and is the brainchild of Saira Khan, star of The Apprentice.
Their press release says OUR SAY "offers a creative and constructive way of giving people a renewed stake in the democratic process at a time when confidence in politics in Britain is at an all-time low. OUR SAY believes that declining electoral turnout and public cynicism are the direct result of a political system that doesn’t listen to people. Under the group’s proposals, one million people would need to sign a petition to trigger a national referendum while a local vote could be held with the support of a few thousand voters. The result of such referendums would become law."
OUR SAY’s proposals are based on the "citizens’ initiatives" ideas in the POWER Inquiry report published in February 2006. Similar systems operate successfully in a variety of other countries, notably Switzerland, New Zealand, Poland and a number of US states. OUR SAY has already gained the backing of politicians, academics and campaign groups from across the political spectrum and aims to win support from all the main political parties. The group is also looking for a local authority willing to trial a referendum for a controversial local issue.
OUR SAY’s proposals:
* Referendums to be triggered by a petition supported by 2.5% of the electorate - one million people for a national referendum or 3-4,000 for a local issue. Signatures would have to be gathered within a set period and verified by the Electoral Commission. The outcome of the referendum would be binding on Parliament or the relevant local authority.
* Referendums could only be held once a year, on Referendum Day, which would
coincide with local elections.
* There would be strict limits on expenditure during the referendum campaigns and the Electoral Commission would have the duty of setting a fair, balanced question. Broadcast media would be required to ensure that there was equal coverage for both sides of any referendum question.
Launching the campaign, Saira Khan, Chair of OUR SAY, said: "Politics in Britain is broken. So many people are disillusioned and cynical about the way the system works. It’s no good simply tinkering. Politicians have to get serious about sharing power with the people. That’s what OUR SAY aims to do by giving every citizen a direct say over the issues that really matter to them."
On the face of it, this is an initiative I will support wholeheartedly. Let the People speak! Want an English Parliament? Want to come out of the EU? Want to abolish speed cameras? Want to introduce Sharia Law? We really would be able to have genuine debates. I hope the Conservative Party will take this initiative very seriously indeed. More on the Our Say Webiste HERE.