Author: Oliver Conolly

The Case for a Second EU Referendum

There is a great deal of talk in Britain at the moment about a “People’s Vote”—a referendum on the terms of the withdrawal agreement between the UK government and the EU, with an option to remain in the EU. It was predictable in June 2016 that sooner or later minds would focus on the terms of the agreement that would need to be reached as part of the process when the British government triggered Article 50, the clause of the Treaty on European Union that enables member states to secede. One of the advantages of the time-limited nature of the Article 50 process is that it means the issue cannot be delayed indefinitely. This focusing of minds has, unsurprisingly, led to widespread calls for a “People’s Vote.” It is equally unsurprising that the proposal should encounter stiff resistance. Many voters were led to believe, not least by the British Government, that their vote in the 2016 referendum would settle the matter of the UK’s EU membership once and for all. Against that backdrop, many people …

Direct Democracy and Its Discontents

The word “democracy” has a kind of halo around it. In right-thinking circles, criticism of democracy seems inherently indecent. This is not completely unwarranted. There is a good deal to be said in favour of the various forms of parliamentary democracy that have evolved around the world in the last 250 years. Whilst the causes of (previously unthinkable) increases in living standards around the world in that period are debated by historians, there is a plausible case that parliamentary democracy is at least one of the ingredients of that transformation. And democracy is not merely a means to the end of increased GDP. It also embodies fundamental values which we hold dear, such as respect for the dignity and liberty of the individual. Whilst parliamentary democracy clearly has a lot going for it, direct democracy is something quite different. Of the 196 countries in the world 123 are representative democracies. None are direct democracies. Switzerland – or rather some cantons within in – comes closest, but is still nowhere near a pure direct democracy. What …