Friday, November 27, 2015
Rosyth by-election result :
SNP 45.2% (+9.4)
Labour 34.5% (-13.2)
Conservatives 9.1% (+3.3)
Liberal Democrats 3.6% (-3.5)
UKIP 3.3% (+0.7)
Independent - Macintyre 2.5% (n/a)
Dunfermline North by-election result :
SNP 43.5% (+11.9)
Labour 29.6% (-19.7)
Conservatives 12.5% (+5.9)
Liberal Democrats 9.5% (-4.1)
Greens 2.6% (n/a)
UKIP 2.4% (n/a)
(Note : I've already had to make a slight adjustment to the above figures based on my own calculations, because there was a small error in the Twitter reports of the Dunfermline North percentage changes.)
The swing from Labour to SNP in Rosyth was 11.3%, and in Dunfermline North it was 15.8%. To make sense of those numbers, you have to bear in mind that the SNP start from a much higher baseline in local elections than they did at the general election. So the average swing of 13.5% in the two wards is the rough equivalent of a 25% swing in May - which is very much within the range of swings we actually saw across former Labour heartlands, albeit not at the top of that range.
It looks as if the SNP are performing almost exactly as well in this part of Fife as they did at the general election (the swing in Dunfermline and West Fife in May was 27.1%). That will give them enormous heart after one or two recent Scottish by-elections in which they did OK rather than spectacularly well. And there's certainly no sign in these results of any electoral fallout from the Natalie McGarry controversy.
Once again the Conservatives have achieved tolerably good results, although the jury is out on whether that reflects a true increase in their popularity, or is simply caused by the greater motivation of their supporters in low-turnout contests. And as for that all-conquering Scottish Lib Dem recovery we heard so much about a few weeks ago...well, at a minimum it doesn't appear to have breached the borders of Fife yet.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
That line popped into my head when I watched the Altered State video yesterday. As you've probably seen, it finishes in rather provocative fashion with Derek Bateman arguing that a second referendum held too quickly would be "catastrophic" and "suicidal", because it would be an insult to people who voted No last year. After suggesting that a timescale of twenty years is quite possible (and indeed that it may never happen at all), his parting shot is : "Live with it, guys. It's called democracy."
As you know, I don't disagree with the view that the independence movement could easily find itself going nowhere for several decades. Paradoxically, that's one of the reasons why I think we have to be open to the idea of a relatively early referendum, perhaps within the next five years. There is a danger of catastrophe or suicide in being too hasty, but there is also a danger of catastrophe or suicide in squandering the momentum that has been built up. I don't quite understand why it's less bad to see a dream die quietly and gradually through inaction and over-caution than it is to see it spectacularly go up in flames as a result of rashness. In the long run, both of those outcomes amount to the same thing. When you're in the middle of a major historical event, it's easy to lose a sense of perspective, but the fact is that we're currently living through "our 1997". For the Blairites, it wasn't 1997 forever, and it won't be for us either. The time to act is when the sun is still shining.
I also disagree with Derek's claim that one of the reasons the first referendum was lost was that it was rushed into. There actually wasn't a campaign for independence prior to 2011 - nothing was happening, and the SNP were only going through the motions in putting forward the arguments. They were caught in a trap, because the first priority had to be to win and then retain power, and for as long as that was the case they couldn't afford to scare the horses too much. The only way to break out of that trap was to actually hold a referendum, and either secure a Yes vote in one push or build a platform for a second referendum. I see absolutely no reason to think that support for independence would have gradually crept up if Alex Salmond had played a more cautious game, and saved a referendum for a hypothetical third or fourth SNP term. The trend was actually in completely the opposite direction - opinion polls showed that independence became considerably less popular between 2005 and 2011. For some reason, SNP rule was making people more content with the Union - although thankfully that contentment proved to be fairly superficial when the question was put for real.
What I want to take issue with most of all is the idea that a second referendum would be somehow "undemocratic". To return to the Marx quote, that would mean it's more democratic that voters are enslaved to a decision they've already made. Even if circumstances change. Even if they conclude that they made the decision on the basis of a false prospectus. As we know, almost everyone (and certainly everyone in the SNP leadership) agrees that there can only be a referendum if a mandate is received for one at a Scottish Parliament election. So in a sense what Derek is hinting at is that it would be anti-democratic to give people a referendum even if they vote for it! I think that's a rather grotesque parody of what respect for democracy is all about.
If you take this through to its logical conclusion, the result of any quick second referendum should be regarded as null and void because the electorate has supposedly already voted to disempower themselves for an unspecified but very long period of time. We'd be saying to people who switched from No to Yes : "Sorry, we can't take any notice of your wishes now, because it would be disrespectful to the person you used to be." I don't think that's credible. Democracy is about giving people control over how they are governed on an ongoing basis, not using their past vote against them as if it constitutes some sort of lifelong marriage vow.
Derek also pours cold water on the idea that the EU referendum could be a trigger for a second independence referendum, partly because he doesn't think that the gap between the UK and Scottish results will be all that great. It's possible that it won't be, but for that to be the case there'll have to be a major convergence between now and polling day. Have a look at the gap between the results of recent Britain-wide polls, and the Scottish subsamples of the same polls -
ICM (20th-22nd November)
Britain-wide figures :
Scottish subsample :
ORB (18th-19th November)
Britain-wide figures :
Scottish subsample :
Survation (16th-17th November)
Britain-wide figures :
Scottish subsample :
ICM (13th-15th November)
Britain-wide figures :
Scottish subsample :
Survation (9th-11th November)
Britain-wide figures :
Scottish subsample :
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
If the embedded video doesn't work, the direct link is HERE.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
You know, it's on days like this that Mike "can't be arsed" Smithson utterly baffles me. The title of his post on Stormfront Lite this morning was "You can get 11/8 on Corbyn being leader at general election. Why I’m not tempted." For 11/8 to be a value bet, you merely have to think there is a better than 42% chance of Corbyn still being leader in May 2020. So I was waiting with bated breath to hear why Smithson thinks the likelihood of that happening is in fact 42% or lower - but he didn't say anything at all. (Maybe he couldn't be arsed?) The post simply consisted of four reposted tweets, two of which clearly support the idea that Corbyn is NOT likely to be deposed. One is a link to a Stephen Bush article with the title "A new poll shows Jeremy Corbyn is going nowhere", and the other shows that Labour members questioned by YouGov think by a margin of 54% to 33% that it is more important for a party to put forward policies it really believes in than to make compromises that would allow it to win an election.
Bush is particularly worth listening to on this topic. He hasn't been right about absolutely everything this year, but he made a very confident call about the Labour leadership contest that proved to be spot-on, and he was much closer to being right about the general election than most people. There are two major question marks in my mind over whether Corbyn can cling on, and Bush deals with one of them very helpfully. He links to a post by a barrister offering a legal opinion on whether Corbyn would require to be nominated by 20% of the PLP to simply make the ballot paper if he is challenged for the leadership. Although it's conceded there is some ambiguity in the relevant part of the Labour rule-book, the answer is basically no. If that's correct, it removes any realistic chance of Corbyn being directly removed against his will, because any challenger would have to defeat him in a members' and supporters' ballot, and the latest polling evidence suggests that would be nigh-on impossible.
That still leaves the other question mark in my mind, though, which is to do with Corbyn's own commitment to the job. Would he, as Damian McBride implied recently, resign voluntarily at the first sign of a push against him? The fact that he never seemed to have any personal ambition to be leader or Prime Minister doesn't inspire huge confidence that he has the stomach to fight for his position. But the counter-argument is that he has shown plenty of ambition for his own wing of the party. He knows that what happened in September was a historic achievement for the left, and that it could be totally squandered if he walks away. For all the talk about him paving the way for a left-wing succession before the general election, he surely knows that it doesn't work like that. As soon as there is a vacancy, anything could happen. Even if the new leader was vaguely left-ish, who is to say it wouldn't be somebody from the soft left (such as Lisa Nandy) who would then "do a Kinnock"?
To survive as leader, all Corbyn really has to do is decide to survive. And if he's being rational (and receiving rational advice), that's the decision he'll take.
* * *
The SNP's motion calling for Trident not to be renewed was voted down in the House of Commons today by 330 votes to 64. There are 60 MPs from the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens, so assuming there was a high turnout among those three parties, the vast majority of Labour MPs -including Jeremy Corbyn himself - must have abstained on the question of whether Britain should retain its nuclear weapons. Surely Corbyn's position as the vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is now untenable?
Monday, November 23, 2015
Amidst all the uncertainty about the position Labour will take on bombing Syria, one thing that intensely irritates me is the claim of the party's "moderates" that Jeremy Corbyn has no business imposing any kind of discipline on MPs, given his long record of rebelling against his predecessors. The rules of the game are actually pretty simple -
1) You can't vote against the party line on a motion of confidence in the government. (If you do, you'll be suspended or expelled from the parliamentary party.)
2) If you vote against the party line on a three-line whip, you have to give advance warning and explain yourself.
3) Except in unusual circumstances, you can't defy the whip if you're a minister or a shadow minister. If you do, you'll be expected to leave the front bench.
To the best of my knowledge, Jeremy Corbyn has not broken any of these rules since he became an MP in 1983. If he had, in all likelihood he would not be Labour leader now, because the whip would have been withdrawn and he would not have been eligible to put himself forward.
So if a whip is imposed on Syria or any other vote, Corbyn will simply be asking MPs to adhere to exactly the same rules he was bound by as a backbencher. They'll have the same freedom to rebel that he had - although Shadow Cabinet members and other frontbenchers will have to pay a heavy price if they exercise that freedom. And it might not be a bad thing for Corbyn in the long run if some of the "moderates" in his team force him into sacking them, because at the moment his ecumenicism is proving more of a weakness than a strength.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Tonight's much-trailed GB-wide ComRes poll is out, with the most eye-catching finding being that 40% of respondents agree that Jeremy Corbyn should be "removed by Labour MPs", while only 31% disagree. It's impossible to make much sense of that result, though, given that ComRes didn't bother to ask whether David Cameron should be removed by Tory MPs. You'd think that would be a much more natural question to put to people, bearing in mind that Cameron has been hanging around for a decade and Corbyn has been in harness for just two months. I suspect the Labour "moderates" might even be a tad disappointed that 60% declined to say that their party leader should be deposed.
Of most interest to us is that the SNP are on 5% of the Britain-wide vote, and the Scottish subsample numbers are : SNP 54%, Conservatives 16%, Labour 14%, Liberal Democrats 7%, UKIP 5%, Greens 3%. The subsample can't be considered statistically reliable, but nevertheless it's fascinating that on some questions, Scottish respondents are bang in line with the Britain-wide results, but on others they take a completely divergent view. For example, Scottish respondents agree with English respondents that a UK ground attack in Syria/Iraq should not be ruled out under all circumstances, and that Jeremy Corbyn cannot be trusted to keep their families safe. But they part company from English respondents by overwhelmingly rejecting the idea that Cameron can keep us safe, and by narrowly opposing UK air strikes in Syria without UN authorisation.
Across Britain, Nicola Sturgeon is regarded favourably by 27% of respondents, and unfavourably by 38%. Those numbers are actually pretty good compared to many other leading politicians - Sturgeon has a better net rating than Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and George Osborne, which is nothing short of miraculous for a filthy separatist. But you won't be surprised to hear that she fares much better still where it actually matters - in Scotland, 61% regard her favourably, and only 24% unfavourably.
It's painfully obvious from the numbers that hardly anyone has even heard of Tim Farron, but he still manages to have a negative rating.
* * *
Mike "can't be arsed" Smithson on Twitter earlier today -
"Corbyn's 59.5% LAB leadership vote share compares with Duncan Smith's 60.7% in 2001 CON contest. 2 years & 2 months later IDS was booted out"
That would be a truly fabulous comparison if it wasn't for the fact that Corbyn's percentage was achieved against THREE opponents, while Duncan Smith had to face only one other candidate in the members' ballot.
I'm also highly dubious about Damian McBride's claim in the Guardian the other day that Jeremy Corbyn will be gone "within a week" if Sadiq Khan fails to win the London mayoralty in the spring. Does anyone seriously think Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper would have been expected to resign as leader if Khan had lost?
Friday, November 20, 2015
But now that Jeremy Corbyn is Labour leader, we've moved into territory where we might expect to encounter a genuine Darlington-style contest sooner or later. One of the reasons that famous by-election 32 years ago was so crucial is that if Labour had lost to the SDP, as they were initially expected to do, Michael Foot's position as leader might have looked untenable and he might have been replaced by Denis Healey in time for the general election a few weeks later - in much the same way that Bob Hawke had just replaced Bill Hayden as Australian Labor leader after defeat in the Flinders by-election. The 1983 general election was probably unwinnable for Labour under any leader, but it seems plausible that Healey might have saved a good few dozen seats, perhaps paving the way for a return to power several years earlier than 1997, and under a much less divisive leader than Tony Blair. So Darlington may be a classic example of 'a good election to lose' - and unfortunately for Labour, that was the election they actually won in 1983.
For anyone who thinks Labour's decline into irrelevance across the UK serves the best interests of the pro-independence movement, it's therefore hard to judge what would be a good result in Oldham West and Royton, where UKIP are rumoured to be running Labour close. I'll say straight away that this isn't Corbyn's Darlington - he would survive a defeat, but such an early electoral wounding would clearly be a landmark moment that would further darken the mood within the PLP. From a strategic point of view, what we don't want to see is Corbyn eventually being replaced with a charismatic leader who can transcend the divisions within the party (I'm not really sure if such a person exists, but one or two names have been mentioned as possibilities). So if you think a UKIP win on 3rd December has the potential to help set in train a sequence of events leading to that outcome, it might just be better if Labour cling on.
There's also a more immediate arithmetical reason why the SNP might prefer a Labour victory. We've already seen one crucial vote in this parliament where the SNP, the DUP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens lined up together in an attempt to defeat the government - but Douglas Carswell of UKIP went into the Tory lobby. So one more UKIP seat could make it harder for the SNP to hold the balance of power when there is a modest Tory rebellion. (Having said that, if Labour carry on abstaining as often as they have, that'll largely be an academic point.)
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Any French citizen under the age of 80 who happens to be a Roman Catholic Cardinal (so it's not looking promising if you're a woman) is eligible to vote in elections for the French President (who is automatically one of the two co-princes of Andorra), and to take part in a papal conclave (the Pope is automatically the Sovereign of the Vatican City State). Europe's two elected monarchs at present are François Hollande and Jorge Mario Bergoglio (better known as Pope Francis).
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Constituency ballot :
SNP 50% (-5)
Labour 20% (n/c)
Conservatives 18% (+6)
Liberal Democrats 7% (n/c)
Regional list ballot :
SNP 46% (-4)
Labour 19% (-1)
Conservatives 16% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)
Greens 7% (-1)
The TNS poll conducted at roughly the same time as the last Ipsos-Mori poll had the SNP on 58% of the constituency vote - exactly the same as in the new TNS poll. The two most plausible ways of reconciling the two firms' divergent findings are that either a) SNP support has dropped somewhat, and it largely happened after the TNS fieldwork finished, or b) SNP support hasn't dropped, and the changes shown by Ipsos-Mori are margin of error "noise". There are intuitive reasons for suspecting that the latter might be the case, not least the fact that the dramatic increase in Tory support is so unexpected. It's surely pretty unlikely that a large chunk of SNP support has gone direct to the Tories, so to make much sense of the trend you'd have to assume that most of those votes have instead gone to Labour, but that Labour's gains have been almost perfectly offset by losses to the Tories. You could, to be fair, make a perfectly plausible case for that scenario, given that Jeremy Corbyn is supposed to have appeal to left-wingers, and is a repellent to "moderate" unionists who used to love Jim Murphy. But the problem is that no other pollster has shown any real sign of it happening (at least not on this scale). Ipsos-Mori are unusual in that they don't weight by past vote recall, which makes their results slightly more prone to volatility. At this stage, I would suggest that's the most likely explanation for the apparent SNP-Tory swing, but obviously the jury is still out until we hear from other firms.
People who write RISE press releases might want to note that the SNP are now just 5% higher on the constituency vote than they were in the 2011 election, and just 2% higher on the list. The silly idea that the SNP are certain not to require any list seats to retain their majority can hopefully now be allowed to die a dignified and long-overdue death. Let's not forget, the constituency results in 2011 left them requiring a minimum of TWELVE list seats for a bare majority of one.
A lot of people are pointing out that the optimistic chatter in the right-wing media about the Tories overtaking Labour as the largest opposition party suddenly doesn't look quite so fanciful, with the gap between the two parties now standing at just 2% on the constituency ballot, and 3% on the list. I'm still fairly sceptical - one swallow doesn't make a summer, and all that. Or perhaps I should say two swallows, because YouGov reported an even tighter race for second place a few weeks ago. But until there's at least a couple of polls actually showing the Tories overtaking Labour, I'd suggest our prospective new Leader of the Opposition would be extremely premature in preening herself too much. As you'll see in the Poll of Polls below, the average Labour lead over the Tories on the list vote (which is undoubtedly the more important vote in this respect) is still a very significant 6.6%.
I always keep my eyes peeled for extreme examples of weighting, and the one that leaps out at me the most in this poll is that public-sector workers - who are somewhat more likely to vote SNP than the rest of the sample - have been sharply downweighted from 185 to 98. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a reason why public-sector workers would be so heavily over-represented in the unweighted sample.
There's no sign in STV's report that Ipsos-Mori asked the independence question again. That doesn't necessarily mean they didn't, because the results are sometimes staggered over a couple of days. Having said that, TNS didn't bother following up their own astonishing independence poll from September, so I won't be surprised either way. If independence numbers do appear tomorrow, we should probably brace ourselves for a reported fall in the Yes vote - because if sampling variation has caused the number of SNP supporters in this poll to drop significantly, it's highly likely it will have also caused the number of independence supporters in the poll to drop.
What we do have today are Scottish voting intention figures for the EU referendum, which STV have rather oddly decided to run as the headline story...
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
That's billed as the best ever result for 'Remain' in a Scottish poll from any firm, but of course we're well used to the Scottish results diverging sharply from the more finely-balanced Britain-wide position. That said, Bernard Ponsonby should be reported to the Polling Police for trying to compare this poll to the new Britain-wide Survation poll showing a mere 2% Remain lead, because that one was conducted among a volunteer online polling panel. It's been clearly established that the online method produces much, much better results for Leave.
* * *
SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS
I haven't updated the Poll of Polls since mid-October, so last week's TNS poll is introduced into the sample alongside the new Ipsos-Mori poll. That explains why Labour have crept up slightly, in spite of flatlining with Ipsos-Mori.
Constituency ballot :
SNP 52.8% (-0.6)
Labour 22.0% (+0.6)
Conservatives 15.4% (+1.2)
Liberal Democrats 5.6% (-0.4)
Regional list ballot :
SNP 46.6% (-0.8)
Labour 21.4% (+0.2)
Conservatives 14.8% (+0.8)
Greens 7.0% (-0.2)
Liberal Democrats 6.0% (n/c)
(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 - YouGov, TNS, Survation, Panelbase and Ipsos-Mori. Whenever a new poll is published, it replaces the last poll from the same company in the sample.)
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Solidarity are more fortunate, because they do have a Sheridan, and his name is Tommy Sheridan. It's interesting looking back to the last time that he stood in Glasgow in 2007 - the fading of his magic was such a landmark moment that we tend to overlook the fact that he didn't miss out on holding his seat by all that much. Solidarity got 4.1% of the vote, which meant they were just 1.1% away from denying Patrick Harvie of the Greens the final seat (and how that might have changed history if they had done). And do you want to guess what percentage of the vote the SSP got in Glasgow that year? That's right - 1.2%. It's all very well for the small parties to complain about being branded as "vote-splitters", but in reality it's themselves that are the biggest victims of that problem. The true threat to a radical left party claiming a seat next year may well be RISE itself.
Sheridan was in prison by 2011, so he temporarily vacated the field in favour of his old friend George Galloway and Respect - a bizarre decision, given Galloway's hostility to the cause that has defined Sheridan's career ever since that election. But it's plausible to suppose that Respect basically inherited the Solidarity vote in Glasgow, and there wasn't all that much further slippage - they got 3.3%, while the SSP only slipped to 0.7%. So there clearly is a lingering radical left vote in the city, and it might be just about sufficient to sneak one seat once Sheridan's stardust is reintroduced into the equation (especially now that he's been redeemed in some people's eyes by his passionate campaigning during and after the referendum). But even if that's the case, everything will hinge on whether Solidarity can keep RISE down to a derisory vote. I think the odds are against them, but on past form it's certainly possible.
It wouldn't surprise me if RISE outpoll Solidarity in the other seven regions (albeit without coming close to winning a seat), but it seems almost inconceivable that Sheridan will be eclipsed by his former colleagues on his own home patch.