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Last Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
The case for referenda
Saira Khan
Saira Khan
Our Say

Saira Khan
Saira takes a stand for referendums

When I appeared on the BBC hit TV show "The Apprentice", I never dreamed that it would lead to getting involved in politics - a book deal or some media work maybe?

But politics surely, that was something for other people?

That was before I was invited to take part in the Power Inquiry conference.

To prepare myself for the speech, I decided to read the Power Inquiry report from start to finish to find out about the state of British politics.

The findings were truly shocking.

It showed disillusionment with politics, falling turnout at elections and a dramatic decline in membership of parties.

These are all signs that our democracy is in serious trouble.

I also realised that finding a solution could not be left to politicians alone. After all, they are partly responsible for creating the problems in the first place.

People empowerment

One of the Power Inquiry's proposals struck me instantly as a way of giving people a real say over the big political decisions that affect their lives to introduce citizens' initiatives giving people a direct vote on major decisions of public policy.

The idea is based on a system that operates in many other countries around the world - most famously in Switzerland.

It allows voters to call a referendum on any subject as long they can gather the required number of signatures.

The results of the referendums become law.

Saira Khan
Saira is making a stand for people politics

I believe this would have a major impact in helping to reinvigorate our democracy.

People are turned off traditional politics because they don't feel it gives them any influence over the issues they care about.

Citizens' initiatives would give them that say.

I looked carefully as to how this could work in the UK and have now launched a new group - "Our Say". The group campaigns for this idea.

The deal...

Under our proposals, if one million people sign a petition, a national referendum would be held. On a local level, a few thousand signatures would be enough to trigger a vote. Votes would be held once a year on Referendum Day, to coincide with local elections.

I am certain this initiative would help restore faith in our political system.

But if I had needed convincing, a trip to my home town of Nottingham to film for The Politics Show would have done the job.

The people I spoke to there have simply lost trust in politics and politicians. They feel their vote counts for nothing and have no influence on issues that matter to them.

Convincing politicians to share power with the people will certainly not be easy.

But I am certain of one thing - we are no threat to politicians.

On the contrary, we are the answer to their problems.

Join Jon Sopel and guests for the Politics Show on Sunday 17 September 2006 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.

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