The first telephone poll to have been conducted since the Smith recommendations were announced has been published by Ashcroft. Once again, it shows the SNP within a hair's breadth of both the Liberal Democrats and the Greens across the whole of Britain.
Britain-wide voting intentions (Ashcroft) :
Labour 32% (n/c)
Conservatives 30% (+3)
UKIP 16% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 7% (n/c)
Greens 6% (-1)
SNP 5% (n/c)
Plaid Cymru 1% (n/c)
But of course those figures are before the "magic" of the first-past-the-post voting system kicks in. In terms of seats, this poll points without a shadow of doubt to the SNP becoming the third-largest party in the House of Commons, way ahead of the Liberal Democrats in fourth. It's not clear whether UKIP would even make it into fifth place, because they'd be in a battle with the DUP, who can be expected to remain in the same ball-park as their current tally of eight seats. And in spite of the Green surge (which is now a well-established phenomenon), it's impossible to know how the lower placings would work out either. Plaid Cymru might win anything between two and five seats, the SDLP might win anything between one and three, and the Greens might win anything between zero and four. Sinn Féin should win at least four, but of course they don't take up their seats.
For a man who has such love in his heart for Belize, Mr Ashcroft (he's not Jesus so I won't call him "Lord") has a strangely London-centric perspective. Or at least he must do, because I can't think of any other reason why someone whose polls have consistently shown that the SNP are on course for third place would devise a question last week which asked respondents whether they expect a Labour majority government, a Conservative majority government, a Labour-Lib Dem coalition, or a Tory-Lib Dem coalition - or whether they don't know. At the very least, it ought to be blindingly obvious that a Labour-SNP deal (either a coalition or a confidence-and-supply arrangement) is now much more probable than a Labour-Lib Dem coalition, so how Ashcroft felt he could justify excluding that from the list of options is anyone's guess.
However, this week he's come up with a variation on the question, and with a much more exhaustive list of options. Rather than being asked what they expect to happen, respondents were invited to say whether they would be happy or unhappy if each of a number of parties were to become a coalition partner at Westminster. To be blunt, the results reveal the sick, black heart of public opinion south of the border, with a borderline far-right party (UKIP) being clearly preferred to two mainstream centre-left parties (the SNP and the SDLP).
Happy or unhappy to see this party in coalition government? (Respondents across Britain)
The only alibi I can see for this disgraceful finding is that voters in England might be ignoring the SNP's progressive policies and worrying about constitutional instability instead (not that they'd get that from UKIP, of course!). Well, whatever the explanation is, the message from Scotland must surely be "tough luck". It's all very well waxing lyrical about how "loved" Scotland is as a partner in the United Kingdom, but that means taking us as we actually are - and at the moment we look very much like a country that votes SNP in sufficient numbers to potentially give that party a share of power in London.
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Peter Kellner has penned an article which seeks to end our mystical faith in the concept of Uniform National Swing. It's caused quite a stir, but what I found most interesting was this line -
"However, we now know that the SNP is currently thrashing Labour in Scotland."
Regular readers will remember from the independence referendum campaign just how conceited YouGov were in pretending that only their own polls had any merit. (For example, Laurence Janta-Lipinski notoriously claimed that Yes needed a "game-changer" at a time when several pollsters were already showing a very close race.) So Kellner's absolute certainty about the state of play in Scotland at the moment seems a bit odd if he's only relying on the one full-scale Scottish poll YouGov have conducted over recent weeks. I'm wondering if this might be an indication that they've privately analysed their own Scottish sampling from GB-wide polls, and have concluded that the big SNP lead is an established pattern.
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SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS
We can now more or less exclude any possibility that the publication of Smith had any immediate detrimental effect on the SNP's level of support, because all four Scottish subsamples from polls conducted on Thursday or later have put the SNP ahead, and three of them have done so by a handsome margin. Today's update of the Poll of Polls is based on seven subsamples - four from YouGov, two from Populus and one from Ashcroft. There should also be a ComRes poll in there, but as far as I can see the datasets haven't been published yet.
Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :
SNP 41.0% (+2.4)
Labour 27.1% (-0.5)
Conservatives 16.6% (-3.0)
Liberal Democrats 7.0% (+1.8)
UKIP 3.9% (+0.3)
Greens 2.9% (-1.5)
(The Poll of Polls uses the Scottish subsamples from all GB-wide polls that have been conducted entirely within the last seven days and for which datasets have been provided, and also all full-scale Scottish polls that have been conducted at least partly within the last seven days. Full-scale polls are given ten times the weighting of subsamples.)