Friday, February 5, 2016

YouGov polling on independence, and Scottish voting intentions for the EU referendum

Although the recent Panelbase poll showed a two-point drop in support for independence, that was simply a reversion to the mean.  The Yes vote was 47%, which is very typical of what Panelbase have been reporting since the referendum.  Today's YouGov poll also shows a 2% drop in the Yes vote, but this is something different, because it sees support for independence slipping to 45%, which is outside YouGov's normal range.  Until we see corroboration of that trend from another pollster, the jury will be out on whether public opinion has really shifted, or whether this is a one-off finding.  There is nothing obviously suspicious in the datasets, but remember that one poll in every twenty is expected to be an outright  'rogue poll', ie. less accurate than the standard margin of error of 3% in either direction.  Considerably more than one poll in twenty will be out by 2% or more, so this could just be an extreme example of margin of error 'noise'.  Time will tell.

And the big disparity between YouGov-style online polling and 'real world' polling (telephone and face-to-face) should also be borne in mind.  The only two real world polls on independence since the referendum have shown a clear Yes lead, so even if there has been some recent slippage, it's still perfectly possible that Yes are ahead.

YouGov also asked the EU referendum question, and found overwhelming and growing Scottish support for remaining in the EU - on the very same day that a Britain-wide YouGov poll showed the Leave campaign opening up a potentially significant 9% lead.

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

Remain 55% (+4)
Leave 28% (-3)

That Remain lead is even more emphatic than suggested by the Scottish subsample of the Britain-wide poll (although admittedly the comparison is not completely exact, because part of the fieldwork for the Scottish poll preceded Cameron's failure to secure a substantive deal). The Leave vote is also a whopping 17 points lower than in Britain as a whole, so with the best will in the world, it's very difficult to see how any overall Leave victory isn't going to be coupled with some kind of Remain win in Scotland, thus providing a casus belli for a second independence referendum.

*  *  *

SCOT GOES POP INDEPENDENCE POLL OF POLLS

This update of the independence Poll of Polls takes into account two new polls (Panelbase and YouGov), so the changes are a bit less glacial than normal.  As you'd expect, the run of two successive updates showing an exact 50/50 split has been broken, but the state of play remains very tight.

MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 49.2% (-0.8)
No 50.8% (+0.8)

MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 45.5% (-0.8)
No 47.0% (+0.7)

MEDIAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 47.9% (-1.3)
No 52.1% (+1.3)

(The Poll of Polls is based on a rolling average of the most recent poll from each of the firms that have polled on independence since the referendum, and that adhere to British Polling Council rules. At present, there are six - YouGov, TNS, Survation, Panelbase, Ipsos-Mori and ICM. Whenever a new poll is published, it replaces the last poll from the same company in the sample.)

Labour slip to third place in Scotland in historic YouGov poll

I spoke too soon yesterday afternoon when I pointed out that not a single Scottish Parliament election poll had yet shown the Tories in second place.  Right on cue, here is YouGov's first Scottish poll for several months -

Constituency ballot :

SNP 50% (-1)
Conservatives 20% (+1)
Labour 19% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 6% (+1)

Regional list ballot :

SNP 42% (-3)
Conservatives 20% (+1)
Labour 20% (n/c)
Greens 6% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 5% (n/c)
UKIP 3% (n/c)
SSP 2% (-1)

I suppose the obvious question to pose at a moment like now is : how much of this is the Tories doing comparatively well, and how much of it is just Labour doing appallingly, mind-bogglingly badly?  Obviously there was always a chance that Labour could eventually shed so much support that the Tories would 'overtake' them by default, but there's a bit more to it than that.  The Tories' 20% share is actually well within the margin of error of what they've been receiving with YouGov since the UK general election - if you imagine their true level of support is around 19%, it could be that they haven't gained any support at all over the last few months, and that the small changes shown by YouGov have just been margin of error noise.  But in the crucial period between the independence referendum and the general election, YouGov had them in a range between 12% and 16%, so clearly something has happened since then.  Some of the movement can perhaps be explained by Tory-friendly methodological tweaks, but it's unlikely that all of it can be.

I think the most plausible explanation is that the massive 'first wave' of voter desertion from Labour in the immediate wake of the referendum (largely left-leaning Yes supporters switching direct to the SNP), has been followed since the general election by a smaller 'second wave' of desertions, this time mostly centre-right and centrist unionists.  It's unlikely that these people are typically lifelong Labour voters - many of them may well be 'Murphy Labourites', ie. converts from the Tories and the Lib Dems who liked Scottish Labour's rightward and militant unionist drift, and saw the party as a bulwark against the SNP tide.  It's not hard to understand why they would be having second thoughts now - Labour no longer even present the illusion of being a remotely credible opposition to the SNP, Jackanory Jim has ceased to be Scottish Labour leader, and at UK level the party is for the time being in the hands of the radical left.

YouGov have joined Panelbase in showing Labour on an all-time low, which means the balance of probability must be that the party has genuinely suffered further losses fairly recently.  However, the jury is still out on that, because yesterday's TNS poll actually showed a small rise in Labour's constituency vote (albeit well within the margin of error).  It's also worth noting that this isn't Labour's first sub-20 showing on the constituency ballot across all firms - TNS also had them on 19% in the first post-election poll last spring.

I should point out that, although I now accept there is a genuine chance of the Tories finishing second in May, I still think it's pretty unlikely.  Since the general election, YouGov have emerged as the most Tory-friendly pollster in Scotland, and it could be that this is as good as it'll ever get for Ruth Davidson.  But if the unthinkable does happen, what would be the implications?  We've assumed that another Labour calamity is already factored in as far as most commentators are concerned, thus protecting both Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn from any fallout from the result.  But third place isn't part of the script we've been rehearsing.  Dugdale might end up departing the stage, and we'd have to see whether Sadiq Khan's likely victory in the London mayoral election would be enough to insulate Corbyn from the impact of the Scottish result.  (Given the London-centric nature of the "UK media", it might well be.)

There might also be a subtle change in media reporting of devolved politics.  As we all know, much of the Scottish media tends to follow a Labour press release agenda, which they can get away with due to Labour being the nominal 'alternative government'.  If the SNP and the Tories are the two largest parties, it'll be harder to do that.  The media framing may switch to a left-wing SNP government being challenged by the Tories from the right, in which case the 'cultural hold-outs' in the rump Labour support (people who carry on voting Labour because their faether did and his faether before him) may start to wonder why they're voting for an irrelevant party.

That said, politics in the western world has become much more fluid.  We thought that the Canadian Liberals had become an irrelevance when they were replaced as the official opposition by the NDP, but all it took to get them back into government in one jump was a charismatic leader.  So it would be premature to assume that a third-place finish for Labour would inevitably be the end of the road.

The SNP's showing in this poll is on the 'low' side, although it's within their normal post-referendum range with YouGov - they've been as low as 42% on the list before, and they've been lower than 50% on the constituency vote on three occasions.  But it's going to be murderously hard for the smaller parties and their cheerleaders to claim with a straight face that the SNP's overall majority isn't under threat on these figures, and that SNP supporters have some kind of 'free hit' on the list vote.  Nicola Sturgeon is only polling 5% better on the constituency vote than Alex Salmond managed in 2011, when of course the SNP were well short of winning a majority on constituency seats alone.  If list seats are required to retain the majority, the bad news is that this poll suggests the SNP's list vote is on course to fall from the 44% received in 2011.  The good news is that past history suggests that the gap between the constituency and list votes is likely to be much smaller than polling implies, because an aggressive two-vote strategy can help voters understand that the list vote is not a second preference or 'bonus' vote.

*  *  *

SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS

For now I can only manage a partial update of the Poll of Polls, because the YouGov figures for the smaller parties aren't available yet (or at least not for non-payers of the Murdoch Levy).  I'll try to complete the numbers when it becomes possible.  [UPDATE : Now done.]  Once again the trend has been somewhat distorted, because YouGov are re-entering the sample after a short absence.

Constituency ballot : 

SNP 51.8% (-0.5)
Labour 20.4% (-0.4)
Conservatives 17.6% (+0.6)
Liberal Democrats 5.8% (n/c)

Regional list ballot : 

SNP 46.0% (-1.0)
Labour 19.4% (+0.1)
Conservatives 17.2% (+0.7)
Liberal Democrats 6.8% (-0.5)
Greens 6.6%  (-0.2)

(The Poll of Polls is based on a rolling average of the most recent poll from each of the firms that have reported Scottish Parliament voting intention numbers over the previous three months, and that adhere to British Polling Council rules. At present, there are five - Panelbase, Survation, YouGov, TNS and Ipsos-Mori. Whenever a new poll is published, it replaces the last poll from the same company in the sample.)

*  *  *

Arguably even bigger news from YouGov overnight is a Britain-wide poll showing that the Leave campaign (or should I say "Leave campaigns"?) in the EU referendum has opened up a 45% to 36% lead.  Although we've got used to Leave sometimes having the lead in online polls, it's rare for the gap to be out of 'statistical tie' territory, and it's highly likely that the movement in opinion has been caused by David Cameron's failure to secure a credible deal.  Of course, we have to at all times remember the huge disparity between online and telephone polling on the referendum - it's likely that a phone poll conducted now would still show a substantial lead for Remain.  But just as we need to start taking seriously the idea of Ruth Davidson as leader of the official opposition at Holyrood, we also need to start taking seriously the possibility that Britain might - just might - be heading for the EU exit door, thus opening up the prospect of a relatively early second independence referendum in Scotland.

UPDATE : The datasets for the EU poll are now out.  Of the five regions that YouGov divides Britain into, Scotland is the only one that wants to Remain in the EU - and by a whopping margin of 53% to 32%.  Not much comfort there for the "Scotland isn't that much different" narrative constantly pushed by the unionist press.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

SNP hold 36% lead in talebearing TNS poll

The monthly TNS poll is now out, and I'm beginning to think Kezia Dugdale should just go the whole hog and change her party's name to "Labour 21%", because this is the fifth poll in a row from a range of different firms to give Labour exactly the same constituency vote share.  However, that's very slightly misleading, because TNS have suddenly switched to using headline figures that are filtered by certainty to vote.  Using a like-for-like comparison with the filtered figures from last month, Labour have actually 'recovered' from 20% - which of course is a statistically insignificant change.  At this stage in proceedings they might just be grateful for any indication that they are not slipping even further (as the recent Panelbase poll suggested they were), but the snag is that their fate will almost certainly be wholly decided by the regional list ballot, where their previous double-digit advantage over the Tories has been abruptly wiped out.

Constituency ballot :

SNP 57% (-2)
Labour 21% (+1)
Conservatives 17% (+5)
Liberal Democrats 3% (-1)

Regional list ballot :

SNP 52% (-1)
Labour 19% (-2)
Conservatives 17% (+6)
Greens 6% (-3)
Liberal Democrats 6% (+1)

As we used to constantly discuss during the independence referendum, figures that are filtered by certainty to vote are more prone to volatility, because the sample size is smaller, and because there may be a different demographic mix from month to month among those who say they are certain to vote.  So it's important to stress that the advances made by the Tories in this poll would be significant, but not nearly so dramatic, if TNS hadn't switched to using the filtered figures for their headline results.  On both ballots Ruth Davidson's party have made 3% gains on the unfiltered numbers.  That merely takes them back to 15% on the constituency ballot (exactly where they were in the first TNS poll after the UK general election), and still leaves them a relatively substantial 5% behind Labour on the regional list.

It's therefore still open to debate whether TNS have yet fully come into line with other pollsters in showing a mini-renaissance for the Tories.  However, the evidence that the party have at least made some progress recently is now so extensive that it's impossible to discount.  And of course TNS have switched to the filtered numbers for a very good reason, ie. they think that's a better indication of how the election will actually turn out (or would have turned out if it had been held at the 'snapshot' moment that the poll covered).  So although the finding that Labour and the Tories are now in a statistical tie for second place on the list vote should be treated with some caution, it also can't be easily dismissed, especially as it's entirely consistent with the results from other firms.

TNS had always been Labour's warmest comfort blanket - as long as one of the two 'real world' pollsters were consistently showing them with a big advantage over the Tories, it was possible to explain away the last Ipsos-Mori telephone poll as a freak result, and to imagine that other firms were only showing an alarming narrowing of the gap because volunteer online polling panels contain too many politically committed people.  But that comfort blanket has now largely gone, and for that reason I and others will for the first time have to start taking seriously the idea that the Tories may genuinely be in with a shout of replacing Labour as the main opposition party.

I still think it's unlikely, though.  To date, not a single poll from any firm has put the Tories in second place.  The other crucial point that has to be borne in mind is that polls tend to exaggerate the final difference between the constituency vote and the list vote (perhaps because a minority of respondents wrongly gain the impression that they're being asked for a second preference vote).  So although the list ballot is the only thing that really matters for Labour, in a perverse way they are still entitled to take some heart from their slightly bigger 4% cushion on the constituency ballot.

This poll may appear to be a significant blow for the Greens, but in fact they're experiencing a straightforward reversion to the mean.  6% is entirely typical of the vote share TNS has been giving them since the general election, meaning that the spike in their support last month now looks very much like a freakish finding caused by sampling variation.  We know that polls tend to overstate Green support on the list, so on current trends they seem to be heading for another disappointing result.  The good news for them, though, is that in both 2007 and 2011 they did better in the eve-of-election polls than they were doing a few months out.  Their average vote share in the winter of 2010/11 was a little lower than it is now.  So on past form it's not inconceivable they will gain a few percentage points between now and May, see those gains wiped out on election day itself, but still end up with a slightly better result than in 2011.  (And because of the quirks of d'Hondt, 'slightly better' could make the difference between, say, two seats and five.)

TNS still don't seem have caught up with existence of RISE.  However, just one person in the unfiltered sample of 574 said they were planning to vote SSP on the list, so that's probably a very good indication of where RISE find themselves with only three months to go.  Similarly, just one person said they were planning to vote for Solidarity, although we know that Tommy Sheridan has a concentrated core of support in the electoral region of Glasgow that polls may find difficult to detect.  But unless something dramatic happens, it looks like RISE will win zero seats, and that Solidarity will win either zero or one seats (with zero being the more probable outcome).

Incidentally, Aldo's oracular pronouncement last night about UKIP being on course for a Holyrood breakthrough is looking slightly dubious in the cold light of day - just one person in the sample said they were planning to vote UKIP on the list!

*  *  *

SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS

The trend in previous updates of the Poll of Polls was distorted because of firms dropping out of the sample or returning to it.  This time there's a distortion because of TNS switching on their turnout filter, but it hasn't made a huge difference.  We might question the extent of the Tory gains, but there's not much doubt they've been creeping up.  From a psychological point of view, the most important change is that the Greens have slipped back into fifth place on the list.

Constituency ballot :

SNP 52.3% (-0.2)
Labour 20.8% (n/c)
Conservatives 17.0% (+1.2)
Liberal Democrats 5.8% (-0.2)

Regional list ballot :

SNP 47.0% (-0.5)
Labour 19.3% (-0.2)
Conservatives 16.5% (+1.2)
Liberal Democrats 7.3% (+0.5)
Greens 6.8% (-0.7)

(The Poll of Polls is based on a rolling average of the most recent poll from each of the firms that have reported Scottish Parliament voting intention numbers over the previous three months, and that adhere to British Polling Council rules. At present, there are four - Panelbase, Survation, TNS and Ipsos-Mori. Whenever a new poll is published, it replaces the last poll from the same company in the sample.)

*  *  *

It seems that the only supplementary question TNS asked in this poll was on the EU referendum - and irritatingly, they didn't use the actual referendum question, which we know from Ipsos-Mori's findings can make a telling difference.

If there was a referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, how would you vote?

Remain 44% (-3)
Leave 21% (+3)

The percentage changes are from the last time the question was asked in September.  A 6% narrowing of the gap may look significant, but it's difficult to know how to interpret that - clearly there still doesn't seem to be much danger of Scotland voting to Leave, even taking account of the fact that the electorate often proves to be more volatile during referendum campaings.  The Leave campaign may drawn some comfort from the result, although there's no reason to assume that trends in Scotland will run in parallel to trends in the UK as a whole, and indeed there is strong evidence in the Britain-wide polls that neither side has really gained much traction of late.

One thing that Scotland does have in common with the rest of Britain, though, is that referendum vote is strongly correlated with age and affluence.  The older you are, the more likely you are to vote Leave, and the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to vote Remain.  That's a double-edged sword for the Leave campaign, because older and more affluent voters are both more likely to turn out to vote.  The age effect on turnout looks somewhat more significant, though.  For the Holyrood election, TNS found that 84% of over-55s were certain or very likely to vote, compared to 72% of under-55s.  The difference in the equivalent figures for the "affluent" and "non-affluent" halves of the sample was just 6%.  So it could be that differential turnout in the referendum will work in Leave's favour.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why it's important to have an overall SNP majority, and not just a pro-independence majority

I've just noticed that Adam Ramsay penned a response to the "tactical voting on the list" debate a few days ago.  It's a more nuanced piece than we've previously seen from him on the same subject, but it still made me smile, because it essentially argues : "The debate is about politics, not maths. It's about whether you care more about an SNP majority, or about maximising the number of pro-independence MSPs."  You probably don't need me to point out the glorious irony that the 'political' choice Adam is presenting us with is an entirely bogus one based on bogus maths - or rather on a conveniently selective presentation of the array of mathematical possibilities.

The reality is that switching from SNP to Green on the list could in theory help to either increase or reduce the overall number of pro-independence MSPs - and so could switching from Green to SNP.  As the better "tactical" option is unknowable in advance, why wouldn't anyone simply vote for their first-choice party?  (The situation with RISE is different, as polling evidence suggests they have very little chance of winning any seats at all - so if maximising pro-independence representation is all you care about, all list votes for RISE are likely to be "wasted".  The same is true of Solidarity in seven out of eight regions.)

However, let's humour Adam and pretend for the sake of argument that we are making a straight choice between an SNP majority and a greater number of pro-indy MSPs (we really, really aren't).  Based on that assumption, he poses this question -

"why is it so vital that the SNP get a majority, rather than simply an overwhelming plurality, with Sturgeon reliant on support from parties to her left? I’ve yet to hear a good answer."

Let me make some suggestions -

1)  Momentum.  If the SNP lose their majority against all expectations, it will be a psychological setback for the cause of independence, and the unionist establishment and press will have a field day.  A mini-example from the past is the 2003 election, when a slight increase in the overall number of pro-independence MSPs was obscured by the SNP's big losses, which was all the media cared about.

2) Mandate.  We don't know exactly what the SNP's manifesto will say about the possibility of a second referendum or about more powers, but whatever wording is used will receive a clear mandate if the SNP win an overall majority in their own right.  That mandate can then be used to apply moral pressure on Westminster.  It will be much harder to do that if there is a more complex pro-independence mandate consisting of multiple parties with different (and perhaps conflicting) wordings in their manifestos.

3) Trust.  Let's be honest - many SNP members and supporters simply don't trust the Greens to always be "on their side" on the constitution when it matters most.  Whether that's justified is open to debate, but it's less than five years since there was an anti-independence Green MSP in the Scottish Parliament, and it was only last year that Caroline Lucas voted against Full Fiscal Autonomy in the House of Commons, apparently in deference to Scottish Green Party policy.

Adam goes on to make the broader point that support for independence is more likely to increase if the public see a range of pro-independence parties in parliament disagreeing with each other on bread-and-butter issues, but agreeing on the constitutional question.  I think there's a grain of truth in that, but the problem is that it's unclear whether the radical left parties can bring anything new to the table - their popular support is limited, and most people are probably already fully aware that they were on the Yes side.  Far, far more useful would be to see the Tories eclipsed (or at least seriously challenged) by a centre-right pro-independence party - but clearly that isn't going to happen any time soon.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Poll of Polls on the EU referendum : "Leave" campaign draws level on average of online polls

This is only the third update of this blog's Poll of Polls for the EU referendum - I haven't been able to produce new figures as often as I expected, partly because telephone polling has been surprisingly infrequent. The "Leave" camp has now practically drawn level on the average for online polls, and although the "Remain" lead on the telephone average is still hefty, it's been slashed by 5% since mid-December. That may simply be a reversion to the mean, because the telephone lead was actually slightly smaller in the first update back in October.  Even so, the 50/50 average (ie. the mid-point between the telephone and online averages) shows a Remain lead of less than 10% for the first time.

SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

50/50 ONLINE/TELEPHONE AVERAGE :

Remain 48.4% (-1.7)
Leave 39.0% (+1.4)

ONLINE AVERAGE :

Remain 42.3% (-0.8)
Leave 41.9% (+0.2)

TELEPHONE AVERAGE :

Remain 54.5% (-2.5)
Leave 36.0% (+2.5)

(The online average is based on seven polls - four from ICM, one from YouGov, one from Survation and one from Panelbase. The telephone average is based on one poll from ComRes and one from Ipsos-Mori.)

As we've discussed before, the two most plausible explanations for the enormous gulf between telephone and online results are that volunteer online polling panels contain a disproportionate number of politically committed people (which would imply that telephone polls are most accurate), and that some people may be too embarrassed to tell a telephone interviewer that they want to leave the EU (which would imply that online polls are most accurate). It could be a bit of both, of course, in which case the 50/50 average might be the best guide.

Just to muddy the waters further, Anthony Wells has pointed out that telephone polls are producing far fewer Don't Knows than online polls. That's an entirely counter-intuitive finding, because if online samples really do contain more politically committed people, you'd expect those individuals to know their own minds. Could it be that online respondents are thinking about the question more carefully and giving a considered response, while many telephone respondents are just giving a very casual answer? If so, we should be cautious about assuming that telephone polls are more likely to be on the money, because sooner or later the disinterested telephone respondents will start considering the issue in more depth, and might just reach the same conclusions as their online counterparts. Some would say that was precisely the explanation for the sudden convergence in the polls at the end of the independence referendum campaign, when the telephone and face-to-face polls showed a seismic shift, but the online polls barely budged. (The big exception was YouGov, an online-only firm that showed a massive swing to Yes - but that might be partly explained by their convoluted and secretive "Kellner Correction", which artificially generated No-friendly results earlier in the campaign.)

* * *

As you know, the uncertainty has returned in respect of present-day polling on independence - there have been just two 'real world' polls (ie. telephone or face-to-face) on the topic since the referendum, and both have shown significant Yes leads. All of the other polls have used volunteer online polling panels, and with the odd exception have generally shown narrow No leads. But our occasional commenter "Roger Mexico" confused the issue slightly on the previous thread by claiming there was a third 'real world' poll out there - an ICM telephone poll showing a No lead. Roger has a fairly obvious agenda, but he's far more knowledgeable about polling than the likes of Aldo, so I do start to question my own sanity when he says things like that. However, I've double-checked and triple-checked - I can only find one ICM poll since the referendum, it was commissioned by the Guardian, and they clearly stated that it was conducted online.  So I'm pretty sure Roger has got this one wrong, and that (as things stand) the divide between real world and online pollsters is extremely clear-cut.

*  *  *

It's not often that I disagree with the editorial stance of The National, but I think they've got it wrong in their endorsement for a campaign that would criminalise the likes of the "pick-up artist" Roosh V for incitement of hatred against women.  I've read the blogpost in which he argues that rape should be legalised on private property, and as idiotic, outrageous and offensive as it is, it doesn't actually contain any incitement to rape - in fact the opening part of the post contains a long explanation that he thinks rape is morally wrong.  He's essentially arguing that the onus for reducing the incidence of rape should be entirely placed on women, rather than on men or on the law - and he claims to honestly believe that would be far more effective.  You might think that his argument is a complete sham (it probably is) and that he really is as "pro-rape" as the newspapers have dubbed him.  But in a society that is supposed to treasure the right to free speech, it's dangerous enough to throw a person into jail for his actual words.  To incarcerate someone because of our contested interpretation of the hidden meaning of his words...well, that's crossing a threshold that we really shouldn't ever cross.

Monday, February 1, 2016

John Curtice concurs that "tactical voting on the list" is a risk

When I noticed a few hours ago that The National were splashing with a John Curtice essay on whether it's a good or a bad idea for independence supporters to vote "tactically" on the Holyrood regional list, I had a horrible feeling that it might be a "both sides of the argument must have prizes" article that would leave people with less clarity in their minds, not more.  So it was a great relief to see that Curtice has in fact very emphatically stated that tactical voters are taking a risk, and listed a number of the exact same reasons that I set out in the article that Bella Caledonia notoriously wanted to "improve" -

1) That it's not much use voting tactically for small parties like RISE or Solidarity if polls suggest they're going to fall miles short of winning any seats at all.

2) That the SNP may well be reliant on list seats to retain their majority if their support slips.

3) That the SNP won at least one list seat in seven out of eight regions last time (ie. their list votes weren't "wasted").

4) That past history suggests the polls may be overestimating the Green list vote, thus making it hard to tell whether the Greens or the SNP are the best "tactical" bet in any given region.

There are of course several other important reasons as well, but that's not a bad tally to be getting on with, and hopefully the fact that someone as impeccably neutral as Professor Curtice has said all this will finally put to rest the silly idea that only "SNP tribalists" would ever dispute the claim that tactical voting on the list is a risk-free enterprise.

Incidentally, on point 4, although it's true that the polls significantly overstated the Green list vote in both 2007 and 2011, it's also the case that Green support in the polls rose significantly in the weeks leading up to election day.  On past form, their showing in the polls right now might not be a bad indication of where they'll end up - ie. they'll rise gradually during March and April, and then in the actual election abruptly drop back to roughly where they started.  If so, they might just be in line for some kind of breakthrough.  But there again, past history is no guarantee of future performance, and all we know for sure is that polling for the list is generally less reliable than constituency polling.  Hardly a recipe for taking a punt on the list with any confidence.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Terry Wogan

While watching the tennis this morning (which was a painful enough process anyway), I was absolutely heartbroken to look at my phone and see the news about Terry Wogan.  Of course I'm a Eurovision fan, but even if it wasn't for that, some of my earliest childhood memories are of getting ready for school in a freezing Kilsyth kitchen while my mum listened to the Wogan breakfast show on the radio.  He was like a kindly uncle, who was constantly there somewhere in the background throughout my life.  And unlike a number of other BBC celebrities who made their name at around the same time, I think we can confidently predict that his legacy is never going to be tarnished in any way at all.

There are so many highlights from his decades of Eurovision commentary, but this one particularly sticks in my mind from 2002 in Estonia.  Unfortunately the final line is partly cut off, but it was : "It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.  You cannot beat the Eurovision Song Contest.  Where else are you going to see that kind of thing?"

On the plus side, everyone who has ever worked for the Daily Express now knows who I am

Just spotted that I got a glowing mention a few hours ago on the Twitter account of J K Rowling's abusive and misogynistic friend (but by God she's sticking by him!) "Brian Spanner", who somehow contrives to be followed by almost every single right-wing journalist in Britain, in spite of having a relatively modest overall total of 4,828 followers.


You won't be surprised to hear that the word I've partially censored is the C-word so beloved of both Spanner and (coincidentally) popular journalist Euan McColm.  

Answers on a postcard if anyone can decipher the point Spanner thinks he's proved by quoting a two-year-old exchange between myself and James Mackenzie.  My best guess is he reckons that if James Mackenzie once called me a woman-hater, it must be true, and therefore I'm no better than Spanner himself when he says delightful things like "Is [Margaret Curran] a victim of FGM? She is a torn faced c**t".

Unfortunately for Spanner, however, thousands of us can testify that James Mackenzie's personal definition of a misogynist is "person who doesn't instantly sever all contact with Wings Over Scotland upon my demand".

Feel free to have another go, Eu...I mean Brian.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

More on that totally coincidental link between J K Rowling's misogynistic Twitter-chum and popular journalist Euan McColm

As you may have seen, I was highly privileged yesterday to briefly attract the attention of the unholy alliance between abusive CyberBrits and the Global Rowling Heavy Mob. As far as I can see, their one and only defence against my suggestion that J K Rowling's misogynistic Twitter-pal "Brian Spanner" may be an alter ego of popular journalist Euan McColm is that all of the apparent evidence was in fact a highly sophisticated form of unionist/boy wizard humour that can't be correctly interpreted by civic nationalists or by fans of inferior children's fantasy fiction such as The Chronicles of Narnia or The Hobbit. In view of that, I wonder if they could help me in deciphering the correct comic connotations of a few other seemingly suspicious (but I'm sure totally innocuous) facts.

1) Out of 320 million possibilities, why was Euan McColm the very first person that "Brian Spanner" followed on Twitter?

2) Why was Think Scotland (a right-wing website to which McColm has contributed many articles) the second Twitter account that Spanner followed?

3) Why were Alex Massie, Iain Martin, John Rentoul and David Torrance (all journalistic chums of McColm) the third, fourth, fifth and sixth accounts that Spanner followed on Twitter?

4) Why does Spanner - an abusive troll who regularly uses the C-word, and who has a relatively modest 4,622 followers on Twitter - boast such a large number of the unionist establishment (especially the journalistic unionist establishment) among his followers? Examples : Blair McDougall, J K Rowling (who STILL follows him!), Alex Massie, John McTernan, Kenny Farquharson, Iain Martin, Chris Deerin, Stephen Daisley, David Torrance, Kevin Schofield, Alan Roden, Iain Harrison, Ruth Davidson MSP, Harry Cole, Nick Cohen, Gemma Doyle, Melanie Ward, Tom Greatrex, Stephen Hammond MP, Paul Martin MSP, Alex Fergusson MSP, Mike Crockart, Charlotte Wace (Scottish Mail on Sunday), Tom Martin (Scottish Daily Express), Lord Lewis Moonie, Maggie Vaughan (Alistair Darling's spouse), Murdo Fraser MSP, Paul Sinclair, Rob Shorthouse, Catherine Stihler MEP, Ben Borland (Scottish Sunday Express), Ian Smart, Ian Murray MP, and yes, Euan McColm. Are they ALL fans of deeply offensive misogynistic trolling and the C-word?

5) On a related point, is it really a total coincidence that Spanner and McColm both love using the C-word? Maybe I'm just careful with who I follow on Twitter, but I can't say I encounter the word very often.

6) Why are McColm and Spanner both so obsessed with the same picture? See HERE, HERE and HERE.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The misogynistic tweeter, his friendship with J K Rowling, and the ENTIRELY COINCIDENTAL link to popular journalist Euan McColm

I do love a lightbulb moment.  About an hour ago, I was trying to dream up a vaguely satirical tweet about the extraordinary way in which J K Rowling is routinely rewarded by her adoring fans in the London media for bullying people on Twitter, and this - in all innocence - is what I came up with...

"In a parallel universe, Euan McColm is the darling of the London media for being beastly to a billionaire SNP-supporting children's author."

But within only a few minutes, I had started wondering if McColm is in fact quite as unconnected as I thought to Rowling's latest antics, and more specifically to the misogynistic tweeter "Brian Spanner" that she once expressed such touching support for. First of all, it became clear from a tweet in December that Stephen "centre-right socialist" Daisley is a mate of Spanner's -

Stephen Daisley : "Oi, "@BrianSpanner1". You about for a coffee tomorrow?"

Secondly, I noticed that I was blocked by McColm on Twitter, even though I couldn't recall any particular trigger for that.

Thirdly, I noticed that I had blocked Spanner in November. I had no recollection of doing so, but when I looked up the relevant exchange (it was a Neil Lovatt spectacular) I couldn't help feeling there was a vague McColm-esque air to the whole thing. Could "Spanner" conceivably have retaliated by blocking me on another account?

Fourthly, Mark Jardine noticed that "Spanner" is the first person listed under the following names : David Torrance, John Rentoul, Iain Martin, Alex Massie, Think Scotland and Euan McColm.

Fifthly, McGlashan noticed that a couple of weeks ago, Spanner randomly said "It is. Thanks." when someone pointed out that it was Euan McColm's birthday. J K Rowling directly responded to Spanner with the words "Happy birthday, Euan".

Of course none of this is remotely conclusive and I'm sure there's a perfectly innocent explanation.

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UPDATE : A few more total coincidences have come to light - see HERE.