The Dutch election has been and gone; the French presidential election been and gone; our own county council elections ditto but how much do we care? The French presidential election saw 75% of the electorate voting. The UK county council elections less than 40%. Yet the air is thick with demands for accountability and responsibility of politicians – I suppose another way of putting that is that the electorate does not trust politicians. The vote is important but I do not think that is the most important issue. The real concern is where our sovereignty lies.
We are, after all, subjects of a monarch or a sovereign. A thousand years ago the sovereignty indeed lay with the sovereign and that power was absolute. Over the intervening time, the people gradually took back that power and so, indeed, the people became the sovereign power. Michael Portillo, among others, doesn’t like the idea of referendums because our way of expressing the power of our sovereignty is by our parliamentary democracy – our representative democracy. If we were to have more direct expression of our power, if, for example, the politicians were told, by the result of a referendum, to enact the wish of the people, would we be more likely to vote/participate? That is, indeed, a leading question, but the answer depends very much on the considerations and attitude towards who is sovereign!