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Is there a tension between Parliamentary Democracy and referendums?

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Published on Nov 17, 2016

Is there a tension between Parliamentary Democracy and referendums? Nat le Roux, Constitution Society
McDougall Trust workshop: 9th November 2016

About the topic: There are no clear constitutional principles which govern the circumstances in which a referendum should be held in Britain, or how it should be conducted. In consequence, the referendum is a flexible and powerful political device, which government seems willing to deploy with increasing frequency. A referendum which is 'advisory' - rather than post-legislative - is potentially destabilizing in a parliamentary system because it creates an alternative source of democratic legitimacy which arguably empowers government to override or bypass the legislature. As current events seem to demonstrate, the paradox of competing legitimacies is compounded when a referendum seeks a binary answer to a complex question capable of multiple responses. Nat le Roux explores the issue in this highly topical workshop.

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