Sunday, January 25, 2015

The cost of spurning an electoral pact?

I was asked today whether it would be possible, even very speculatively, to estimate what the electoral cost to the SNP might be of deciding not to pursue a full-blown Home Rule Alliance with the Greens, SSP and other non-party groups.  I don't think it is possible, because those of us who supported an alliance weren't hoping to merely "tack on" the small Green vote to the SNP tally, in order to get us over the line in a few constituencies.  That was part of the idea, to be sure, but it wasn't the primary motivation.  (A bigger red herring was the claim that an alliance could only be of any value if it could be demonstrated that there is at least one constituency which the Greens or SSP are better-placed to win than the SNP.  There is of course no such constituency, but that simply isn't the point.)

The real hope was that an alliance would be greater than the sum of its parts, as the SDP-Liberal Alliance was in the 1980s, and indeed as the Yes movement was last year.  We thought it might help to attract traditional Labour voters who still nurse hang-ups about the SNP, and perhaps also some of the semi-mythical "missing million" who wouldn't otherwise turn out to vote.  By definition, the extent to which any of that would have happened will always remain unquantifiable.

In any case, the debate over a potential alliance mostly took place before the SNP surge in the polls became fully established.  It's possible that we overestimated the hang-ups that Labour people have (and Nicola Sturgeon's leadership may be helping on that score as well).  It's also conceivable that the SNP's "brand identity" is so strong that the party is actually faring better on its own than a new political force with an unfamiliar name would have done.

Basically, we'll never know for sure.

*  *  *

Today's Scottish subsample from YouGov shows an SNP lead of 43% to 25%.  Friday's result was very similar.  So the little flurry of narrower gaps that we saw a few days ago does look like a blip.


  1. In an ideal world one of the condemned Labour MPs would defect to the Greens allowing some sort of gesture by the SNP by not standing against them. The likelihood of this though is obviously quite low as while someone like Katy Clark would seem ideal to do this, her entrenched background in the Trade Union movement makes it unlikely despite her apparent political views being far more Green than Murphyite.

    1. Alasdair,
      can I refer you to a post on the previous thread in reply to this Katy Clark thing you keep raising. Cheers.


    2. Interesting to hear the perspective of someone who has debated with her. Definately not a prospect then and I guess that means there's no prospect of something like this happening.

      To her credit she plays the two faced card much better than the rest of her mob. Hadn't suspected it was all an act.

    3. Yeah, she really upset quite a few folk in the Largs YES Shop that had previously thought of her in exactly the terms you described (so very understandable Alasdair).

      I think paradoxically, it's the Labour MP's like her, who locals suspected of being basically decent and so closet yesser's (when push came to shove) that will be reaping the whirlwind of disgust.

      Especially when they so quickly return to furiously waving their anti nuclear, anti food bank, anti austerity banner after using every dirty trick in the book campaigning to keep those very same decisions in the hands of a Parliament hell bent on implementing the exact opposite, no matter which Party happens to be in power.

      She knew she was lying and face to face she kept on doing it. Sickening.


    4. Katy Clarke isn't just motivated by the usual Labour party careerism but also plain old fear.

      She has a large majority but compared to some of the other Labour majorites in and around the west coast not all that large and certainly extremely vulnerable to the kind of polling and SNP strength we are seeing right now.

      She tries to position herself to the left of the little Ed leadership but how hard is that after all? Only right wing lunatics thing little Ed is 'Red Ed'. Everyone else knows he is a weakl ineffectual policy vacuum who needs to be told by his spads and spinners what to think and how hard to triangulate on tory policies.

      If Clark truly believed in getting rid of trident or opposing austerity then she must have realised long before now that she is in entirely the wrong party.

      Little Ed and the Eggman can safely ignore her posturing because it is of so little consequence to them. If she did win in May she would make no difference whatsoever to direction the Labour party is heading which is quite clearly ever closer to the tories policies and ever more out of touch with the people of scotland.

  2. A very fair appraisal James. I still think the idea has legs when it comes to the list vote at Holyrood though. The exact form that would take, as you pointed out in a previous post, still needs some hammering out. Sorry but during that previous conversation I got waylaid and by the time I was in a position to answer, the posts had moved on ;-( Did'nt mean to be rude.


  3. Given the size of SNP membership, let them take on the cesspit that Westminster has become. They will need strength of mind and the strength of a closely united group, as I am sure that the MSM will be all over them hunting for any hint of weakness from day 1. It would be even worse if it was a YES Alliance as the press would leap on any minor differences in policy with crowing glee and magnify them out of all proportion.

    I would like to see the YES parties (apart from SNP) put their efforts into making Holyrood an example of quality government - preferably with as few of the WM party adherents as possible as they only drag the place down to the gutter level that is Westminster. We certainly do not want the Ya-Boo style of politics that epitomizes that place nor do we want the clones with the stupid repetition of the same question type opposition that the WM parties think fit for Holyrood. I want the other YES parties to do proper research and challenge SNP at all times.

    In other words I want an example of how it can be done for the rest of the UK to see.

    1. Labour seem utterly determined to bring the worst aspects of Westminster to Holyrood. To their credit the Tories actual do a credible job in Scotland and seem quite willing to engage in consensus politics as obviously do the Greens.

      I suspect the electorate recognise this in Labour and while they refuse to move away from this type of behaviour any chance of them recovering for 2016 has to be quite unlikely.

  4. I was a backer of a Yes Alliance straight after the Indyref.

    I'm trying not to count too early, but these polls are massively encouraging for the SNP, but speaking to a pal who is a Green (I think maybe even a member/lapsed maybe), but he is voting SNP in May and then he'll return to the Greens for Holyrood. He lives in Aviemore (D. Alexander's region) so he has a huge incentive also. I know another Green voter who's going SNP next May too and using the "Vote with your head (SNP) in May. Vote with your heart in 2016 (SNP, Green, Socialist)'' motto that I've seen.

    Apologies, for repeating myself, and I mentioned this on a post on Friday, but geniuenly intrigued. Met a workpal of my friend and he's a paid-up member of the Tories. He lives in Falkirk and has said he'll vote SNP to keep Labour out. So for all the Unionist Alliance - voting Libs in Gordon etc talk, but the party loyal Unionists will end up voting for their party whilst it looks like 'most' Yesser seems to be going with the SNP for 15 and Green/SSP/SNP or whoever else in 2016.

    Interesting times.

  5. What we have to bear in mind is that it is very much in the interests of the other Yes parties for the likes of the Red Tories, Yellow tories and Blue Tories to have their vote cut down as much as possible by the SNP in May.

    It's not as if the SSP will shed any tears if Labour get hammered in some of their heartlands and what were previously safe Labour areas cease to be safe and get their majorities slashed or overturned.

    Nor will the Greens be weeping buckets if Clegg's ostrich faction lose almost every single MP as the lib dems lose yet another massive chunk of their activists and voters.

    You can also take it as read that neither party will lose much sleep if the tories still struggle to get more MPs than pandas after the shambolic last five years of the fop Cameron and his nasty party policies.

    Both the Greens and the SSP are adjusting to what is, after all, a bonanza time for them too as they reap the rewards of the Yes campaign in membership and activism numbers. The task of harnessing that larger base and growing their own parties in strength should not be underestimated but it is a task both parties will be delighted to be tackling right now.

    FPTP was always going to be too much of an ask for them to simply overcome in one fell swoop and perhaps in a world where calamity Clegg wasn't a useless and toxic waste of space we would have got rid of FPTP by now.

    Regardless, 2016 is hardly an eternity to wait and it will be then that a Yes alliance and the kind of cross party campaigning we saw in the first Indyref will once again be very visible and likely to be at it's most effective.

    1. I really hope so Mick and will be doing everything I can to work with folk like yourself in trying to help and support the hammering out of a practical way forward for 2016. Probably in the list?

      Looks like the electorate have just about had enough, going by the current polling. Maybe just need a bit of firm 'guidance' and education, as to the way that the Holyrood voting system actually works. I think the Greens quite shamelessly used the electorate's lack of understanding during their 'second vote Green' campaign a few elections ago so, I think there is still a danger of confusion and misinformation backfiring on us if we don't get it absolutely right with the 'proportional' element of the election.

      Still, plenty of time and plenty of great political brains out there (in and outside of the parties) to come up with something, if the will is there. Fingers crossed.


    2. I have no doubt there will be some preliminary planning and thought going into what will be required for 2016 but the priority right now must be May and the GE.

      To that end we should make it clear that we are now well and truly into the campaigning itself for May and the GE. We aren't just talking about planning for that any more but the canvassing and leafleting have already started, even before some of the candidates have been settled upon.

      Make no mistake, the colossal increase in the SNP's membership to approaching 100,000 is not just an abstract number but something of real consequence. It's still very early days but the signs are all excellent that increase is being translated into ever greater activism and ground campaigning strength. Particularly when you consider just how much of a shambles the likes of 'scottish' Labour, the tories and Clegg's ostrich faction are when it comes to their membership numbers and activism these days. They will pay a very heavy price indeed for complacently taking their members and the ground campaign for granted.

      The 'nightmare' scenario for the scottish branch offices of the tories, libdems and Labour is that every election from now on will have a strong element of the type of grass roots enthusiasm and involvement for the SNP and Yes parties that we saw in the first Indyref. Well they had better wake up because I and a great many others are already seeing the first tentative signs of just that scenario transpiring.

  6. You can analyse Green voter 2nd preferences at local Council elections. I noticed that in Elgin recently the Green voters 2nd preferences were totally split between Labour, SNP, Tories. There was no pattern to it and you certainly couldn't rely on Greens switching to SNP in an alliance. There were 3 Green voters who gave their 2nd preference vote to UKIP!!!

    1. IIRC in the recent Kircaldy council by election, Greens second-voted heavily for the SNP. I'd expect Green voter behaviour to vary a lot depending on location.

  7. These things should not be measured by tactical outcomes - and certainly not in isolation - such as the number of MPs won.

    The lack of a formal alliance is a STRATEGIC error of epic proportions in my view.

    Now, if everything works out, the SNP might get away with it but the chances are that in six months time it will be wishing the SNP brand was not quite so exposed in a parliament over which it will have virtually no influence - even if it holds the balance of power.

    The SNP might be able to support a minority Labour government but Labour knows perfectly well that it does not have to acquiesce to any SNP demands in return because the SNP has no alternative course of action. Quite simply, the SNP cannot afford to let the Tories and their allies outvote Labour on anything which is of detriment to Scotland. Let's not pretend that SNP MPs are going to have any leverage over anyone.

    The SNP has to learn it cannot use Westminster as a strategic platform, it will never have enough influence there on its own for that purpose and the establishment will do whatever it takes to maintain that position.

    A UK wide anti-austerity alliance with Plaid and Greens would have at least provided a theoretic possibility of replacing the establishment and who knows where that might have led given the current polling evidence. I fear the moment for that has also passed however.

    The SNP can use Westminster as a tactical platform however. This would have been a perfect launch pad for a Bloc Scotland / Yes Alliance brand to establish itself prior to entering the 2016 elections as the SNP's list partner, for example.

    There is a real risk that the SNP is going to look totally ineffectual in a balanced parliament and the chances of that only increases anytime anyone suggests Scotland will have more influence the more SNP MPs get elected. (which is currently happening almost every waking minute).

    I'm afraid the SNP leadership has been seduced by the prospect of securing additional MPs and has given that primacy over the long-term good of the Independence movement.

    As I've said previously, the most disappointing thing is that the SNP membership was not even permitted to debate what might turn out to be the biggest decision the party has ever made.

    1. The Crofters Party managed to end The Clearances in a hung parliament with five MPs. Five. I think we can do a little better this time.

      The difficulty with 'Alliances' is that there is a danger that the voters feel they are being denied choice. A pretty big danger.

      that said, this SNP member would consider a Green or SSP list vote in 2016 provided, and only provided, that would increase the total number of Independence MSPs. Which presumes that the influx of new members are able to turn the Greens into a definite Independence supporting outfit. I hope so

    2. "The SNP might be able to support a minority Labour government but Labour knows perfectly well that it does not have to acquiesce to any SNP demands in return because the SNP has no alternative course of action."

      Utter nonsense. Only the out of touch westminster twits are seriously deluded enough to think we somehow have "no choice" but to support Labour and vote through yet more tory policies on austerity or anything else. We also certainly have no reason on earth to put little Ed out of his misery should it ever get to a confidence vote. If little Ed wants to cut and run then that would be up to him, if he dares. He won't. He's way too unpopular to risk it.

      "it will be wishing the SNP brand was not quite so exposed in a parliament over which it will have virtually no influence"

      On the contrary. We will use every single time the Red Tories or the Blue tories try to ram through policies harmful to scotland (or indeed rUK) as the perfect example of out of touch westminster behaviour to use in the 2016 campaign. If those policies are forced through by being supported by the yellow tory lib dems and/or what was supposed to be the official opposition (be it Labour or the tories depending on who ends up failing to get a majority) then that's going to be pointed out again and again in 2016 and is hardly going to go down well with their remaining supporters in scotland, to say the least.

      "The SNP has to learn it cannot use Westminster as a strategic platform, it will never have enough influence there on its own for that purpose and the establishment will do whatever it takes to maintain that position."

      Damn! We'll just have to give up now I suppose. That's us telt.


      "There is a real risk that the SNP is going to look totally ineffectual in a balanced parliament "

      You mean a hung parliament. :) I think you'll find it's not us who will be looking ineffectual as either the tories or Labour struggle to get any potentially harmful legislation passed.

      "the chances of that only increases anytime anyone suggests Scotland will have more influence the more SNP MPs get elected. "

      Labour and the tories really do hate that obvious fact being pointed out, don't they?


      "I'm afraid the SNP leadership has been seduced by the prospect of securing additional MPs and has given that primacy"

      Securing more MPs at a general election. What were the fools thinking?!?


      Witless concern trolling of EPIC PROPORTIONS in my view.

    3. I was slightly more generous in thinking it was just another example of Westminster Party wishful thinking. But you may well be right, as if anything we're seeing even more intransigence from Union supporters on Twitter as they hope to deflect from the consequences of the actions taken to win the indyref vote.

      I knew for sure the UK political tectonic plates had shifted massively when the new format debates were announced. It's ironic that by refusing to allow a fair and balanced indyref debate on the merits of each case that the Westminster Party may have accelerated their own demise.

  8. So let's hope the SNP doesn't get any more MPs at Westminster? Aye, right.

    If the Tories or a Tory-led coalition establishes a government it will be an excellent opportunity for a large SNP Westminster party to show it is the only true party of Scotland since the Labour party and others will not be able to put Scotland's interests first in case it upsets their English voters.
    If the Labour party forms a small majority government then the same scenario applies. The SNP becomes the official opposition party of Scotland at Westminster. It will stick up for Scotland in a stronger way than Labour has ever done.
    If the Labour party falls short of a majority government then the SNP might offer to enter into a "confidence and supply" arrangement with Labour. If Labour refuses the offer then government becomes very difficult and another election will quickly follow. No doubt the English media will blame the SNP for this, but that will work in the SNP's favour.
    It is essential that Scotland returns as many SNP MPs to Westminster as possible. It will have influence, and not just influence in a mischief-making way. It will also be great fun to watch Westminster coming to terms with a party that genuinely puts Scotland's interests first.


    1. Maybe DDH, but just remember the only reason for those tectonic plates shifting is the exact same reason for the systemic democratic failures of Westminster and our UK media in the past. That is, the prime minister and ruling party, alone, decided due to their own party political interests that a debate that only included the usual suspects plus UKIP, was unacceptable and so threatened withdrawal. The media, political parties and courts would have happily excluded the 'fringe' parties without batting an eyelid.

      No democratic tectonic plate has moved in the UK, just more of the same undemocratic manouvering, that may or may not be to our advantage as a collateral action. We will see if they go ahead at all. Will even that collateral benefit be tolerated?


    2. Sorry that reply was for Gordon Innes and not DDH. Apologies.

  9. With the enthusiasm of the YES movement still intact after the ref, the idea of the YES Alliance seemd great. It would seem to guarantee 45% of the vote which seemed to be huge at that time. But with sober reflection later on, it's how the electorate would have seen it that counts, and it's likely the 14% of SNP NO voters wouldn't have been happy, and may have stayed away or even voted for someone else. Others of the NO camp wanting Devo-Max could easily have been put off. It's also got questionnable democracy to it.

    Ironically it was the Green party before the Ref if I have this right, who were first away from the idea and they didn't change their minds. With the surge for the SNP there was no interest there and the idea folded. I think it's right that way, better to keep the integrity of each individual party intact. It won't stop tactical voting by active and aware supporters of any of the 3 parties voting for the most likely candidate, and hopefully that will happen. But that's democratic - it's up to the person how they vote. One person, one vote.

    1. Spot on. A "Yes Alliance" would have been a big mistake, IMO. Even I, as a Yes campaigner, am a bit sick of "The Yes Campaign", with its noisy-fringe-dominated atmosphere.

    2. So much nicer to get back to the old fashioned Party politics and the securities of established behaviours eh? Well I don't think so... when those behaviours mean the return of the necessity for tactical voting, en masse, for a single party Scotland.

      I accept that the Westminster 'die is cast' and I and every other Yesser is going along with the plan (as the current polls show) but are you honestly forwarding the idea that pushing electorally for what effectively will be a single party Scotland, is good for our democracy in the long run? Scotland's electorate has already had an unhealthy single party habit in the past (leading to the utter corruption and hollowing out of the Labour Party). The Referendum and it's aftermath left a fabulous opportunity to honestly address the electorate as the multiparty (and no party) movement we really are, for the implementation of all those powers promised by the winning NO campaign in September. Instead we are once again reverting to old habits, squeezing everyone back into the ill fitting (and basically undemocratic necessity) of tactical voting and single party politics again.

      This is my view, though I am now totally committed to campaigning for complete SNP domination at Westminster. I have been given no choice in the matter though, so don't have to pretend to be over the moon about it surely? I think this is where anon is coming from and seems far from a 'concern troll' to me.

      We will see how committed to the Alliance concept the SNP are after dominating in the Westminster elections (or not, god forbid). I fear party loyalties, old behaviour patterns and short term political ambition will produce the same reaction as was seen when the YES Alliance was suggested for Westminster a few short months ago. I am a cynic though and hope I am wrong.


    3. braco
      Perhaps the answer there is the nature of the democracy. Come the 2016 Holyrood elections it looks like the Greens will do well, the SSP get a couple of seats. But things could change by then, and the list votes for both Greens and SSP could increase. Perhaps also they will be able to win some constitutency seats and though they would have much in common with the SNP, there are also grounds for difference. So Scotland becomes not so much a single party state at Holyrood, as different.

      As for Westminster though we could argue that Westminster is not our state, it represents Scotland more than we want, as a first step we want more powers, then Devo-Max, then Independence. So a single party whose purpose is to bring more powers to Scotland and genuinely make Holyrood a "powerhouse Parliament", representing Scotland doesn't make Scotland itself a single party state, just its "external" representation. It could be the same at the EU if one party took most of the MEP seats on the base of pushing hard for widescale reform, and perhaps an end to austerity within the EU, but the UK itself had a variety of different parties perhaps in a loose coalition / confidence and supply.

  10. Anonymous (no name)
    Thanks for that Blair, it's an interesting tactic.

  11. I'm looking forward to seeing a reaction in the polls to the 'Smith fudge'.

    I'm sure it will be the Labour Party who will be held to be the most responsible for this betrayal in Scotland.

    Hope to see them drop to below 20% in the polls over the next fortnight.

  12. Think this evisceration provides dispositive evidence that agreeing to such a coupling would have been to court disaster.

    QED and RIP

    1. That is of course the English Green Party.

      It was not a coupling that was being suggested, but an alliance of the pro Independence movement as a whole. I saw no such car crashes from pro yes politicians even at the height of the media bias and screeching during the referendum. Why would that have changed under less bias and unfair scrutiny (though admittedly still very considerable) of the Westminster election?


    2. Good luck with that argument. It is a coupling with the Greens. saying it's part of a broader alliance does not change that fact.

      One's Scottish Green and the other not means what exactly? That they are functionally different? Voters are unlikely to see it that way given the policies are near identical - and it was the Green POLICIES that were being ripped apart. Green is Green and arguing that Scottish Green is somehow radically different to English Green ain't gonna cut it.

      It would be an issue because Labour and the media would make it an issue - SNP in bed with a bunch of loons - conflation of SNP policies and Green policies. A question of poor judgement by the FM.

      Does the FM agree that members of al-Qaida should be free to roam the streets of Britain? Headline in the Scotsman: "SNP alliance will let terrorists operate freely in Britain", says Home Secretary. "SNP's call for open borders and unfettered immigration is lunacy" Say all three main party leaders. And on and on.

      It would be the gift that keeps on giving.

      A General Election in not a referendum. The Green Party is seeking power - a mandate from the electorate to implement THEIR policies. Their policies will be examined in detail. You know, the policies Alex Neil just ground to powder, providing the template for others similarly inclined to use.

  13. O/T but Survation for the UK in general has

    CON 31% (+2)
    LAB 30% (-2)
    UKIP 23% (+3)
    LIB DEM 7% (-4%)
    SNP 5% (+2)
    GRE 3% (+1)

    Not sure on the tables yet, but a nice looking score for the SNP.