Sunday, November 29, 2020

SNP vote surges in two Perth by-elections

So just a brief round-up of a couple of local by-election results I overlooked the other day... 

Perth City South: 

SNP 32.9% (+5.2) 
Liberal Democrats 31.6% (-3.1) 
Conservatives 29.4% (+4.2) 
Labour 3.5% (-2.9) 
Greens 2.3% (-0.8) 
UKIP 0.3% (n/a) 

This is one of those bonkers results that can only occur due to the STV system, and which we know from past experience that poor old Mike "impartial Lib Dem election expert" Smithson struggles to get his head around. The Lib Dems topped the poll in the ward in 2017, and the SNP have overtaken them this time. The SNP vote has gone up, and the Lib Dem vote has gone down. The net swing from Lib Dem to SNP is a very healthy 4%. And yet technically the result of the by-election is a Lib Dem gain from the SNP. How is that even possible? Well, it's because STV is a proportional system with multi-councillor wards, and the by-election was caused by the death of an SNP councillor who was elected in 2017 after finishing in third place in the ward on the first preference vote. However, as soon as a vacancy occurs, STV suddenly stops being a proportional system, and all the voters of the ward get to choose a replacement, which naturally gives an in-built advantage to whichever party topped the popular vote in the ward last time around.

But hang on, didn't the SNP top the popular vote in the by-election? So how come it's a Lib Dem gain? That's because STV is also a preferential system, and the lower preferences of Tory voters will have broken heavily for the Lib Dems. A tight head-to-head between the SNP and the Lib Dems on first preferences when there are lots of Tory transfers sloshing around is essentially an unwinnable scenario for the SNP. 

Perth City North: 
 
SNP 61.0% (+12.5) 
Conservatives 22.9% (-2.7) 
Labour 9.5% (-6.3) 
Liberal Democrats 3.9% (+0.4) 
Greens 2.6% (n/a) 

Not much need to worry about transfers when you have 61% on first preferences! The SNP's average increase across the two by-elections is more than 8%, which tends to suggest the mildly underwhelming recent result in Clackmannanshire was - as we suspected at the time - an aberration caused by local factors.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

So where are all the good guys? You could be looking at them...

I was amused yesterday to see that someone had set up a website called "the SNP Good Guys", a name given by some Twitter users to Denise Findlay's list of preferred candidates for this weekend's set of internal elections. Cheekily, the site purports to have been created on behalf of the candidates in question, who it portrays as a sort of collective. That's highly unlikely to be the case - it's more like a 'fan site' intended to drum up support. A harmless enough wheeze, you might think, but if you listen to certain hysterical voices on Twitter you'd think it was somehow akin to Mussolini's March on Rome. The TV actor David Paisley (nope, me neither) penned a risible 'Sherlock Holmes' thread, and obviously expected everyone to gasp with astonishment when he pointed out the blindingly obvious connection with Denise Findlay, who he described darkly as "a former SNP member who resigned from the party following antisemitism accusations" and "an outspoken anti-trans activist attempting to influence SNP NEC elections". Well, perish the thought that any female activist should be "outspoken", eh, David? And I'm not sure it's really all that surprising or outrageous that someone who was an active SNP member for years and was on the Conduct Committee until only twelve months ago should still take a keen interest in the party's internal democracy. Needless to say, the antisemitism allegations against her were hotly disputed, and she also questioned whether the narrative that she had "resigned" was actually accurate - she felt she had been pressured in the heat of the moment into saying she would resign and that the proper resignation process had not in fact occurred.

Sherlock Paisley's investigation then uncovered the 'shocking' information that SNP Good Guys, ForWomenScot and the LGB Alliance all share the same internet hosting, that Denise Findlay follows ForWomenScot, LGB Alliance, WomensPledge and TransgenderTrd, and that - get this - they all follow her back. And that's pretty much it. Yes, I know what you're thinking - with this standard of cutting-edge investigative journalism we could have the makings of the dullest episode of Panorama ever. (And it would still only last twenty seconds.) 

Not to be outdone, the MP John Nicolson then ratcheted up the absurdity to a whole new level by claiming that the entirely circumstantial link with the LGB Alliance means that the SNP Good Guys literally are the LGB Alliance, and are therefore a "sinister far right" organisation. He then urged his followers not to vote for anyone endorsed by the "far right" - including several of his current and former SNP colleagues in the House of Commons, even though a) by definition no-one has any control over whether someone else endorses them, and b) the whole "far right" characterisation is a pile of nonsense anyway. Essentially Mr Nicolson is making a dog-whistle attempt to (deniably) paint highly respected fellow parliamentarians such as Joanna Cherry and Neale Hanvey as quasi-Nazis. I think he's jumped the shark on this one, and that SNP members aren't nearly as stupid or as gullible as he seems to imagine. 

Where does the "far right" accusation come from? Presumably the idea is that the LGB Alliance and the SNP Women's Pledge are "transphobic" and therefore "bigoted" and therefore "far right". Which is odd, because the standard term of abuse chucked at alleged transphobes is "TERF", in which the "RF" stands for "radical feminist". And whatever other criticisms might be legitimately levelled at radical feminists, it's a bit of a stretch to argue that they're on the right of the political spectrum, let alone the far right. Denise Findlay makes no secret of why she backs the candidates she does - she wants people who put independence first, and who will prioritise the rights of women and girls (ie. sceptics on GRA reform). I'm not as preocuppied as she is with the trans debate, but I'm certainly on the same page as far as putting independence first is concerned, and I do worry that some current SNP office-holders are culture warriors first and independence warriors second. It's ironic that the likes of John Nicolson, David Paisley and Alyn Smith should characterise "SNP Good Guys" as the work of "entryists", because to me and to many others it looks like the entryism has actually been in completely the opposite direction, and that there are now an awful lot of people in positions of influence within the SNP who care a hell of a lot more about their own identity politics zealotry than they do about independence. 

For that reason, if I had a vote this weekend, I'd probably end up voting for quite a few of the people on Denise's list. Not necessarily all of them, because I don't know enough about some of them, but it goes without saying that I'd vote for high-quality and high-profile candidates such as Douglas Chapman, Joanna Cherry, Neale Hanvey, Amanda Burgauer, Corri Wilson, Roger Mullin, Catriona MacDonald and Chris McEleny. (Far right, John? Really?!) I'd also give serious consideration to Denise's recommendations for the Women's Convener and Equalities Convener votes, because frankly I think the incumbents in those two positions have been far too divisive. Here's a suggestion - why not ignore John Nicolson's silly slurs and make up your own mind by checking out Denise's list of endorsements HERE. Whether you vote for them or not, I think you'll agree with me that they're impressive people and that there's not a Nazi amongst them. 

By the way, a bonus point for anyone who correctly identifies the episode of Blake's 7 that I took the title of this blogpost from.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Backing Joanna Cherry's slate for the NEC elections

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may be aware of my confusion a couple of weeks ago at a cartoon that had seemingly been created and shared by the so-called 'woke' tendency within the Yes movement. It contained people who were presumably meant to be gay, trans and from ethnic minorities, looking dubious and alarmed as they were asked by a couple of well-meaning Yessers to "let's all just be friends" with people from the movement who are apparently supposed to be beyond the pale - including Wings supporters, feminists with concerns about GRA reform, and most oddly of all the SNP Common Weal group. I can't pretend to know much about the Common Weal group - I'm not sure if they're a full part of Common Weal itself, or if they're just inspired by the same principles. But given that those principles are firmly rooted in the radical left, you'd think the 'woke' faction would see them as natural allies rather than as mortal enemies. A clue to what is going on is that the Common Weal group are supporting a slate of candidates for the upcoming NEC elections who have given their backing to a 'Manifesto for Democracy' - and that slate includes Joanna Cherry and Neale Hanvey, who are hate figures for a small minority of young activists due to the trans issue. Some of them openly wanted unionists to defeat Ms Cherry and Mr Hanvey in last year's general election, and boasted on social media about campaigning in any constituency but those two. 

For my own part, I think both Ms Cherry and Mr Hanvey would make ideal members of the NEC, and I can't see much to disagree with in the Manifesto for Democracy - which includes an urgent push for independence, a fairer complaints process, and a long-overdue reform to give all party members (rather than just delegates) the right to vote in internal elections, such as NEC elections. Of course this runs into the age-old problem with reforming electoral processes - to get changes through you first have to win a vote among the existing franchise, which is often weighted towards those who may have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. 

It's unlikely anything I say will have much influence on conference delegates, who are highly politically engaged and will know their own minds. But for what it's worth, I would urge anyone with a vote at the weekend to back change on the NEC. Let's democratise the party and make independence our number one priority going forward.


Monday, November 23, 2020

The SNP's defence submission is a 'modernisation' too far: it's time to reaffirm the long-standing commitment to *unilateral* nuclear disarmament

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Pro-indy parties make progress in Clackmannanshire East by-election

A rare advantage of being forced to have pre-moderation switched on is that I was able to intercept a comment the other night by a well-known unionist propagandist who was attempting to portray the Conservative hold in the Clackmannanshire East by-election as some kind of glorious, game-changing victory for unionism. In reality, the vote share for both pro-independence parties actually went up slightly, and it looks like the unexpectedly sharp increase in the Tory vote can be explained mainly by an intra-unionist swing caused by yet another Labour collapse. 

Clackmannanshire East by-election result: 
 
Conservatives 51.2% (+9.7) 
SNP 32.0% (+1.8) 
Labour 8.1% (-12.1) 
Greens 5.8% (+2.0) 
Liberal Democrats 2.9% (-1.4) 

If we'd seen this result in late 2017 or 2018, I might have interpreted the Tories' relatively strong performance as being of wider national significance. But at the moment we have tonnes of polling evidence, and indeed evidence from other recent local by-elections, that the Tories are struggling across Scotland and that the Douglas Ross experiment is failing. So the Clackmannanshire East outcome has got 'local factors' written all over it. It was a reasonably solid Tory ward in 2017 anyway - it contains Dollar, so it's very much the posh end of the county.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

To only focus on "disaster" would be our "biggest mistake"

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: Scottish public think Nicola Sturgeon has outperformed her fellow world leaders in her handling of the pandemic

Last but not least in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, we have an opportunity to see how Nicola Sturgeon shapes up in a league table of selected world leaders - and we all know how thrilled our unionist friends always are to see Ms Sturgeon receiving her due recognition alongside her fellow world leaders.  Bear in mind that this is a poll of voting-age respondents in Scotland.  

How good or bad a job do you think the following leaders are doing in their response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE USA:

Very Good: 2%
Good: 5%
Bad: 13%
Very Bad: 68%

Neither Good Nor Bad: 9%

Total Good: 8%
Total Bad: 82%

Net Rating: -74

I know there appears to be a small discrepancy in the numbers, but that'll be due to the effect of rounding.  As you'd expect, Trump has an abysmal reputation across all demographics and partisan loyalties, and interestingly there's no difference between Yes and No voters on this one - he has a net rating of -75 among people who voted Yes in 2014, and -74 among people who voted No.  There is, however, a slightly bigger difference between people who would currently vote Yes and No, which is logical enough, because the No coalition has shrunk in recent months and has presumably been left with a bigger percentage of right-wingers.  Trump's least-worst rating is among Conservative voters, but that's not saying much - exactly half of Tories say he's done "very badly".

NICOLA STURGEON, FIRST MINISTER OF SCOTLAND:

Very Good: 29%
Good: 37%
Bad: 9%
Very Bad: 12%

Neither Good Nor Bad: 12%

Total Good: 66%
Total Bad: 21%

Net Rating: +45

What leaps out at me here are the differences between voters for the various unionist parties.  Ms Sturgeon has won over both Labour and Liberal Democrat voters, who give her net ratings of +28 and +51 respectively.  The die-hards who will presumably always say she's performing badly no matter what she does are mostly to be found among Tory voters, who give her a net negative rating of -21.

BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UK:

Very Good: 5%
Good: 14%
Bad: 21%
Very Bad: 43%

Neither Good Nor Bad: 15%

Total Good: 19%
Total Bad: 65%

Net Rating: -46

Ouch.  Would it be tactless of me to say these figures are a "disaster" for the unionist cause?  In a reverse mirror image of the results for Ms Sturgeon, only Tory voters give Mr Johnson a positive rating - although there are plenty enough Tories who hold him in disdain.  28% of them think he's handled the crisis badly or very badly.  The only other group where he gets even close to respectability is current No supporters, who give him a net negative rating of 'only' -13, but of course that'll be largely because such a significant percentage of current No supporters are Tories.

ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY:

Very Good: 18%
Good: 34%
Bad: 5%
Very Bad: 4%

Neither Good Nor Bad: 23%

Total Good: 52%
Total Bad: 9%

Net Rating: +43

You wouldn't think there'd be such an ideological and/or partisan element to people's appreciation of Ms Merkel's assured response to the crisis, but in fact it appears that anti-European prejudices are rearing their ugly head here.  No supporters are more grudging than Yes supporters, and her least good numbers are to be found among Tory voters - although even they give her a positive rating of +18.  

WORLD LEADER LEAGUE TABLE:

Nicola Sturgeon: +45
Angela Merkel: +43
Boris Johnson: -46
Donald Trump: -74

I'm sure Douglas Ross and George Foulkes will gladly confirm that this outcome makes us all feel incredibly proud to be Scottish.  

* * *

You can read my comment piece in The National on the BBC results from the poll HERE.

Remember that the Scottish people were fearful about the future of devolution even *before* Boris Johnson called it a "disaster"

Alex Massie in the Spectator: "Speaking to his northern English MPs last night, Johnson declared that devolution has been 'a disaster north of the border' and was the biggest mistake Tony Blair ever made. The implication, quite obviously, is that in a better ordered world the Scottish parliament should be abolished." 

Just a reminder of how fearful voters were about the future of the Scottish Parliament before our beloved Prime Minister called devolution a "disaster"... 

If Scotland does not become an independent country over the next ten years, and if the Conservatives remain in power at Westminster, which of the following three outcomes do you think is most likely? (Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, 5th-11th November 2020) 

The UK Conservative government will substantially increase the Scottish Parliament's powers: 23% 

The UK Conservative government will substantially reduce the Scottish Parliament's powers: 55% 

The UK Conservative government will abolish the Scottish Parliament altogether: 22% 

TOTAL REDUCE/ABOLISH: 77% 

And of the potential electoral consequences of those fears... 

If the UK Conservative government substantially reduces the powers of the Scottish Parliament or abolishes the Scottish Parliament altogether, would you be more likely or less likely to support Scotland becoming an independent country?

More likely: 69% 
Less likely: 31% 

Incidentally, Alex Massie went on to say this: "Arguing that devolution has failed because Nicola Sturgeon is first minister is the same as arguing that Britain has failed because Boris Johnson is Prime Minister...A rotten government in Edinburgh no more makes devolution a disaster than Johnson proves the Union’s bankruptcy. (The answer, in each case, is to elect a better government.)" 

Which is fine, if you actually have the capacity to do that in each case. The Scottish people can certainly elect the Scottish government that they most want, but I'm at something of a loss to explain how Alex thinks they can elect the UK government they most want, given that Scotland only has 59 of 650 seats at Westminster.

*  *  *

Later today I'll publish the final batch of results in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll - watch a preview below.

 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: Staggering three-quarters of voters think the BBC have failed to make the public aware of how the Internal Market Bill will reduce the Scottish Parliament's powers

As I mentioned the other day, one of the difficulties of polling about public attitudes to the Westminster power-grab contained in the Internal Market Bill is that most people aren't even aware of it, due to the mainstream media's abject failure to report it.  No-one would expect anti-independence newspapers to go out of their way to draw attention to something that would be unhelpful for their side of the debate, but what of the public service broadcaster that so many people look to and trust to give them impartial information?  I thought it might be worth asking respondents what they think about the BBC's non-reporting of the power-grab.   

Do you think the BBC have done enough to make the public aware of the changes to the Scottish Parliament's powers proposed by the Internal Market Bill?  

Yes 23%
No 77% 

I was actually quite staggered by that result - I thought we might see an even split, with independence supporters being critical of the BBC and unionists more content.  But in fact this is a rare example of literally every demographic or political group mentioned in the datasets reaching the same conclusion.  89% of SNP voters, 68% of Labour voters, 74% of Liberal Democrat voters, 62% of Conservative voters, 86% of Yes supporters, 63% of No supporters, 77% of people born in Scotland and 76% of people born in England all agree that the BBC have failed to properly inform the public. 

My guess is this will have happened because of a straightforward logical process.  Having been just asked a question that summarised the changes to the devolution settlement that the Internal Market Bill entails, respondents will have come to the inescapable conclusion that what is happening is important enough that the public should know about it, and will also have realised that they've heard very little about it on the BBC.  Even for many Tory voters, that will have left only one possible answer to the question. 

So to summarise what we've learned from this poll: when the public know about the power-grab, they think it breaches The Vow and shouldn't happen without a referendum, but many of them don't know about it because the BBC haven't told them, and they think that's wrong.  I'm not sure that's a great look for the state broadcaster.

*  *  *

There's still a little bit more to come from the poll - if you'd like to be the first to know, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

*  *  *

You can read my piece in The National about last night's results HERE.

VIDEO: Preview of tonight's question in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll