Burke, the soundest reference from an English perspective and, arguably, ceteris paribus, from most others also, would have had this to say about the Swiss practice of referenda:
To quote Burke again, innovation is no guarantee of reform: a practice rooted in the traditions of a rugged, rustic mountain people characterised more by its common sense than by its political sophistication cannot be successfully applied to a country such as the United Kingdom, where Queen in Parliament can enact whatever it fancies, including forbidding Frenchmen from smoking in the streets of Paris, and where popular sovereignty is a meaningless concept.
I am not saying, unlike Herr Cohn-Bendit (or is it Bandit, I never know?), that the Swiss people, who are used to sorting out far more complicated issues than this one, have done anything inappropriate. But it would be ridiculous to believe that, constitutionally, that event tells us anything about what it would be appropriate to do in the United Kingdom, Germany or France. It has, unfortunately, set people’s imaginations rolling in the most absurd directions. In the latter country, draft legislation being prepared by members of the ruling UMP party to ban anyone from appearing in public with their face covered has me scratching my head: does this mean hoodies and balaclavas are out unless, perhaps, the temperature drops beneath thirty degrees Fahrenheit?
Instead of deferring to what they rather hastily presume to be their constituents’ opinions, a little judgment would surely show these gentlemen to what ridiculous depths they are sinking.