Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Eet vos a pleasure to shhhhhred eet, James!!!" (Cue prolonged maniacal cackling.)

Hmmm.  I don't want to jump to conclusions, but judging from this lengthy outpouring on Twitter yesterday, it's just possible that self-styled superstar "risk assessor" Neil Edward Lovatt wasn't entirely happy about seeing a challenge on this blog to his superstitious belief that the betting markets are some kind of infallible God of Prediction.

"Looks like @JamesKelly never learns! He's blogged about me and odds again. I'm shredding it live right now!"

"So that's @JamesKelly's blog shredded. I'll probably edit it a little but it does the job on a JK botched job"

"yes I think his blog must be struggling again, another fundraiser on it's way?"

"3 bad examples out of hundreds of successes, many more than polls. He's a joke."

"Yes I shredded him just today :)"

"Yes James asks for donations from his readers."

"Worth it, it's actually a decent challenge to the betting markets. I used it shredding James Kelly"

"Whilst I've shredded @JamesKelly's blog he got owned in his comments section. :)"

"No time for the guy, talks nonsense and ridicules anyone that disagrees and then claims offence. Absolute zoomer who charges!"

"Puerile and pseudo intellectual, and bad at it.  That's our James."

As a hard-core Jim Murphy fan (he even used "that" twibbon), Neil had better start hoping that I'm right about his superstition, because the betting markets have been moving gradually but pretty relentlessly in the SNP's direction over recent weeks.  For example, the Betfair exchange is currently "predicting" that the SNP will win more seats than Labour, and that their final tally will be somewhere between 26 and 35 (anything above 29 would of course be an absolute majority of Scottish seats).  Meanwhile, Alex Salmond is the equivalent of a 1/5 odds-on favourite to snatch the Gordon constituency from the Liberal Democrats.

Why is this happening?  I suspect there comes a point when even wealthy gamblers south of the border can't ignore the elephant in the room - ie. the sheer consistency of polling data giving the SNP a gigantic lead with less than four months to go.  There have been three Britain-wide polls published over the last 24 hours, which have produced the following Scottish subsample figures...

Populus : SNP 41%, Labour 25%, Conservatives 20%, Liberal Democrats 9%, UKIP 3%, Greens 2%

Ashcroft : SNP 48%, Labour 24%, Conservatives 14%, Greens 8%, Liberal Democrats 4%, UKIP 3%

YouGov : SNP 43%, Labour 28%, Conservatives 16%, UKIP 7%, Liberal Democrats 3%, Greens 2%

The Ashcroft numbers are particularly encouraging as they come from the first telephone poll of the year, albeit admittedly the sample was much smaller than in the other two polls.

*  *  *


Today's update of the Poll of Polls is based on the Scottish subsamples from seven GB-wide polls - four from YouGov, two from Populus, and one from Ashcroft.

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

SNP 41.3% (+1.1)
Labour 25.9% (-0.3)
Conservatives 16.9% (+0.4)
UKIP 6.6% (+0.3)
Liberal Democrats 6.1% (-0.1)
Greens 3.1% (-1.1)

(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.)


  1. Can the Ashcroft figures be trusted with such a small sample?

    1. No, but I'm going to update the Poll of Polls in a minute.

  2. They are all small, not properly weighted samples. Aggregated they start to indicate something; that something being what Scotland wide polls have been saying.

    We don't have numbers for ashcroft, but both Yougov and Populus are at the higher end of SNP respondent down-weighting, which suggests the SNP may be higher than we see above.

  3. New record SNP respondent down-weight in Yougov since the iref incidentally. 45% down-weighted, even when accounting for overall Scottish sample small downweighting.

  4. maybe Mr Lovatt's superiors should review what his wittering is doing to their corporate image.

  5. Looking at those average polling figures and considering the total % for the pro-union and pro-independence parties, they come eerily close to the referendum result.

    1. Which has long term significance, both for Holyrood (notably first vote) and particularly FPTP Westminster elections.

      For Scotland to be unionist again (at least in terms of the status quo), it needs to vote largely like England. Otherwise, it's lost to London and the constitutional crisis will not go away.

      If Labour are wiped out in May, they'd be not far off the Tories; a relatively minor force only properly represented in Holyrood due to the PR list system. Labour are currently polling what the Tories got in Scotland in 1992 (26% and earned them 11 seats) before the latter's complete wipe-out in 1997.

      The Lib dems face an even bleaker future; potentially relegated to minor party status in Scotland. But then in a way they have made the biggest betrayal, going from a federalist 'yellow' party (the SNP are liberals / wave yellow too with policies very similar in the past) to a unionist blue conservative party. A liberal vote was very much an anti-Tory one too; just more a rural anti-Tory vote.

    2. If the polls remain the same then the SNP will sweep the board at the GE. But I suspect the unionist parties will maintain a majority of the popular vote fairly easily. So we have deadlock - Scotland is unionist but the largest single voting bloc isn't. In the end, I suspect the main UK parties will continue to ensure the unionist majority is respected in any dealings they may have with the SNP. It's also important to remember that, even with approx fifty seats, the SNP will be an irrelevance if they can't join the government. Current projections still suggest a government not involving the SNP is most likely.

      The Scottish parliament is obviously a completely different consideration with its PR element. Even a slight swing from SNP to labour puts SNP back into minority government territory. Will we see a pan-unionist coalition at some point? Interesting times.

  6. I really don't understand what you have against the betting odds. You seem to think there's some army of rich idiots out there who spend all their time putting their money on stuff they think isn't going to happen in the hope it might confuse some people into voting for it. If people like that exist there's probably about two of them in the entire country.

    1. Sigh. I don't have anything "against the betting odds". But they have a specific functional purpose, and that purpose is not to predict election results. The amount of nonsense that was spoken about the betting markets "correctly predicting the indyref" is utterly beyond belief. It was a two-horse race, and the markets would have a rather good chance of "prophesying" the result of a coin toss correctly. That would not be a basis for anyone to assume they will predict the next coin toss correctly.

      All I did in the post that infuriated Lovatt was to produce three concrete examples where there was information out there that was a more reliable guide than the markets. Finding those examples was not exactly like looking for a needle in a haystack - one of them was the last general election, for pity's sake.

      As for "rich idiots", I don't think the people who distorted the odds on Chris Huhne in 2006 were idiots by any means. It was quite a smart thing to do - their man may not have won, but he probably did better than he would have done if that artificial momentum hadn't been generated.

  7. Wee Jock Poo-Pong McPlopJanuary 13, 2015 at 6:36 PM

    Looks to me like you've struck a nerve there, James. Hugely entertaining.

  8. As a long term viewer of this blog, this might be something I should already know , but do 'telephone polls' use land-lines or mobile phones?

    I would say that the demographics of land-lines and Mobiles would be:

    Land-line - more likely to be older, hence Tory or Labour voters.

    Mobile - more likely to be younger, hence more likely to be Green or SSP or SNP.

    This would make a land-line poll that is showing well for the SNP a very good poll indeed.

    1. It varies considerably, and sometimes we're not even told. But the Ashcroft poll was 50% landline, 50% mobile. In theory, age shouldn't be an issue, because all polls are weighted by age. It's more a question of whether landline-only polls pick up only a certain type of young person, who then has to be upweighted significantly.

  9. OT

    Anyone notice the transcript of the debate into the Austerity measures in Westminster?

    One backbench MP said that he believed the inexplicable reason that Labour were supporting the Torys by voting these measures through, was in order to remove any hindrance to a 'Grand Coalition' after the general Election!

    He went on to say that as a Tory he thought it was a great idea as all parties had come together in times of National threat, so he said, the financial well being of the UK should be viewed as a national threat, and a Grand Coalition formed to tackle this.

    I wonder what the real reason for the 'Grand Coalition' is because we have had financial crisis for years now and only since the referendum, has anyone mentioned a Grand Coalition in order to ensure the SNP don't hold the balance of power.

    Interesting times.

    1. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm150113/debtext/150113-0002.htm

      3:52 pm

      David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): Like my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley), I will be supporting the charter.

      This has been an interesting debate. We have heard principled speeches from the hon. Members for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) and for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) and the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) explaining the travesty of Government economic policy and saying how bad the economy will get and how the country needs a Labour Government to sort it out. The odd thing is that about half an hour from now those three Members, who spoke in so principled a way about why Government policy is wrong, will go through the Lobby on the same side as me in support of this “gimmick”, this “cheap stunt”, this “travesty”, as it has been called. At least the SNP, the Green party and the Welsh nationalists have taken a principled position. The hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) made an eloquent and reasoned speech about why targets are wrong. We used to say in business: “The great thing about not knowing where you’re going is that you can’t get lost.” That would be a summary of the SNP’s position.

      Why is the Labour party going to troop through the Lobby to support the Government? I have only one explanation. I may be wrong, and it is possibly above my pay grade to get involved, but I think that Labour’s decision to support the Government tonight is the start of overtures around a grand coalition. I think Labour has realised that the polls are changing and it is not looking too good out there for it. It has few options left.