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Confessions of a referendum geek

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.



One comment on “Confessions of a referendum geek

  1. elrondmiddleeng
    September 9, 2014

    Very true, interest will generate voters.

    For most of the population local elections are an irrelevance, councilors have little power. All the decisions and power is in the none elected overpaid executive officers.

    An example in my neck of the woods, where an unnecessary incinerator is being build. (There is another that went online 15 miles away). Our councillor was dead against the incinerator. He was basically told by the non elected council officers, that if he voted against it then he would be personally liable for no implementing some waste directive.

    So little wonder none of us bother to vote in local elections.

    General elections, we have a manifesto from the two parties (yes there are others but they don’t get elected because of the system) Both have items I agree with, and both have policies I hate. My vote is used to support issues I don’t agree with. So I have to look at all the issues and choose the least damaging party. That normally is Conservative because Labour is spend thrift and has virtually destroyed our county under Brown and my neighbour Blair , and seemingly have not learnt its lesson under Miiliband.

    I don’t support all the Conservative policies, and felt the coalition did put a restraint on some of the more outrageous polices Cameron could have implemented.

    One failure though was the boundaries commission, which would have made the number of votes to elect one of the major parties more equitable. Labour have such an advantage in general elections. The disaster of a yes vote in Scotland would be mitigated by the loss of the Scottish Labour MPs.

    Another aspect is most of the law changes that affect people directly are no longer made in this country but outside in Europe. Electing Labour or Conservative has no effect on whether we can buy 2200 watt cleaners or which criminals we can send back to the country they came from. So we end up with two spineless parties who can’t change laws that affect people.

    National health I hear you cry. Bother parties support and increase funding to the national health. no difference there.

    Alas both spineless parties can’t make big decisions on major infrastructure. This leaves this country in a perilous spiral to third world status. Planning for new homes is always slow. When it happens its always stop start. Thankfully we have a higher rate of building now. They all have put off the decisions of new runways at Heathrow for decades, and can’t sanction new Nuclear reactors which are both green and now despartly needed for when the sun does not shine, or the wind does not blow. Coal is not an option because of Green directives from Europe. We have become hostage to Russia for our gas supplies.

    Then we have the rediculous Green initiative which is funding me to the tune of several thousand pounds to replace my oil boiler with a heat pump. Rediculous because I can afford to pay it my self, and its going to be putting more load on the national grid at a time where we are nearer to blackouts than any time since the coal miners were conned by Scargill to destroy their own industry.

    I was talking with a Swiss guy, would referenda on all aspects of policy help, both local and national. They apparently have referendum every 3 months of National laws, Regional Laws and Local Laws. At least we are voting for something we are interested in, and not bound by the manifesto slate. The turn out on the National referendum is around 56%. That’s quite a reasonable turnout on individual policies.

    By the way I have not missed voting in any elections for the last 30 years or so, and I mostly take the opportunity to email the combatants personally on policies I am interested in.


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This entry was posted on September 8, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

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