Monday, March 9, 2015

Scottish Labour leadership crisis continues : who will replace Jim Murphy if he loses his seat in May?

I was a touch bemused by the supposedly "relieved" reaction of some of Jim Murphy's media cheerleaders to the news that the Ashcroft constituency poll of East Renfrewshire put their hero just 1% ahead of his SNP challenger Kirsten Oswald.  The reality is that, even if you take that result at face value, it's a "statistical tie" - the standard 3% margin of error means that it's impossible to know whether Murphy or Oswald is in the lead.  But it's even worse than that for Murphy, because the poll's methodology was almost bending over backwards to produce a result that would flatter him...

1) Because weighting by 2010 vote recall was foolishly used, the SNP vote was massively downweighted, and the Labour vote was significantly upweighted.  For the headline results, the 120 people who recalled voting SNP in 2010 were scaled down to count as just 67.  A proportion of that adjustment may have been warranted if SNP supporters are simply keener to speak to telephone pollsters, but it seems likely that for the most part, people who are mixed up between how they voted in 2010 and 2011 were wrongly downweighted.

2) The results of the second voting intention question (asking respondents to think about the candidates in their own constituency) were used for the headline figures, rather than the results of the standard voting intention question, which favoured the SNP more. There's nothing wrong with asking voters to think about local circumstances (in fact it's a very good idea), but that should really be part of the wording of a single voting intention question, so that people don't feel that they "ought" to give a different response at the second time of asking.

3) The Greens received 3% of the vote in the poll, and yet someone who attended the Greens' spring conference emailed me today to say that they'd heard the party won't be standing in East Renfrewshire.  If true, it seems plausible that those votes will break more for the SNP than for Labour.  Admittedly, it doesn't always work that way when lower preference votes are transferred in local council elections, but it's murderously hard to see the average Green supporter being a fan of Jim Murphy.

4) Even with the help of all these factors which boosted Murphy's position in the poll, he was STILL fractionally behind the SNP.  The only reason he was eventually reported as being slightly ahead was the "spiral of silence adjustment" which assigns a large portion of undecided voters to the party they voted for last time around (and thus almost always aids the incumbent).  That procedure is claimed to improve the accuracy of the results, but to the best of my knowledge it hasn't been tested in extraordinary circumstances like these.

So there are good reasons for supposing that Murphy may actually be trailing in East Renfrewshire.  OK, he still has time to turn things around, but if he fails to do so his brief leadership of Scottish Labour will come to a very abrupt and ignominious end.  It may be theoretically possible that the rule insisting that the leader must be a sitting parliamentarian could be finessed, but it would be politically unthinkable.  So who would replace him, and become the FOURTH Scottish Labour leader since the 2011 election?

It's safe to assume that it won't be another Westminster MP, because there'll be so few of them left.  Neil Findlay would almost certainly put himself forward again, in which case Kezia Dugdale would be under huge pressure to stand as the "stop Findlay" candidate.  She's the current darling of the unionist press, so the leadership would be hers for the taking if she wants it - but does she?  If not, Jenny Marra would be a possible Plan B, but she seemed just as reluctant as Dugdale to sup from the poisoned chalice last time around.

*  *  *

UPDATE : SNP draw level with the Liberal Democrats in new Britain-wide Ashcroft poll -

Conservatives 34% (n/c)
Labour 30% (-1)
UKIP 15% (+1)
Greens 8% (+1)
SNP 5% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 5% (-2)
Plaid Cymru 1% (n/c)

The Scottish subsample figures are : SNP 54%, Labour 21%, Conservatives 16%, Liberal Democrats 5%, UKIP 3%, Greens 1%.


  1. Latest Lord Ashcroft poll has SNP ahead of the Lib Dems.

    1. The headline figures have them both on 5% across GB, after his adjustment for don't knows and refusers.

      The sub-sample (before adjustment) has SNP 54, Lab 21, Con 16, Others <5.

  2. Greens don't have a candidate for East Renfrewshire.

    Full list (as of today) below:

  3. We in East Ren are campaigning and canvassing and there are still a number of folk who are misinformed - yes you've guessed it they get their info from BBC/MSM
    We are trying to open a hub where people can drop in and ask questions and hopefully become more informed.

    I know times are hard but if folk could help by donating £5 to Kirsten Oswald's campaign fund it would be appreciated.

    What a coup it would be to get Murphy out.

    I am not anonymous but don't seem to be connected to the choices given -
    Ann Mcclure

    1. If you want to avoid posting anonymously, just select the "Name/URL" option - you can leave the URL section blank.

    2. Thanks will do next time

    3. An extremely worthwhile cause and well worth any scot goes pop reader's kindness.

      The hubs are one of the huge success stories from the first Indy campaign because they absolutely DO raise awareness and help the activists and supporters massively where they are set up.

    4. A tenner's winging Kirstens way Ann. Good luck in your campaign to rid us of this vermin xx

  4. In a twitter discussion last week,Neil Findlay suggested to me that he would stand next time round.

    1. Neil Findlay was out of his depth on West Lothian Council and was far from the most able of a very mediocre Labour Group. Indeed his own CLP knows this only too well and he couldn't even make it to the final two when they were selecting their candidate for the 2011 election.

      Having found himself accidentally elected off the list (from 3rd place in the Lothian Labour rankings) he is now a leading light by default.

      Some people think his heart is in the right place but its not - his hatred for the SNP is at least as palpable as Murphy's and Brown's and this is the real drive behind his politics. Some may remember his pre-referendum performance on TV where he was actually defending Tory spending on NHS England so he could attack the SNP record in Scotland. Truly incredible.

      Add to the mix that he is utterly inept presentationally and you could argue that he would be even worse for Labour than the current 'leader'.

  5. If the polls are correct,then we are back in the scenario of what would have happened with a Yes vote in the referendum i.e. a lot of Labour MPs looking for a home at Holyrood or exiting politics altogether.
    Labour in Scotland will become a sack of ferrets fighting for diminishing career outlets and I doubt Murphy (if he is not elected to Westminster) would survive that situation as leader.

  6. Who cares, labour mean nothing, anymore. Except, self aggrandisement.

  7. Labour in Scotland could well consume itself in a final act of cannibalism. Margaret Curran is falling victim to this at the moment. During the referendum I thought that they had a plan up their sleeves, something so intelligent and tricky that no one would see it coming. I assumed that their stupidity was feigned and meant to draw us into a trap. Just like now, there's no plan, they haven't a clue what they're doing and they ARE that stupid..

  8. Being Scottish, I can't help thinking it's all too good to be true. But so long as we all do everything we can to get every vote we can, I'll take whatever happens. Fingers, & everything else, crossed!

  9. Expect a 50+% postal vote in E Renfrewshire

    1. I wonder if they (EC) will ban exit polls again. They won't want the discrepancy between those who voted on the day, and the tsunami of people who for some reason chose to vote by post showing up too easily, would they

  10. I thought Jim Murphy just made up the rules as he goes along. He has already changed clause 4 (or was it cause 2 ) of the Scottish Labour Party's constitution. Does it actually exist - both the party and its constitution?

    So therefore easy to change if nobody has ever seen it!

    So I am sure he will just install Jim Murphy as SLAB leader for life as long as the expenses are good.

    What happens to McTernan if he is humiliated again (like his Austrlian debacle) if SLAB are crushed? Do you think he will ever recover or do you think he will just join the Blue Tories?

    1. ... do you think he will just re-join the Blue Tories?

      There, fixed that for you Hoss!

    2. McTernan's record of failure goes back further than his Australian debacle.

      "In 2007 McTernan was seconded to the Scottish Labour Party to run its campaign for the May Scottish Parliament general election.[4][5][6] The Scottish Labour Party lost power."

  11. Somewhat strange story about Populus polling in Glasgow showing further movement to the SNP since November. The data appears to be a sub-sample (n=600) of a wider GB poll of large cities (n=14,000). Apparently Populus have said that it was not weighted properly by each city, so it's not reliable.

    1. I remember reading a similar story a few months back, they had an aggregation of Edinburgh as well. Encouraging, even if not properly weighted.

    2. Looking at the Populus site, I think it's based on an aggregate of their GB polls for February. Apart from the normal breakdown by polling region (i.e. Scotland), they also give a breakdown by large towns or cities in this monthly report.

      The explanation for the SNP "increase" since November cited in the Evening Times article will be the change in Populus methodology since then. Remember that Mike Smithson was getting his knickers in a twist that the SNP were only 3% ahead of Labour in the Populus polls in November.

      The figures for Glasgow are:

      SNP 46, Lab 29, Con 12, Others <6 (page 55)

      The figures for Edinburgh are:

      SNP 42, Lab 23, Con 18, Others <7 (also on page 55).

      For comparison, the Scotland figures are:

      SNP 42, Lab 26, Con 14, LD 10, Others <5 (page 35).

      That kind of bears out Ashcroft. Lower SNP share in Edinburgh than Glasgow, but they don't appear to need as much because Labour are also lower.

    3. Is it really a "cities" poll? There's one pollster (I'm signed up with several and am not absolutely sure it is Populus) which routinely asks me which of a list of cities I live "in or nearest to". So I choose Glasgow, which is 40 miles from where I live in a rural location. Am I being included in Glasgow figures?

    4. As I said in my second comment, it's not really a cities poll at all, but an aggregation of their regular GB polls and then claiming to offer a breakdown by individual cities.

      The wording of the Populus question is "which of the following cities do you live in, or nearest to?" There is a "none of these" option for other voters, but I suppose people from outside the city boundaries would still count themselves as belonging to a certain city.

    5. Ah, I think I must have been misunderstanding the question then (I'll answer differently next time they poll me) - there is always a city that is nearer than any of the other options, which in my case is Glasgow, but I don't feel part of its hinterland at all. I never looked as far as "none of these", because the literal answer to the question was available. I took it to be geographical, rather than conceptual.

  12. “Jenny Marra would be a possible Plan B, but she seemed just as reluctant as Dugdale to sup from the poisoned chalice last time around.”

    If the number of Labour MPs in Scotland reduces in line with polls, the nature of the Labour Party leadership in Scotland could change significantly, as a Holyrood leader would not have to try to whip the Westminster group into line, which is impossible just now given the size of the egos at Westminster.

    Someone like Jenny Marra who would have been intimidated at the prospect of ruling over Labour MPs could therefore be interested following a Labour annihilation at Westminster. One thing we can be sure of is that the list of potential candidates would be dire. Any MPs that could save their seats are not of the highest calibre to say the least (Willie Bain, Tom Clarke, Fiona O’Donnell(?)…) and Labour’s Holyrood contingent is widely regarded as their “B” team.

    They could well stall the leadership contest until next year’s Holyrood elections, when some present MPs may be parachuted into list seats.

    Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what will become of the very few principled MPs if they lose their seats (Katy Clark, Lazarowicz (?)). I can’t see them staying in Labour for long.