This is our truth, tell us yours
I’m a geek.
Not in that infuriating, I’m a geek way that describes male gamers with not enough friends and disturbingly sweaty fantasies about ruling the world.
I’m a geek in that I get fascinated by ideas or technologies. If I’d been an eighteenth century woman I’d have been fascinated by the techniques of embroidery, sewing samplers with an obsessive attention to detail and hidden messages in the imagery.
I bring that geekery to all sorts of areas. Geekery is about how you behave, not about the technology or ideas. The place where my geekery is most unconfined at the moment is the Scottish independence referendum.
Now don;t get me wrong. I have strong opinions about which outcome I’d prefer from the referendum. It would be odd to live in the debatable lands, give a shit and not be interested in the outcome. However, as a geek, it’s not the final headline score that interests me.
The score that interests me is the turnout. The reason is because I’m a turnout geek in general. Back in the innocent times before the true horrors of Iraq became real, in 2003, Labour experimented with different voting methods for local council elections. In some seats, outside the big cities and their bitterly contested claims of electoral fraud, all postal local council elections achieved turnouts of 60%, better than some parliamentary seats in 2010.
So rumours of a 75% to 80% turnout in the Scottish referendum are fascinating. Not just fascinating in a look at that kind of way, but because of what they tell us about the solutions previously offered to problems of low turnout. Labour’s experiments of the early noughties proved that changing voting methods could influence turnout. In the intervening period all manner of nostrums have been offered, but the Scottish referendum has proved a simple point. Give the electorate something to get excited about, a feeling that they can make a difference, and they will turnout.
For two decades we have been told that there is only one way, neo-liberalism. We have been told that the choices are restricted to flavours of market capitalism. The Scottish referendum is shaping up to be an election that proves that big turnouts are possible if you have big issues.