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David Deans

Good post, although I think you miss that the referendum also had a lot to do with keeping a certain R Murdoch onside, for a certain election in May 2005.

I know its virtually impossible now, but I do wish they'd drop plans for the vote for what is, essentially, an over-blown and hyped treaty that should be bashed out through the commons and not through the column inches of the trash press, as it will be...

Third Avenue

You're quite right - the Murdoch press (and the Daily Mail et al) are part of the problem as well.

The Digester

I agree with much of this. Goes hand in hand I think with a very modern loss of a fundamental principle -- that there are some people who are *better* at doing some things than the average person. Thus instead of doctors we have alternative therapists; instead of political journalists we have phone-ins; and instead of representational democracy we have referenda.

At the risk of sounding like Peter Hitchens, anti-authoritarianism can swing too far.

Shuggy

Agree with you 100% - referenda are the devices of dictators and demagogues (Clement Atlee?). Amongst the things they do - as well as circumvent parliamentary democracy, as you say - is oversimplify and polarise subtle questions, like the way this one is being presented.

Governments only have them when they think they can win - and if they lose, they simply have them again as with Ireland.

Personally, I think it's pointless - not simply to have them - but to even ask them if they want one; they're bound to say yes but that doesn't mean a damn thing.

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