direct democracy UK

The term 'direct democracy'  means more than just referendums it can mean:

1 The people are able to make important decisions rather than leaving decision making to elected or appointed representatives. e.g the referendum on Brexit.

2 The people are directly involved in the process of political decision-making. This means they take part by being consulted and giving their opinions in a way that might change the decision. e.g in citizens juries or through sortition- being selected at random

Types of direct democracy

There are a number of ways in which direct democracy is used today.

Click Here for: Referendums and how they are used


.An initiative is when groups of  citizens organise a petition on a specific issue. If enough people sign, the government is forced to hold a referendum on the issue. They are called initiatives because it is the people who have taken the initiative, rather than the government.

Initiatives are common  in  the USA, in states such as such as California, but are rare in the UK and have only been held at a very local level. Since 1972 Parish Councils can organise a referendum after a petition.  Since 2011 the Localism Act  gave councils  the power to hold referendums on local issues if triggered by 5% of the  local electorate in a petition. However local referendums are not binding. 

Public consultations

It is increasingly the case that governments at various levels carry out a public consultation before making important decisions. Local authorities, for example, often ask the community how they would prefer funds to be allocated between different services. Central government too is increasingly using this device. The internet makes such exercises easier. The Localism Act 2011 also requires local authorities to hold local referendums if they plan to increase the Council Tax by more than 5%.

Why did Citizens' Juries not take off in the UK? 


Although most petitions are not binding, they may be influential if large numbers of citizens may sign a petition on a particular issue. In the UK Parliament,  e-petitions of over 100.000 are reviewed by the Petitions Committee and time can be allocated for a debate on the issue. In the Scottish Parliament, there is  also a  committee to consider such petitions and the more supported ones have to be debated by the whole Parliament and have some impact on Scottish government. 

Recall Petitions- The Recall Act allows the Speaker to grant a petition to be held in the constituency of an MP who has committed serious criminal or ethical offenses. Recall used for the first time Result

Recall of MPs Act 2015