Debating referendums

Yesterday, in both the the morning and the afternoon, I attended evidence-taking sessions of an inquiry being undertaken by the All-Party Group on Drug Policy Reform.  The sessions, like others last month, were extremely illuminating, highlighting the problems faced by different public bodies in seeking to enforce the law.   In between the sessions, I spoke at a conference on ‘The Coming Year in Parliament’ – I was on a panel discussing constitutional reform. 

The day concluded with a discussion recorded for broadcast tomorrow (Saturday) on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Week in Westminster’ programme.  I was debating with Douglas Carswell MP the merits of referendums.  He is a great advocate; I was invited to take part to express a more sceptical view, so I duly obliged.   It proved both lively and enjoyable.  We did, though, agree on one thing – it’s referendums and not referenda.

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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3 Responses to Debating referendums

  1. ladytizzy says:

    I wonder if this is of any help/interest:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/shortcuts/2012/jun/10/the-future-of-drugs-safe?INTCMP=SRCH

    The nub of it:

    “Vaccines for nicotine and cocaine are currently under clinical development to help addicted users. If this works, could or should we vaccinate people to protect them from developing an addiction in the first place, just as we do today with vaccines for polio and whooping cough? Even more controversial is the question of whether vaccines should be administered to children to immunise them against drug and alcohol use. Is it violating somebody’s human rights to take away their choice to experience pleasure from a drug at some point in the future?”

  2. franksummers3ba says:

    Lord Norton,
    I imagine that in Britain also one has a clear sense of what is meant by a referendum. I recognized after the fact when corresponding with you about this subject here and in the other place years ago that what I said was misleading. In Louisiana a number of things end up on the general ballot which we do not call referenda or referendums. The last stage of all constitutional amendments is popular ratiifaction. However, in our own lingo that is entirely separate from the almost never successful process which launches a referendum. Complex historical reasons are behind this difference in language. I have since become aware of similar nuances and a variety of definitions across the globe…

    PS I was happy to see TDoW posting again elsewhere in this blog.

  3. Chris K says:

    When both parties are so out of touch with the public on major issues (mainly constitutional) I must admit to having become quite keen on referendums.

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