Nigel Farage: Give electorate the power to trigger referendums


Whitehall Editor

Pressure groups should be able to trigger binding national referendums on any subject if they get the support of just five per cent of the electorate, the Ukip leader Nigel Farage suggested today.

Under plans that will form part of Ukip’s general election manifesto, referendums would automatically be held if more than 2.3 million signed a petition on any issue of Government policy.

Mr Farage claimed the move would help create “direct democracy” in Britain and reduce the disconnect between voters and their elected representatives in Westminster.

But he admitted that such a move could be divisive and potentially tie the hands of Government on controversial issues such as nuclear power, fracking and HS2.

Speaking to an audience of civil servants at the Institute for Government Mr Farage said while there were risks to giving voters a greater direct say on Government policy he believed the benefits outweighed the risks.

And he pointed to countries like Switzerland that have held seven referendums on subjects such as the minimum wage and immigration so far this year.

“I feel that we need a complete redefinition of how our democratic system works,” he said. “We’ve lived for centuries with the idea that we send a representative to Westminster and they will make decisions on our behalf and be judged every four of five years at a General Election.

“I don’t think that system has served us very well. What Ukip is going to propose is something radical.

“We will commit in our manifesto to direct democracy. The way to trigger a national referendum would be five per cent of the electorate to sign up to a validated petition – or 2.3 million people.

“To mobilise and organise that many people over four or five months would not lead to us having frivolous referendums – it would show that there was a disconnect between how the Government was moving and public opinion on big issues.”

Mr Farage added that such a move would be a “valuable safety net” for when “the political class have got too far out of touch with public opinion”. He suggested that if such a measure had been place in the past it would have helped to prevent British involvement in foreign military interventions such as Iraq and Libya.

“Most of those have made the world a far less safe place than it was before and I suspect if we had direct democracy we would not have bombed Libya and would not even have considered getting to heavily involved in Syria.”

Mr Farage said the party would also campaign to give voters the power to “recall” MPs without the prior approval of Parliament and for the introduction of a written constitution.

He said he could not “pretend for one moment that Ukip will form the next Government” but added that that the party might be in a position to “effect what is in the manifestos of the other parties” and might even be in a position where there are “deals to be done” if the party does well at the next election.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment

Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Security Advisor – Permanent – Surrey - £60k-£70k

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

MI Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – £25k-£35k

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

Primary General Cover Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Southampton: We are looking for Primary School ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album