Thursday, April 2, 2015

Predictions for tonight's leaders' debate

I can't think of any useful way of "previewing" tonight's leaders' debate on ITV, so instead I thought I'd attempt a wild Eurovision-style prediction of what the instant reaction polls might show.  There should be at least three polls from YouGov, ICM and Populus respectively, who will all be in a madcap race to try to get their results out first.

I haven't heard anything definite about a poll of Scottish respondents only, which would be the only meaningful way of assessing Nicola Sturgeon's performance.  If it doesn't happen, we'll have to home straight in on the Scottish subsamples of GB-wide polls.  Here's what I think they might show.

Prediction for Scottish subsamples :

1. Nicola Sturgeon
2. Ed Miliband
3. Nigel Farage
4. David Cameron
5. Leanne Wood
6. Natalie Bennett
7. Nick Clegg

I don't think a Sturgeon victory among Scottish respondents is a foregone conclusion by any means - if you cast your mind back to the debates she was involved in during the referendum, she was majestic in most of them, but there was the occasional messy stalemate.  Probably the most frustrating one was the head-to-head with Johann Lamont - and with that in mind, it may be significant that the other two female participants tonight are effectively her allies, rather than her opponents.

The only reason I've got Leanne Wood as low as fifth is that respondents to the polls will presumably only be allowed to choose one leader, in which case those sympathetic to Wood and her arguments would be most likely to plump for Sturgeon as their outright winner.

There have been suggestions that Sturgeon or Wood might have a chance of topping the GB-wide polls, but I don't think that's likely - however well they perform, I think there'll be a natural resistance to "outsiders" (I know we're all supposed to be #bettertogether, but that doesn't seem to be the prevailing mood down south).  I suspect Wood might fare slightly the better of the two, partly because leek-phobia hasn't tightened its grip on the metropolis in quite the same way that haggis-phobia has, and partly because she's so difficult to dislike.  In fact, one of the presenters of the BBC "youth" debate the other week rather patronisingly said - in her hearing! - that she had a "lovely accent", and that if we were choosing the best voice to read an audiobook, she'd be the clear winner.

Prediction for Britain-wide polls :

1. Nigel Farage
2. David Cameron
3. Ed Miliband
4. Leanne Wood
5. Nicola Sturgeon
6. Natalie Bennett
7. Nick Clegg

The part of the prediction I'm most confident about is that Clegg will be at or close to the bottom.  Five years ago, he prospered courtesy of a heavy dose of fake humility, but his supplies seem to have well and truly run out.  Almost everything he says these days sounds arrogant, complacent and hectoring.


  1. If it was an X-Factor multiple voting poll then Nicola would walk it. As Simon Cowell has found to his cost, no matter how talentless the Scottish act is they are bloody hard to get rid off:

    Simon McCowell X-Factor Politics

    Farage - the pantomime villain. Talent-free but keeps getting voted through much to McCowell's disgust
    Nicola - 'the chosen one'
    Leanne - More talent but less star quality than Nicola will be sacrificed when she starts splitting Nicola's vote
    Cam & Ed - Interchangeable generic pop boys
    Natalie - intense artiste who is unhappy at having to sacrifice artistic integrity for popularity
    Nick - forgettable make up the numbers guy (First out)

    Order of elimination
    Cam or Ed

    Leaving a final of Nicola, Cam or Ed, Farage

    Farage out first (Third Place)
    Cam or Ed (Second)

    And this years X-Factor winner.................NICOLA woohooo

  2. I just hope this is not going to be the general election equivalent of the first debate between Salmond and Darling last year in the indy referendum. We were expecting AS to hammer Darling, and look what happened....

    On the other hand, I think the omens are better for Sturgeon. She was really the best debater on the Yes side by a distance. I cannot really see any of the other leaders debating like Sarwar and Lamont. I don't expect NS to be as aggressive as she was with Carmichael! I think Salmond became to ring rusty in terms of debating. I don't think that will happen to Sturgeon.

    1. I doubt if Salmond ever performed better that he did in the second debate with Darling.

      Luckily, it's not quite all-or-nothing for Sturgeon tonight - if she underperforms for whatever reason, she'll have a second bite of the cherry next week. But hopefully it'll all go according to plan.

    2. I agree, but lets be honest the first debate was a significant blow. That said Darling was visibly obnoxious, which probably did not help the No side that much. I reckon the Yes campaign was up against it. A Yes majority was probably asking for too much at the first attempt. The No campaign went for a scorched earth result, and 'achieved' it. It looks like the cost could be very high though.

      James, I would guard against complacency for the general election. I believe the SNP could do with more people canvassing.

    3. "I agree, but lets be honest the first debate was a significant blow."

      Not really - I had a sinking feeling that night, but for whatever reason the polls started moving in favour of Yes after the first debate.

    4. The correct number of canvassers is always "more than we've currently got" and "as many as possible".

  3. In terms of the other leaders, I don't rate Bennett and Clegg. Cameron does not like debating and I cannot see him doing well. Farage is repellent, but seems to have found a constituency for himself, I would guess he will do alright. Miliband is okay, not convincing, around Cameron's level. I have never seen Wood in a debate, so my next comment is highly speculative! I think Wood will probably be decent, though she does not have anything like the political experience of Sturgeon.

  4. Or another prediction; people get bored of watching 7 people have it out with each other, get bored and switch off/over. On the whole they don't take on board any of the candidates main messages. The political die hards fight it out over who won for a week (that's us) Whilst the untouched voter is no further forward in their decision making. What do you think?

    1. No, I think the people who tune in will mostly stick with it (unless it's an Anas Sarwar-type debate, but I doubt if the format will allow for that).

    2. Who is likely to watch it though? In Scotland in particular. Undecided voters?

    3. Probably about 15% of the population will watch it, but a lot, lot more than that will see excerpts afterwards, or will be influenced by the post-debate reporting.

    4. Oh great, so the British biased corporation get even more fuel. :-(

      Has there ever been any research done on how effective door to door campaigning is?

  5. The biggest issue will be "does England subsidise Scotland and Wales"
    If that theme succeeds then Nicola and Leanne will do badly in England but well in Scotland and possibly Wales

  6. Four post-debate polls with YouGov expected to report first and be followed by ICM (for the Guardian), ComRes (for ITV) and Survation (for the Mirror). All four polls should be out shortly after the debate concludes at 10pm.

  7. One of the strange things about this debate, is that Nicola will be getting asked questions, from Cameron or Farage, not because her answer may damage the SNP in Scotland, but because they hope it damages Labours vote in England.

    Both Farage and Cameron know full well that they have nothing much to lose in Scotland, while Ed will be aware that he may destroy Labours slim chances up hear if he isn't careful.

    However Ed will also be aware that questions will be framed about Scotland in order to trip him up, so he will probably have some stuttering moments as he has to decide how to answer in as neutral a way as possible.

    Nicola's approach will hopefully be to just say that her and the SNP want what's best for Scotland, but that this will also be what's best for most Labour voters in England, who still believe that society should look after the disabled etc, and not just pander to the wealthy 1%.

    This will resonate with socialists in England, but far more importantly, it will resonate with traditional Labour voters as well as what is sometimes called 'Low Information' voters in Scotland, who may be wondering why so many Labour voters are starting to vote SNP.

    There's potential to really hit home the message to Labour voters throughout the UK, that Labour have abandoned their traditional voters, and are simply Red Tories.

    Go Nicola !!!

  8. The YouGov panel I've been invited to take part in is only covering the first hour of the program. Presumably to give them time to crunch the numbers.

  9. Farage already on about slashing Scotland's budget!

  10. Job done!

    I almost feel sorry for the out of touch westminster establishment parties after that hammering tonight from Nicola.

    Almost, but not quite. :-D