The case for referendums

WHEN Winston Churchill proposed a referendum to Clement Attlee in 1945 on whether Britain’s wartime coalition should be extended, Attlee growled that the idea was an “instrument of Nazism and fascism”. The use by Hitler and Mussolini of bogus referendums to consolidate their power had confirmed the worst fears of sceptics. The most democratic of devices seemed also to be the most dangerous to democracy itself.