Thursday, November 21, 2019

The new West Lothian Question is how badly Labour are going to do in West Lothian

So a few miscellaneous things.  Firstly, I have two new constituency previews in The National, this time about constituencies either wholly or partly in West Lothian - Livingston and Linlithgow & East Falkirk.

Secondly, I was asked to comment about Alex Salmond for an article on the Al Jazeera website by Alasdair Soussi.  I did my best to put the situation in its correct perspective.  You can read it HERE.

Finally, and on the same topic, could I please ask again that people in the comments section of this blog avoid any discussion of the details of the Alex Salmond trial.  Obviously I'm not a legal expert, but as I understand it, all speculation about the facts of the case is strictly forbidden.  So I'm having to be ruthless and delete comments of that sort when I see them. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Can the SNP prevent a nuclear holocaust by beating Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire?

Just by coincidence, one of my two constituency previews in today's edition of The National is Jo Swinson's seat of East Dunbartonshire. So can the SNP save the world from nuclear annihilation by getting the leader of the "Liberal Democrats" out of parliament? Find out HERE. The other profile is Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, currently held by Shadow Scottish Secretary Lesley Laird - you can read that one HERE.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

"Brazen, indefensible": The night ITV lost the trust of Scottish viewers forever

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Click here for a handy list of SNP election crowdfunders.

Latest YouGov average suggests the SNP are on course for twelve seat gains

It's truly astonishing - we're three weeks into this campaign and we still haven't had a full-scale Scottish poll (apart from an out-of-date one from YouGov).  Until that changes, I'm going to keep posting averages from the five most recent Scottish subsamples conducted by YouGov, because that's the best available substitute.  Unlike Scottish subsamples from other firms, YouGov's appear to be correctly structured and weighted - which means the only problem with them is the large margin of error caused by the small sample size.

YouGov subsample average:

SNP 43.2%
Conservatives 25.6%
Labour 12.6%
Liberal Democrats 11.2%
Brexit Party 3.8%
Greens 3.4%

The most discernible trend over the course of the campaign has been a Tory recovery, but that's been at the expense of the Brexit Party and possibly the Liberal Democrats, rather than the SNP.  It's actually quite impressive how well the SNP vote is holding up at a time when their main opponent is gaining ground.  But the big concern is that the rigged TV debates could lead to a repeat of the 2017 scenario where the Tory surge didn't seem to be the end of the world until the SNP suddenly had to fight on a second front due to the late Labour comeback.

Note that the Tory recovery isn't completely factored in to the average yet, because two of the five subsamples were conducted before Farage decided not to contest Tory seats.  In today's subsample, the Tories are on 28% of the vote, which almost takes them back to where they were in 2017.  But because the SNP vote is higher than it was two years ago, a uniform swing would still result in the Tories losing seats to the SNP.  The seats projection from the average, based on the Electoral Calculus model, is -

SNP 47 (+12), Conservatives 7 (-6), Liberal Democrats 4 (n/c), Labour 1 (-6)

Incidentally, today's YouGov poll bucks the recent trend across the polling industry by showing Labour eating into the GB-wide Tory lead a little.  But that may be just a reversion to the mean, because the last poll was particularly favourable for the Tories, putting them on 45% - which would be the highest share of the vote for any party in a UK general election since the 1970s.

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Click here for a handy list of SNP election crowdfunders.

Don't forget, folks, it's Scotland v Kazakhstan at 7.45 tonight...

...and the half-time analysis looks set to be particularly gripping.

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I have another two constituency previews in The National today - this time it's Paisley & Renfrewshire North and Paisley & Renfrewshire South.

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Click here for a handy list of SNP election crowdfunders.

Monday, November 18, 2019

UK "democracy" proved to be a sham as London court backs ITV bid to rig the general election

I'm not surprised that the SNP and Liberal Democrats have lost their challenge to ITV's rigged leaders' debate tomorrow night, but this is a dark day for what purports to be "British democracy", and make no mistake - this will distort the outcome of the election.  The only question remaining is how severe that impact will be.  I'm not sure the SNP's position will be dramatically worsened in relation to the Tories, because people thinking of voting Tory to "stop Indyref 2" are unlikely to be SNP-Tory floating voters anyway.  The much bigger danger to the SNP is in seats where Labour are their main opponents.  Traditionally there has been considerable overlap between the SNP and Labour support, with a large number of voters open-minded about voting for either party.  If ITV succeed in presenting Jeremy Corbyn as the only alternative to a Tory government, Labour could start to come back from the dead in a number of Scottish constituencies, most obviously the six marginals they currently hold.

Subject to legal advice, I hope the SNP are at least still considering their options about challenging the BBC and Sky debates.  On the face of it, they ought to have a better case against Sky, who are planning to exclude the third-largest party but include the fourth-largest party.  But as far as ITV are concerned, we'll just have to get our prayer mats out and hope that this shameful attempt to stitch up the general election has a relatively limited effect.

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Lib Dem ransom demand may ensure the SNP take the BBC to court

The Liberal Democrats have become noticeably less frosty today about the SNP joining them in challenging ITV's rigged leaders' debate in court.  It's unlikely that they're being friendlier out of the sheer kindness of their hearts, so I can think of two possible explanations: a) their lawyers have told them there's a better chance of success if the case doesn't seem to be motivated by narrow self-interest, or b) their double-standards in saying that the SNP should be excluded has led to negative responses in focus groups or internal polling.

The courts tend to be conservative with a small 'c', so I think we have to presume that the balance of probability is that today's challenge will fail.  But let's suppose for the purposes of speculation that the court thinks the arguments on each side are finely-balanced.  If so, it could be that we've been very unlucky that the ITV format has had to be challenged first, because it seems to me that ITV's defence of what they're doing is slightly less weak than the BBC's or Sky's.  They've got an interview-based programme scheduled for after the debate on Tuesday night, featuring leaders of the excluded parties but not Labour or the Tories.  That was clearly a wheeze dreamed up with the specific aim of making the debate court-proof, and it might just work.  But as far as I'm aware, the BBC and Sky have no such programme planned, so even if the ITV debate is upheld, it's still possible that the BBC and Sky debates might be shown the red card if the SNP launch further legal challenges later on.  Would they, though?  Or would they be demoralised by a first defeat and think there is little point in taking the matter further?

What might tip the balance in favour of them fighting to the end is an extraordinary letter the Liberal Democrats have sent to the BBC, which almost reads like a ransom demand -

"In light of all of the above you are now required to confirm, by 5pm on Wednesday November 20, 2019, that Jo Swinson will be invited to take part in any ‘leaders’ debate’ to be broadcast by BBC during the current General Election campaign."

If the Lib Dems are determined to take the BBC to court, come what may, I would guess the SNP will feel they have to be there as well to protect their own interests.  Because the one thing that would be even worse than a two-way debate excluding the SNP is a three-way debate excluding the SNP.

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I have another couple of constituency previews in today's edition of The National - this time it's Edinburgh East and Argyll & Bute.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Lib Dems enter the danger zone

There's no consistent trend in the GB-wide polls as far as the Tory v Labour battle is concerned - some have the Tories stretching away to a point where a large overall majority for Boris Johnson looks very hard to avoid, but others have the gap narrowing and leave open the possibility of a hung parliament.  But one trend that does seem relatively consistent is that the Lib Dems have dropped back since the start of the campaign.  Jo Swinson is entering a danger zone over the next couple of days - voters in England already seem to be concluding of their own accord that this is a traditional two-horse race, and if Tuesday night's rigged Johnson v Corbyn debate on ITV is given the go-ahead by the courts, that conclusion could be further reinforced.  Remain voters in England (except in seats that are clearly Lib Dem targets) may start to feel that Labour are the only game in town, and the Lib Dem vote could end up being severely squeezed.

On the face of it, that could be good news for the SNP in the five seats where the Lib Dems are their main opponents - but unfortunately the dynamics are a bit different in Scotland.  A lot of Jo Swinson's voters in East Dunbartonshire last time around were basically Tory supporters who weren't much bothered about her party label - they just voted for her because they were persuaded by nefarious means that she was the only candidate who could beat the SNP.  Maybe some of those people will be more discriminating this time due to Brexit - but I suspect the Lib Dems will retain a sizeable Tory tactical vote in those key constituencies.

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I've written another couple of constituency previews for today's edition of The National - this time it's Na h-Eileanan an Iar and Ross, Skye & Lochaber

Friday, November 15, 2019

SNP win election dress rehearsal in Fife

There were three Scottish local by-elections yesterday, and we've had the results of two so far.  The SNP won both - one was technically a hold, the other was technically a gain from the Conservatives, although both were wards in which the SNP topped the popular vote last time.  Unfortunately the percentage changes you may have seen in one or two places on social media (including on Britain Elects) are completely inaccurate - it's amazing how often that happens.  The incorrect figures exaggerated the swing to the SNP, but the real figures are decent enough anyway.

Dunfermline Central by-election result:

SNP 33.2% (+3.4) 
Conservatives 24.8% (+0.7)
Liberal Democrats 22.8% (+15.9) 
Labour 13.5% (-13.1) 
Greens 5.1% (+1.9) 
Libertarians 0.6% (n/a)

Rosyth by-election result:

SNP 42.8% (+6.3) 
Conservatives 24.4% (+2.1) 
Labour 15.2% (-3.1) 
Liberal Democrats 7.9% (+0.5) 
Independent 5.0% 
Greens 4.2% (+1.3) 
Libertarians 0.5% (n/a)

So a small swing from the Tories to the SNP, and a bigger swing (especially in Dunfermline) from Labour to the SNP.  Scarily, the Lib Dems came within two votes of beating the SNP in Dunfermline after lower preferences were redistributed - it's unusual for a party to come so close to overturning a large first preference deficit.  That may tell us something about how hard it's going to be for the SNP to win any of the five seats at the general election where the Lib Dems are their main opponent - ie. the Lib Dems may be able to successfully squeeze the Tory vote.

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I have two more constituency previews in The National - this time Orkney & Shetland and Glasgow North-East.  

Thursday, November 14, 2019

SNP enjoy 21-point lead over the Tories in latest YouGov subsample average

I'm beginning to wonder if a full-scale Scottish poll is ever going to be conducted in this campaign, but in the meantime, here's the next best thing - an average of the last five Scottish subsamples from GB-wide YouGov polls.  YouGov's subsamples differ from those of other firms because they appear to be correctly structured and weighted.  The combined fieldwork for these five took place entirely after the most recent full-scale Scottish poll from YouGov, which was conducted in late October.

SNP 44.2%
Conservatives 23.0%
Labour 12.6%
Liberal Democrats 11.8%
Brexit Party 4.6%
Greens 3.4%

So the SNP appear to have come through the early skirmishes of the campaign unscathed, although the real danger points (ie. the rigged leaders' debates) are yet to come.  I would guess the above figures slightly underestimate the Tories, because four of the five subsamples preceded the methodological change to take account of the Brexit Party standing aside in Tory-held seats.

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I have another two constituency previews in The National today - this time it's Dundee East and Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey.  You can read them HERE and HERE.