Armstrong on Referendum timing

John Armstrong writes:

Unless the Prime Minister is planning to go to the country much earlier than everyone expects, her assertion that it is not possible to hold the anticipated citizens-initiated referendum on the anti-smacking law on election day simply does not stack up.

claims there is not enough time for the referendum to run alongside the general election “just in terms of sheer organisation”.

The real reason, of course, is Labour does not want its election campaign sullied by periodic discussion of the smacking law whose “nanny-state” connotations have proved to be so damaging to her and her party.


There are good reasons for holding such plebiscites on election day. They are considerably cheaper than stand-alone ones. There is also likely to be a much higher voter turnout.

So to hide the realpolitik, the Prime Minister cites practical difficulties in organising a referendum.

But if that is the case, then it would be impossible to hold a snap election. In case the Prime Minister has forgotten, the 1984 snap election was called by Sir Robert Muldoon just four weeks before polling day. Somehow, electoral officials coped.

In fact, the law covering citizens-initiated referendums specifically allows Parliament to shift the date of a referendum to the day of a snap election. That suggests there is sufficient time and it is not a problem.

Useful piece of research. Basically saying one can do a referendum in 4 – 6 weeks if really pushed. Well with five months to go until the election, there is oodles of time.

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