Alex Massie

The Trouble With Referendums

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I'm not opposed to local referenda and ballot initiatives. But they need to be carefully handled. As commenters have pointed out and as California's experience demonstrates these can easily fall prey to powerful interest groups. This is especially so if the threshold for putting an issue on the ballot is too low. And 5% of available voters is, I'd hazard, too low. Apart from anything else experience suggests that youcan get 10% of voters to believe in just about anything.

Consider this example from tonight's YouGov tracking poll: 11% of voters say they'd like to see a "Grand Coalition" in which the Tories, Labour and the Liberals share power. That's madness, obviously and a reminder that when turnout is too high or too low it can be heavily influenced by people who really ought not to be allowed anywhere near a polling place. The other problem, mind you, is that most of us are, on some given issue, one of those people...

The other interesting finding? Just 19% of respondents say that a Labour government is their preferred outcome. Since 30% say they'd like the Tories to rule on their own this may perhaps suggest that Labour are suffering from an Enthusiasm Gap...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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