Friday, May 3, 2013

Disaster for Labour : local election results confirm they are headed for defeat in the next UK general election

Leaving aside for one moment the London media's new-found love affair with a hard-right party (a match made in heaven if ever there was one), what really matters about the English local elections is what they tell us about the likely outcome of the Tory v Labour battle for power in the next general election. And the answer couldn't be much clearer. Here are the BBC's projected national vote shares...

Labour 29%
Conservatives 25%
UKIP 23%
Liberal Democrats 14%

29% is obviously a laughably low share of the vote for a major opposition party seeking a mid-term launch-pad to get back into power. Labour can justifiably use the UKIP surge as an alibi for that vote share, but what they can't use it as an alibi for is their pitiful four-point lead over the Tories at a time in the electoral cycle when they should be miles ahead. The reason UKIP isn't a credible excuse is that polling evidence shows that five times as many UKIP voters come from the Tories as from Labour. In other words, if UKIP hadn't been around, the Conservatives would almost certainly have outpolled Labour in these elections.

But even if we take the raw figures at face value, the BBC's graphics quickly demonstrated why Labour's four-point lead is hopelessly inadequate. At the same stage of the electoral cycle in the 1983-87 parliament, the Labour opposition had a bigger lead of 5% in the local elections - and went on to lose the general election. At the same stage of the electoral cycle in the 1987-92 parliament, the Labour opposition had an even bigger lead of 8% - and went on to lose the general election. The same fate befell the Tory oppositions that held a similar small lead in the mid-term local elections in the 1997-2001 and 2001-05 parliaments. The historical evidence is absolutely unambiguous - the results of these elections point to a Tory victory in 2015.

Having seen that evidence, John Reid bizarrely protested that the BBC hadn't mentioned the 1981 local elections, which he regarded as the most appropriate comparison, because the centre-left vote was split in the early 1980s in the same way that the centre-right vote is split now. There are just a couple of tiny problems with that theory, John -

1) In spite of Labour's huge handicap in 1981, Michael Foot actually won those elections by a margin of 3% - almost exactly the same lead that Labour have managed this year. They went on to a crushing defeat at the general election two years later. Not much comfort there.

2) If the split in the centre-right vote is such a huge opportunity for Labour, why did they so spectacularly fail to take advantage of it in these elections? And given that they failed to take advantage of it in the favourable context of a mid-term poll, why the hell would it be rational to assume that they are much more likely to take advantage of it in the context of a general election when the governance of the country is at stake? Hint - it wouldn't be remotely rational to assume that.

Labour's position isn't hopeless, but given the electoral disaster they have just suffered it seems to me that something fairly dramatic is going to have to happen if they are to win the general election. That something could be internal - either a radical change in policy direction or a change in leader (both are unlikely). Or it could be external - the Tories could shoot themselves in the foot so catastrophically that Labour win by default.

But as things stand, the Yes campaign are fully entitled to shout a simple truth from the rooftops - the Tories are heading for victory at the next election, and if you don't want to be ruled by them, the only alternative is to vote for independence.

* * *

Gerry Hassan also made the valuable point today that UKIP are in favour of the de facto abolition of the Scottish Parliament. After the Tories' acceptance of the principle of devolution, we assumed that the spectre of a right-wing government in London unilaterally scrapping Holyrood (as Mrs Thatcher scrapped the GLC) had vanished, but that may not now be the case. If UKIP start to win MPs, who knows what stance a future UKIP-Tory coalition might take towards Scottish self-government? It may well be that a No vote in next year's referendum would put at risk the long-term future of the devolved parliament.

* * *

There were of course no elections in Scotland yesterday (apart from a couple of by-elections, one of which was won by the Borders Party and the other by an independent), but the SNP's sister parties in Wales and Cornwall had battles to fight. Plaid Cymru had a terrific result in Anglesey, becoming the largest single party by some distance. And Mebyon Kernow had a respectable result in the unitary Cornwall authority, winning a handful of seats - quite an achievement given that they presumably receive next to no coverage in the broadcast media.

Clegg In Seventh Heaven As Libs Lick Lousy Loony

The future of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party was called into question tonight, as it sensationally found itself pipped for seventh place in the South Shields by-election by (and I'm not making this up) the Liberal Democrats.

Chastened Loony candidate Alan "Howling Laud" Hope commented : "I must admit I just didn't see that one coming. Finishing in eighth place is one thing, but to lose to Clegg's mob has always seemed unthinkable - until now. If something like this can happen, then no Loony stronghold can be considered safe at the next general election. Our long-cherished dream of compulsory tracking devices in hairgrips could be fading fast."

Election expert John Curtice went even further, suggesting that the party's humiliating defeat at the hands of a "comedy" candidate marked the final confirmation that "the strange death of Loony England" is well underway.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems' unexpected seventh place raised hopes that Nick Clegg's party might even save a deposit or two at the general election, possibly somewhere in Cornwall.

The result in full -

Labour 50.4% (-1.6)
UKIP 24.2%% (+24.2)
Conservatives 11.5% (-10.1)
Independent - Khan 5.4% (+5.4)
Independent Socialists 3.0% (+3.0)
BNP 2.9% (-3.6)
Liberal Democrats 1.4% (-12.8%)
Official Monster Raving Loonies 0.8% (+0.8)
Independent - Darwood 0.2% (+0.2)

Swing from Conservatives to UKIP - 17%
Swing from Labour to UKIP - 13%
Swing from Conservatives to Labour - 4%
Swing from Liberal Democrats to UKIP - 19%
Swing from Liberal Democrats to Official Monster Raving Loonies - 7%

Thursday, May 2, 2013

House of Commons report confirms that Scottish independence would be a force for good in the world - and that Duncan Hothersall is wrong, again

It's rare that a report by Westminster's Foreign Affairs Committee paints such an inspiring picture of the benefits that independence would bring not just to Scotland, but to the wider world as well. Here are just a few of the highlights -

1. The UK might lose its veto-wielding power in the UN Security Council.

This of course would be a GOOD THING. Britain's special perks at the UN are relics of imperialism that ought to have been stripped away decades ago. Countries in the developing world are rightly furious that a nation on the fringes of Europe, with less than 1% of the global population, has the permanent, in-built power to protect its own selfish interests by vetoing resolutions that would otherwise have the full force of international law.

2. The UK might not retain its nuclear weapons, because of the difficulty of moving them from Scotland.

This of course would be a GOOD THING. The fewer countries in the world that have weapons capable of wiping out millions of people within seconds, the less chance there is of human civilisation coming to an end in the near future. On the whole, I'm rather in favour of human civilisation.

This also confirms that Duncan Hothersall is wrong in his claims that the unilateralism of independence supporters is a sham, and that we'd simply be voting to move the weapons elsewhere rather than eliminate them. In fact, if the Commons report is correct, the only meaningful chance any UK citizens will have to eliminate nuclear weapons will be by voting for Scottish independence.

3. Confusingly at variance with highlight no 2, Scotland might be "forced" to continue hosting nuclear weapons for decades if we want the UK's support for our applications to join international organisations.

This is of course a GOOD THING, or at least it is if you read between the lines and spot the implicit recognition that the Trident issue is Scotland's bargaining chip from heaven, which can potentially be used to counter London's immature intransigence on a whole range of other issues as well.

4. A truly independent Scottish foreign policy is a misnomer, because in practice we'd be forced to go along with whatever the UK wanted.

Well, this would probably be a bad thing on the whole, but I can only assume that the committee itself regards it as a GOOD THING. After all, it would mean following in the finest traditions of British foreign policy, which is to do whatever the Americans instruct us to do.

* * *

On a vaguely related theme, this poll from YouGov caught my eye, because it was conducted across seven different European countries...

How serious a threat do you think North Korea poses to your country?


Serious threat 15%
Minor threat/Not a threat 74%


Serious threat 19%
Minor threat/Not a threat 68%


Serious threat 26%
Minor threat/Not a threat 62%


Serious threat 4%
Minor threat/Not a threat 90%


Serious threat 3%
Minor threat/Not a threat 90%


Serious threat 3%
Minor threat/Not a threat 90%


Serious threat 6%
Minor threat/Not a threat 85%

So, unsurprisingly, the majority in all seven countries are wise enough to realise that David Cameron's claims that Europe is under threat from North Korea are a load of old twaddle. But what I find particularly interesting is that the populations of the four small independent nations (none of which have an 'independent nuclear deterrent', and two of which are not even NATO members) feel under considerably LESS threat of nuclear annihilation at the hands of Kim Jong-un than the populations of the three much larger countries (two of which do have an 'independent nuclear deterrent').

Shurely shome mishtake, David?

* * *

I have it on reasonably good authority that a full-scale YouGov poll on referendum voting intentions is on its way. It will be the first such poll by the company this year, and therefore also the first YouGov poll to use - after a fashion - the finalised, Electoral Commission-approved question. I say "after a fashion" because Kellner's mob have by all accounts persisted with their indefensible practice of using a biased preamble to 'explain' the question to their respondents, who they apparently think are too stupid to understand the meaning of the words "Should Scotland be an independent country?".

Rest assured that I have my customary "YouGov credibility in tatters" headline ready to go when the moment arrives.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Here's why Labour are probably going to lose the next UK general election

Until recently, I tended to go along with the conventional wisdom that the balance of probability points to a Conservative defeat at the next UK general election - not because Labour have in any sense got their act together, but simply because the Tories are starting from such a low base and have the electoral system loaded against them. That didn't mean we couldn't make the argument that a vote for independence is a vote against Tory rule, but it did mean we would probably have to get across the slightly more sophisticated point that the Tories are the natural party of government in the UK, and that Labour's spells in office only come about when they tack to the right and adopt Tory policies.

But my view of the likely general election outcome is evolving rapidly. Just take a look at the latest GB-wide ComRes poll -

Labour 38%
Conservatives 32%
UKIP 13%
Liberal Democrats 9%

Given the almost-inevitable unpopularity of Westminster governments in mid-term, a mere six-point Labour lead at this stage has "Tory victory in 2015" written all over it. But in fact Labour's position is even weaker than it appears, and the reason is that a large chunk of the UKIP vote will drift back to the mainstream parties by the time of the general election. Some of it will drift back to Labour, but the lion's share will naturally be going to the Tories. To get at the true underlying state of play, what we really need is a polling question that excludes UKIP from the equation, and YouGov helpfully provided one last week -

If you had to choose, which of the following options would be best for Britain?

A majority Conservative government 29%
A majority Labour government 29%
A coalition between Labour and the Liberal Democrats 13%
A coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats 9%

Even if those figures are combined, a Labour-led government of some description is only favoured by a wafer-thin margin of 42% to 38%. That is an utterly hopeless position for Labour to be in at this stage of the electoral cycle. You won't be surprised to hear that the figures in Scotland are radically different - we prefer a Labour-led government to a Tory-led government by an overwhelming margin of 57% to 21%. Well, we can prefer that to our little hearts' content, but it won't make a blind bit of difference unless we take control of our own destiny at the independence referendum.

I'd suggest the real challenge for the Yes campaign will be to convey to voters just how weak Labour's true position is, if the party's poor showing in the polls continues to be disguised by the UKIP surge.

* * *

Many thanks to the 155 people who voted for this blog in last week's WoS poll. Scot Goes Pop finished eighth on the "which is your favourite Scottish political site?" question, and tenth on the "which Scottish political sites do you visit at least once a week?" question. It wasn't that far away from being better still on the latter question, because just fourteen votes separated sixth and tenth place. But I'm more than happy to finish in the top ten on both questions, mainly because it gives me a long-overdue excuse to update the tagline in the masthead! The previous wording of "voted one of the UK's top 100 political blogs" referred to the most recent Total Politics Awards, which took place way back in September 2011.

You might remember that I ran a similar poll last year, and RevStu has provided some analysis of the changes in voting patterns since that poll. It's worth pointing out that the comparison isn't an exact one - my poll was restricted to blogs (hence the exclusion of Newsnet Scotland, which is a news website like the Scotsman rather than a blog), but on the other hand included a smattering of non-Scottish sites. It also had a smaller 'electorate', which may well explain the apparent contraction in the number of sites that are read by over 50% of voters - it could be that last year's voters were more likely to be among the hard core who read a large number of blogs. I'm also slightly sceptical about the apparent sharp drop in popularity of both Better Nation and A Burdz Eye View - again, that could simply reflect the profile of the Wings readership. Admittedly, there doesn't seem to be the same buzz about Better Nation that there once was, but A Burdz Eye View appears to be going as strong as ever.

Last but not least, warm congratulations to this blog's oldest friend Tris, who had an absolutely fantastic result - Munguin's Republic finished fifth on the 'overall favourite' question, and eighth on the 'most-read' question.

* * *

If you happen to have a few pounds burning a hole in your pocket, why not make a donation to the National Collective fundraising drive? It has just four more days to run, and they're getting tantalisingly close to their target figure (reaching that figure will save them hundreds of pounds in fees).