Saturday, November 8, 2014

OK, this is merely the second-best comedy moment of the year

I haven't laughed so much since...oooh, since the last time Political Betting delighted us all by imparting their "wisdom" on Scottish politics.  Today, Mike "can't be arsed" Smithson picks up on a speculative piece in the Mail about Alex Salmond possibly standing against Danny Alexander in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey next year.  That's fair enough as far as it goes, because Smithson lets the story speak for itself and doesn't add any comment to it (he probably couldn't be arsed), but the comedy lies in this immediate response from his sycophantic second-in-command TSE...

"Interesting that Salmond took your advice and decided not to stand in Gordon"

Now, TSE is admittedly a self-styled wit, but this does appear to be genuinely intended as a serious comment.  Where to begin?  Why not with the bleedin' obvious - the Mail story is wildly speculative, and is not a sign that Salmond has "decided" anything at all.  I actually think Inverness would be a good choice for him, but it certainly wouldn't be in line with the signals he's been sending - he's repeatedly stated that he will continue to serve "the people of the north-east of Scotland", and to the best of my knowledge Inverness does not fall within anyone's definition of the north-east.

But as for Salmond taking Smithson's advice...words fail me.  If you recall, that advice (which was embarrassingly issued just one day before an Ipsos-Mori poll was published showing the SNP on course for a landslide next year) was that Salmond shouldn't stand in Gordon because he was a washed-up politician, yesterday's man, and the SNP couldn't possibly hope to knock off the mighty Lib Dems in a heartland seat.  So presumably TSE is now implying that Smithson sensed that, for some unspecified reason, the no-hoper Salmond would have a slightly better chance of winning if he instead stood in another Lib Dem-held seat in which the SNP are starting from even further behind?

Well, that was a brave call, Mike.  Is there no end to your crazy-paving genius?

Back in the real world, of course, Salmond would be a near-certainty to win Gordon, and that's why he may be considering helping his party out by transferring his personal vote to a slightly tougher seat.  The emphasis is very much on the word "slightly", though, and unfortunately the Lib Dem source quoted by the Mail doesn't seem to have got that memo -

"We haven't heard anything officially, but we're expecting Salmond to make an announcement any day. But we're confident we can beat him – he's not as popular as he was in 2011 and the referendum saw a 60 per cent No vote in this area. People used to see him as invincible, but that's not the case now. He's something of a spent force."

It's fascinating to ponder whether this is just bravado intended for public consumption, or whether the Lib Dems have retreated so far into the bunker that they genuinely believe this stuff.  Let's get real here - if Salmond doesn't stand in Inverness, the only parties that will have a realistic chance of winning the constituency are the SNP and Labour.  If Salmond is the candidate, soft Labour voters will realise he's the man to humiliate Alexander, and will flock behind him.

The "60 per cent No vote in this area" (which seems to apply to Gordon rather than Alexander's seat) is, as we all know, a red herring - opinion polls show that many No voters now wish they had voted Yes, and many No voters who haven't changed their minds are planning to vote SNP next year.  In any case, there are an awful lot of otherwise intelligent people (including Alex Massie, for example) who seem to have completely lost sight of the fact that we're now reverting to FPTP - it's perfectly possible for the SNP to win many seats on a minority vote based on the people who actually voted Yes.  As Smithson himself points out, the predecessor seat to Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey was once won on just 26% of the vote.

By the way, here's another gem of a comment from PB -

"Hmmm The Highlands voted NO by a surprisingly large amount. 53:47. IIRC it was expected to be a lot closer."

Just how much closer than 53-47 was "expected"?  At this rate they're going to start redefining Bush v Gore as a landslide in order to make it consistent with their insistence that the referendum was not a narrow result.


  1. The SNP don't often poll over 50% in Westminster FPTP seats and often win where the opposition is split.

  2. Despite Alex Massie's unionist position, he admitted on BBC News along with Lesley Riddoch that the future for Scotland was 'Break Away' . No argument with that!

  3. Not a narrow result? I laugh every time I hear that standard line trotted out by MSM, BT mouthpieces, et al, defiantly congratulating themselves on the so-called decisiveness of their triumph. Murphy, again, repeating the mantra this week, "It wasn't even close." Just keep saying that, Jim. It wasn't even close. It wasn't even close.

    Well, if out of every 18 voters, one of the softer Nos has a Yes moment, Yes wins! The UK is extinct. That's how close it "wasn't", Jim. Not one in 5, not one in 10.

    1 in Eighteen.

    It wasn't even close it wasn't even close it wasn't even close it wasn't

    Jim, see those Scottish voting intention polls? That's what "not even close" looks like.

    Good luck.


  4. "If Salmond is the candidate, soft Labour voters will realise he's the man to humiliate Alexander, and will flock behind him."

    This is a seriously odd comment. Do you actually think people would prioritise humiliating Alexander over humiliating Salmond? Salmond is now one of the most divisive politicians in the country - a certain percentage worship him while a similar percentage despise him. Alexander on the other hand is a complete non-entity.

    The idea that people who wouldn't vote for Salmond under normal circumstances are going to "flock behind him" just to give Alexander a bloody nose is bizarrely ill judged.

    1. Salmond got 65% Trust vs 30% don't in the latest poll from MORI.

      For (the few) people planning to vote Labour 2015 it was:

      41% Sat / 52% unsat

      And for remaining Lib dems:

      39% sat / 58% unsat

      That's impressively unifying rather than divisive. Jeez, 40% of remaining Libs stubbornly refusing to jump ship to the actual Scottish yellow flag party still rating Salmond...

    2. We're not talking about satisfaction with someone's leadership, we're talking about hate. The argument is that people detest Alexander so much they're going to flock to Salmond just to give him a bloody nose. If you actually believe that's going to happen you're living on another planet - then again I'm pretty sure you're the person I saw on here bleating on about the "shy Yes" vote during the referendum campaign (how did that work out again?)

      Quoting satisfaction ratings is completely besides the point. In the same poll well over a quarter of SNP voters (excl. DKs) say they're satisfied with the job Ruth Davidson is doing - does that mean SNP voters would back her in an election?

    3. "Do you actually think people would prioritise humiliating Alexander over humiliating Salmond?"

      Er, yes. Yes, Gordon, I do. I do think that. In fact I'm tempted to put it rather stronger than "think".

      "Seriously odd"? "Bizarre"? "Living on another planet"? Is it us you're trying to convince here, or yourself? If you want to begin to understand where you're going astray, try this - Danny Alexander is the most senior Scottish member of one of the most unpopular Westminster governments in living memory. As seriously odd as it may seem to you, Gordon, people do want shot of him. Seriously.

      "bleating on about the "shy Yes" vote during the referendum campaign (how did that work out again?)"

      It worked out pretty damn well, it has to be said - YouGov, TNS and Ipsos-Mori were all massively underestimating the Yes vote with a few short weeks to go.

    4. Got to agree with James, here. Alexander may be an overpromoted non-entity, but he's been a pretty highly visible one. Staying on a personal level, I realise Salmond is not everyone's cup of tea and that's fair enough. Some voters, whereever he stands, might vote on personality and that could harm him where people think he's 'smug' (most politicians are on the criteria normally cited as evidence for this!). However, for a lot of people it will also be about which party as a whole they can trust, and which appears to have the best record (long-term) of telling the truth and delivering policies they want. I feel pretty sure I know which of the two parties is going to be hammered for their role in government in respective parts of the isles and it isn't Salmond or the SNP (regardless of other factors, such as whether everyone accepts now you can have an effect at WM by voting SNP in a GE etc).

    5. ICM poll of Danny's constituency last May, before the SNP surge in Westminster polls and Yes surge ahead of and post-referendum (if recent polls are to be believed).

      32% SNP
      25% Lab
      16% Lib
      12% Con
      7% UKIP
      4% Green

      From ICM.

    6. Fraser Nelson tweeted yesterday that Ladbrokes have the SNP 4/9 favourite to win Inverness and Nairn. Lib Dems 2/1 to hold on, Labour 10/1.

    7. I think the polls narrowed in the last few weeks or month in the build up to the referendum, as this was the period when a lot of 'don't know' made there mind up and started backing yes, not evidence that polls underestimated yes.

    8. " as this was the period when a lot of 'don't know' made there mind up and started backing yes, not evidence that polls underestimated yes"

      If you believe that, then you'll have to explain the other three pollsters that didn't underestimate Yes at all, even months before the referendum. Something very odd happened.

    9. according to lord Ashcroft, about 37% voters made up their mind in the last month, which is shown in the narrowing of the polls, a big proportion of no voters had always intended to vote no, and most polls a few months out had a high percentage of don't knows, which go to explain such a big no lead a few months out, as it turned out a large proportion of these don't knows then backed yes come election day.

    10. If you're the same Anon as before, you're talking about "the polls" when you actually mean TNS, ICM and Ipsos-Mori polls only. You haven't explained why all the other pollsters showed a completely different pattern.

  5. What's going to persuade people to vote for Alexander next time? (with or without Salmond).

  6. A few questions for James about the "missing million".

    Will the Noes from the missing million largely go missing again?

    If the Yesses from the missing million are NOT to go missing again next year, what's the best way to achive this, s banner of Yes Alliance or SNP?

    In other words, isn't this the real point of the Yes Alliance? Not so much to get SNP 45 + Greens 5 = 50, but so we can get the 1.6 million Yessers to vote again for indy, including those previously uninterested in party politics.

    I enjoy the way the polls look at present but I fear too much focus on them risks missing the point above.

    1.6 million is the figure we should keep in mind, not the SNP's latest %.

    Make sense?

    1. I think a Home Rule Alliance (which is probably the best name that has been suggested so far) would be multi-purpose - it would bring in the Green/socialist vote, it would draw in people who enthusiastically voted Yes but have no interest in party politics (which includes some of the missing million), and it would help traditional Labour voters who might have hang-ups about the SNP make the jump.

  7. Home Rule Alliance has a good ring to it.

    Versus the Red, Blue and Yellow Tory Alliance.

  8. Interesting Yougov for the Sunday times. No matter who you install as UK Labour leader, SNP VI doesn't change - well ahead in all cases. Just a bit of churn between Lib/Con and Lab. It's not specifically Ed that's the problem, it's Labour. Or, probably more correctly, SNP is seen as the constitutional 'solution'.

  9. Salmond wants to take a major scalp is how it was spun. Certainly IMO there is no scalp bigger than that of Jim Murphy in his Westminster constituency. It would leave the heir apparent without a seat and Scottish Labour leaderless once more before the Holyrood elections. Not withstanding that Labour would fill that constituency with every possible activist available leaving the other seats even more, well, less safe.

    Alexander's seat could be taken by any rising star in the SNP, and I believe there are several.

    Regards, Shagpile.

  10. Salmond won't be so foolish as to a stand for a seat where he's likely to lose. East Renfrewshire is one of the last seats in Scotland that would turn SNP. The only way of getting rid of Murphy would be for YES voters to vote Tory there - can't see that lol

    It'll be Gordon or Aberdeenshire West

    1. Yes Boab, I also believe he would not stand there. My point was "there is no scalp bigger than Jim Murphy", if the Lib Dems see themselves as being "big scalps", they have gone beyond kidding themselves. Personally I would like to see him stand against McGovern in Dundee West.

      Salmond will stand (and I believe he will) in a seat which he believes he will win. The thing I'm pretty sure of is that the SNP will certainly return more than 6 MPs to Westminster. Now if that final tally is indeed in the order of a complete Labour melt down in Scotland, Mr Murphy will be effectively "scalped" anyway, and if that happens, Scotland may well have more pandas than Lib Dem MPs.

      Regards, Shagpile.

    2. It's not just that. Salmond represents the Gordon area in Holyrood. He's got another year there whatever happens. He won't want to take on a WM constituency that's too far away.

  11. Thank James for all your work and well done for pointing out the obvious . Alexander , like Murphy is hated , even by his old supporters.

  12. @Gordon Robson

    This is a seriously odd comment. Do you actually think people would prioritise humiliating Alexander over humiliating Salmond? Salmond is now one of the most divisive politicians in the country - a certain percentage worship him while a similar percentage despise him. Alexander on the other hand is a complete non-entity.

    What a ludicrous comment about Salmond being one of the most divisive politicians in the country. Alexander has been part of probably the most right wing governments at Westminster. Welfare cuts have forced hundreds of thousands of people to rely on food banks. There have been countless suicides because people do not have enough money to support themselves. The Liberal Democrats went back on their pledge on tuition fees, and they are part of a government that is privatising the NHS and the Royal Mail. Yet you claim Salmond is one of the most divisive politicians in Scotland?

  13. I can't see Salmond standing for the Inverness seat. It does not make sense to me. He has no link as far I as am aware to that constituency. Salmond and his wife have lived in Stricken for a fairly long period of time. It would seem odd to represent an Aberdeenshire seat at Holyrood, and then chose to stand for the Inverness seat, or a Central belt constituency, at the general election. I would be surprised if he did not stand for Gordon, or some other seat in the north east.

  14. I've been looking at those Westminster expenses claims for 2013/14, and guess what ?
    Yes - the biggest claimants are Scotland's Northern LibDems - by a lot ! The figures will certainly raise a few swithering LibDem voters eyebrows :

    Malcolm Bruce : £202,698
    Danny Alexander : £204,274
    Charles Kennedy : £209,748

    Their SNP neighbours ?

    Angus Robertson : £195,811
    Eilidh Whiteford : £144,022
    Angus MacNeil : £182,780

    I think that makes Alexander and Kennedy one and three in the 'Top 10 Expenses Claimants' in Scotland, with Bruce close behind - equaling David Mundell.

    Who's Number 2 ?

    Alistair Carmichael, with claims totaling £208,940 ! Add his salary and 'Ministerial Entitlement' of £134,565 - and he really can say he's 'Better off Together'.

    Did you know that Cabinet Ministers in the Lords receive £101,038 - and that another Scottish LibDem, Jim Wallace, gets more than that .... plus expenses ?

    1. well, dur, they travel the furthest to london and at home have the biggest constituencies to get around

    2. "they travel the furthest to london"

      Well dur, there's an easy way to solve that unnecessary expense. SNP MPs can at least claim they are working to do so. Libs are happy with the free pad in London.

  15. Well dur, they're a bunch of thieving scumbags who'd sell their own grannies for a whiff of power.
    Malcolm Bruce is pure evil. A liar, a pervert and a member of the HofL. What more would some people need in their MP?

  16. Brilliant, so kennedy and akexander have massive expenses because they are travelling around their constituencies!!! Rofl