Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Friday, 16 March 2012

Butler Lecture: The Second Superpower

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Our system of democracy is in danger, and referendums are flawed devices, used when politicians lose their nerve, the president of YouGov research agency has warned.

Delivering the Butler Lecture for the BBC and Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, YouGov President Peter Kellner said that the UK needed to shore up the foundations of representative democracy.

"To do this, we need to promote a more candid political culture - and to resist the growing clamour for direct democracy," he said.

"I contend that referendums are not exercises in democratic purity, but deeply flawed devices that we turn to when politics fails and politicians lose their nerve."

This is the second in the series of lectures, given as a tribute to Sir David Butler, in recognition of his 50 years of contributions to BBC election programmes. It is given in association with the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

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