Posts Tagged ‘voting’

Like everyone else, I’ve been thinking a lot about the EU referendum outcome and what it all means. I went on holiday immediately after the result so there is a distinctively Italian flavour to my ruminations, as you’ll see. To me, the result is best explained in terms of “outsiders looking in to someone else’s party”. I explain this further below, drawing (of course) on a mediaeval horse race and the 1990 World Cup to build my argument. Read on.

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Oh no, not that tone again; anything but that tone.

I was prepared for Farage’s monstrous braying. I steadied myself for Boris burlesquing a bit of Horace or Plutarch. I was even ready to endure the sound of Gove’s voice. But I had forgotten how unbearable Scottish people are when they feel politically thwarted these days. Over the past 24 hours or so, the reality of the vote to leave the European Union has unleashed an onslaught of full-spectrum nationalist whining across social media the like of which I’ve never seen before.

The self-righteousness that clogged up the post-indyref atmosphere has descended once more. Across the country, heads shake gently in damp-eyed rebuke as disappointed Facebook posts are bashed out and furious tweets sent. And would you believe it, the SNP leadership has considered events through its single lens and concluded that another indyref is exactly what the country needs in a time of confusion and turmoil. It’s a good job the Scottish Government hasn’t been captured by constitutional obsessives like those UKIP guys, eh?

Now, I lost the run of myself completely during the 2014 referendum. I came to believe many more than six impossible things before breakfast on any given day during the campaign. This blog has essentially been a record of my trajectory from suggestible Yesser back to my general disposition as a skeptic, and I’ve left my early posts on this site as a permanent reminder to myself of the damage enthusiasm can do to rational thinking.

If we’re really going to flirt with having another independence referendum there are a few things we all need to get straight, whether we’re Yes or No or Not Again Please For The Love Of God Not Again. There were lessons to be learned back in 2014 about tone, respect for opponents and preparedness to scrutinise one’s own prejudices – I’m not sure they’ve even been acknowledged let alone assimilated. Well I’m here to help! Learn from my fail by asking yourself the following questions and answering honestly. It can even be our wee secret.  (more…)

The first rule of Question Time is “don’t watch Question Time”. The second rule of Question Time is “don’t go on Twitter during Question Time”. Despite observing these rules assiduously I couldn’t help but hear about the key moment of this week’s EU referendum special. Seemingly channeling Michael Gove’s recent claim that the people of Britain “have had enough of experts“, a member of the Question Time audience attacked the Prime Minister for “relying on experts” to make his case for remaining in the European Union.

Imagine! Those dastardly experts with their insidious expertise – who would want to listen to them?

But perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye. For a start, the audience member was actually making a quite different point to the one assumed by his appalled Twitter critics. If you click on the link above and take the time to listen to him he is actually arguing that the Prime Minister’s choice of expert – in this case the Governor of the Bank of England – has been proven wrong in the past. The man was engaging in critical thinking about the provenance of knowledge. No wonder he went down so badly on social media.

More broadly, I think the Leave campaign’s perceived rejection of expertise illuminates a key tension in our ideas about democracy. In this post I want to explore the idea of common sense, and consider its relationship to the EU referendum.

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When I was a politics student at the turn of the millennium, John Curtice ranked a distant second behind Prof Bill Miller in the league table of Scotland’s leading psephologists. It seems remarkable to look back on it now, I agree – Scottish political coverage without Curtice at the centre, his hair magnetised by the electoral currents raging in the atmosphere? You’d have more chance of seeing Jeremy Corbyn leading the race for Labour leade…oh.

Professor Miller was my lecturer when I studied voting behaviour, a staple of every politics student’s training and very much the professor’s specialist subject. I’ve carried the insights from his lectures with me ever since.

The key lesson, it seemed to me, is that the commonly accepted models for explaining voting behaviour are all partial at best, and disastrous at worst.

I’ve been reflecting on Miller’s lectures recently in a desperate attempt to make some sense of Corbynmania, for good and bad. Here’s where I’ve got to.

(Features Banquo’s ghost, Tony Benn at Glastonbury, and the left wing paradox of harmful kindness).

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Kevin Bridges had a great joke during the indyref, where he imagined parents fretting about their kids indulging in ‘underage voting’.

I was up for a bit of that. I couldn’t wait to vote, and I have loved election day ever since.

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One of the features of the 2015 General Election has been the attention paid to parties in what we might once have seen as the second tier of parliamentary importance. In the likely absence of a clear majority for any party, speculation abounds on the potential for the Lib Dems and/ or the DUP to act as Westminster kingmakers, or for the SNP to adopt the intriguing role of king-slayers.

But there is a further tier of electoral activity that has, understandably, been somewhat deprioritised during this election campaign: the independent candidates and fringe parties. In this post I want to share my love for the mixture of mavericks, seers and occasional bastards who, for me, embody the true democratic spirit.

You can tell a lot about an election from the patterns of participation in it by outsiders, and I think #GE2015 is no different. Interested? Read on. (more…)

It has been two weeks since Scotland’s independence referendum and we’re not short of analysis of what happened and why. However I think there is an angle that has not been explored in sufficient detail, namely the links between the indyref and the two previous referendums held in Scotland in 1979 and 1997.

For this post I have ploughed through the raw voting data from each of the three referendums. I think my findings turn the received wisdom about each referendum on its head to some extent. (more…)