Saira Khan decided to set up OUR SAY after being invited by Helena Kennedy to speak at the POWER Inquiry conference in May 2006. Since then, the campaign has attracted support across the political spectrum.
Helena Kennedy QC, Chair, Power Inquiry:
“One of the key factors behind the establishment of the POWER Commission was to develop new ways of re-engaging disillusioned voters in the political process. Giving every citizen a real say and a vote in the issues that matter most in their lives, alongside constitutional and other reforms, we believe will help to mend politics in this country.”
Ferdinand Mount, Vice Chair, Power Inquiry and former Director of the Centre for Policy Studies:
“I cannot think of one single reform which would do more to rekindle interest in politics than to give voters the right to trigger a referendum on the local and national issues that are dearest to their hearts.'”
Tony Juniper, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth:
“This is an exciting initiative. It is really important that people have the opportunity to hold politicians to account when they fail to respond on serious issues such as climate change.”
Lembit Opik, Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire:
“It must surely be right in principle to give the British public a democratic method to occasionally express a view on specific matters of national importance. In this context, referendums, if handled correctly, can complement our representative democracy, rather than undermine it. Can it work? Yes. It already does in other countries. While parliamentarians – and the Government – may find the concept threatening, it would be better for them to regard it as an opportunity to work with the country they serve, instead of dictating to it as increasingly seems to be the case. The details must be right, but referendums could re-establish a more practical linkage between the general public and the body politic.”
Nigel Smith, Ex-Chairman of Scottish Devolution YES Campaign:
“Say Yes to more say. Establishing a way of making more decisions by referendum will refresh our democracy not threaten it.”
Michael Gove, Conservative MP for Surrey Heath:
"Politics should be about giving people the tools to change our communities for the better. At the moment political decision-making is too distant from the people. That needs to change. Democracy is too precious to be rationed"
Professor Matt Qvortrup, Professor of Government, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen:
“Countries that use referendums also tend to be the ones that protect civil liberties because governments feel constrained in their actions. That is why the Our Say campaign is so timely for the UK.”
Diana Wallis, Liberal Democrat MEP, Leader of of the Lib Dems in the European Parliament and President of the Switzerland, Iceland and Norway Delegation and the EEA JPC:
"Such reforms could help end the frustration of many individuals up and down the country who are "political", but feel their views are no longer voiced by politicians or political parties. They want to be able to do something themselves. By using initiatives and referendums, which are elements of "direct democracy" proposed by "Our Say", individuals would begin to feel enfranchised. It is exciting and to be much welcomed that such a campaign has got underway in the UK."
Jean Lambert, Green Party MEP for London:
"The Green Party has been a long-standing advocate for a citizens' initiative. A vote every five years under 'first past the post' does not make a healthy or properly functioning democracy. Instead, it can fuel public disillusionment and disengagement, whilst concentrating power in marginal seats. Referendums can make an real difference and are a crucial part of the change needed to deepen and revitalise democracy. The 'Our Say'campaign has the potential to make a big and important contribution in the long struggle to make our democracy one we can be truly proud of."
Nicholas Boles, Director, Policy Exchange:
“Voting for other people to make all the decisions for you is a primitive concept - developed in the days where most people couldn't read or write and it took weeks to get a message from one end of the country to the other. Politicians of all parties should stop ganging up against the people that elect them and let us have our say.”
Derek Wyatt, Labour MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey:
"I've always liked the idea that citizens could petition Parliament and their local councils; I'd like MPs to be able to petition the Speaker for the recall of Parliament when there are wars and acts of terrorism; I'm taken by the American system that allows citizens to petition and vote on issues at elections"
Unlock Democracy, established by Charter 88 and the New Politics Network:
"We welcome the establishment of this new campaign and look forward to working closely with Saira Khan to help ensure this great idea becomes reality. Contrary to popular belief, Citizen's Initiatives systems are not an alternative to our system of representative democracy, but a vital complementary tool. Party politics only goes so far to reflect public opinion and Citiizen's Initiative provide a useful reality check for politicians. Those who truly embrace democratic renewal will welcome such a system being established in the UK."
Iain Dale, Britain's premier Conservative Blogger:
"Every politician should want to let the people speak. Our Say's initiative will help give a voice to those people who feel let down by the political process. Be very suspicious of any politician who argues against Our Say. They want to keep power to themselves and believe they know better than the people they claim to represent. They don't."
And what do others say about referendums?
Professor Richard Layard, Happiness:
“In Switzerland… it turns out that people are much happier where they have more rights to referendums.”
Professor Vernon Bogdanor, The People and the Party System, The Referendum and Electoral Reform in British Politics:
“In the last resort, the arguments against the referendum are also arguments against democracy, while acceptance of the referendum is but the logical consequence of accepting the democratic the democratic from of government”.
The Economist, 1996:
“Most objections to direct democracy are, when you look closely, objections to democracy”
John Locke, Two Treatises of Government:
“If a controversie arise betwixt a Prince and some of the People, in a matter where the Law is silent, or doubtful, and the thing be of great consequence, I think the proper Umpire in such a case should be the Body of the People”
And who has helped to launch the campaign?
who is handling the media and research for the campaign. Isabel also managed the campaign launch. Isabel is a former political journalist who worked on a number of local newspapers.
who has helped to raise some of the funds to launch the campaign.
the Director of the Power Inquiry who was the original inspiration behind Saira first getting involved in the campaign.
Do you want to "punish" the PM?
Ever wanted to make politicians feel the true impact of their policies? Or think that too many MPs live in their own world, isolated from the daily experiences of the rest of the population? Over-crowded tubes, dangerous streets, endless tax bills... the list is endless. Well, now you have the chance to get your own back. OUR SAY has developed a new website that lets you make Gordon Brown live in the real world - and you can sign our petition to support citizens initiatives at the same time. So if you want to "punish" the PM, click here.
Gordon Brown endorses Citizens Initiatives at a local level
In his first major speech on constitutional changes, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown has given a clear indication of his support for Citizens Initiatives at a local level. Gordon Brown proposed in the speech on 3rd July that people would be able to initiate changes at a local level through a new "community right to call for action" as well as new powers to give electors a vote on spending decisions over neighbourhood and youth budgets. In September, the Conservatives produced similar proposals, again endorsing local referendums, in their Quality of Life policy proposals.
Zac Goldsmith endorses local referendums
The renowned environmental campaigner, Zac Goldsmith, has backed local referendums as a means of giving people a say over community wide issues. In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Zac Goldsmith argues that planning issues are the best type of decision to be made by local polls. To read the full article, click here.
More Democracy = More Happiness
A new study by Professor Matt Qvortrup has established a link between direct democracy and happiness. The study, entitled the Voting Happiness Index, found that people living US states that used Citizens' Initiatives were significantly happier than those that did not use this form of direct democracy. Click here for the full story.
Put road pricing to public vote
The Government should put any road pricing proposals to a public vote following the news that one million people had signed a petition on the 10 Downing Street e-petition website opposing a road pricing scheme. Saira Khan thinks that letting the public decide would ensure that all the arguments were properly debated and would be a real legacy for the Prime Minister to leave. For the full story click here. Read Charles Moore's piece on the issue in this week's Spectator or Martin Bright in the New Statesman. Saira has also written a piece in The Guardian.
Why not support OUR SAY's petition for Citizens' Initiatives - you can log onto Downing Street's website here.
Time for supply side politics?
The Centre for Policy Studies has published a new pamphlet, Supply side politics, advocating the introduction of Citizens' Initiatives as a way of tackling disillusionment with democracy. The book is written by Professor Matt Qvortrup and argues that if Britain were to introduce this form of direct democracy it would increase turnout and improve the quality of political decisions. Copies of the book are available from the CPS website or more information here or read Peter Riddell's piece in The Times.
Helena Kennedy supports Citizens' Initiatives to revive democracy
Helena Kennedy has backed Citizens Initiatives to help revive democracy in Britain. Her support came as part of the launch of a new campaign - makeitanissue - around the proposals contained in the Power Inquiry's report last year. In an article in The Independent, she argues that it is time for politicians to share some power: "from climate change to crime, people want a proper debate and want contribute to decisions". Read Helena's article in The Independent here or log onto the Power Inquiry's campaign here.
Campaign launch wins support
OUR SAY was launched in September 2006 to push for much greater use of referendums on issues of public interest. The campaign is the brainchild of Saira Khan, star of The Apprentice and commentator on current affairs. Saira's article in The Times - click here - outlines how "citizen's initiatives" offer a constructive way of giving people a renewed stake in the democratic process at a time when confidence in politics in Britain is at a low ebb. The campaign has attracted supporters from across the political spectrum.