Sunday, 23 September 2007

Parishioners carry out referendum

The tiny village of East Stoke near Wareham in Dorset sounds an unlikely sort of place to start a revolution but it's been the scene of an unusual event this past week which just might be the start of something very significant in the democratic process. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is prepared to renege on the promise of his predecessor to hold a referendum on the question of the European Constitution. Originally of course the French and Dutch had scuppered the proposals so the powers that be have made one or two small changes, called it a treaty rather than a constitution so that in revised form it can come into effect. Whatever the politicians say I still consider that it is a proposal for a constitution and should still be put to the population at large.

Now it so happens that by way of an obscure piece of legislation a meeting can be called to discuss whether to hold a vote on an issue. If a minimum of 10 people at that meeting call for a poll then it must go ahead. The East Stoke question was absolutely straightforward: "Do you want a referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty? Yes or No?". For that parish at least it was a very substantial "Yes" - out of the 300 plus parishioners 80 turned up with the result Yes 72, No 8.

Now in Devon and Cornwall there has been some interest in using this democratic process. Places as diverse as Sidmouth, Shaldon, Newton and Noss, Lanteglos by Fowey and Mawgan-in-Meneage could soon be in the limelight.

Whatever the outcome of any future mini referenda it would be good to see this government severely embarrassed. Politicians just pay lip service to democracy, if they can squirm away from it they surely will.

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