Thursday, January 21, 2016

By-election boost for sizzling SNP in hallowed Hamilton habitat

There can't be another town in Scotland that says "by-election" quite like Hamilton, and there was certainly no disappointment tonight as the SNP surged into a comfortable first place in a ward that was narrowly won by Labour last time around.  However, it's technically an SNP hold, as the vacancy was caused by the death of an SNP councillor.

Hamilton North & East by-election result : 

SNP 42.9% (+2.5)
Labour 33.6% (-9.4)
Conservatives 18.5% (+8.4)
Greens 3.3% (+0.2)
Liberal Democrats 1.8% (n/a)

The swing from Labour to SNP was around 6%.  Of course, the SNP always start from a relatively high base in local by-elections due to having won the nationwide popular vote in 2012, so perhaps a more meaningful way of looking at this result is that it's the rough equivalent of a 17% or 18% swing at last year's general election.  That's handsome enough, although not as high as the SNP were actually managing in most traditional Labour areas in May.

The mystery here is the strength of the Tory vote, and I'm wondering if there are local or personal factors that might explain it.  It's true that an increased Tory vote share is not unexpected in a low-turnout by-election, because Tory voters are more affluent and thus more likely to turn out.  But that factor wouldn't in itself be enough to explain an 8.4% increase.  Doubtless we'll hear from some quarters that this is hard evidence of the Tory progress hinted at in the most recent Ipsos-Mori and Survation polls, but it could just as easily be a completely freakish result.

Incidentally, just to amplify the point I made to Mike Small in the email exchange the other day, less than half of the Green vote transferred to the SNP after the Green candidate was eliminated on the second count.  19% went to Labour, 6% to the Tories, and 29% was non-transferable.  Of the Green voters that did transfer, more than one-third went to unionist parties.  Not much evidence there of the elusive "mass tactical vote for the SNP" that Mike seems to think should be treated as established fact.

UPDATE : Could I just point out to my ever-growing fan club on a certain Facebook group that their feelings about me seem to have led them to a serious failure of mental arithmetic.  It is not true that three times as many Green voters in Hamilton transferred to the SNP as to other parties combined.  Fewer than twice as many did.  And nowhere in this post did I "have a go at the Greens" - I'm simply making a straightforward observation that a very substantial proportion of Green voters prefer unionist parties to the SNP, and that it's therefore implausible to claim that Green sympathisers will be contributing to a "mass tactical vote" for the SNP on the constituency ballot in May (the operative word being "mass").

If I've ever used the phrase "SNP 1 and 2" that several members of that group attribute to me, I'd be interested to know where I did it.  Certainly I'd strongly advise people not to write '1' and '2' on their ballot papers, regardless of which party they're attempting to vote for, because the returning officer might interpret that as a spoilt ballot.  The '2' would be particularly risky, because the list vote is a completely distinct ballot, not a second preference.

47 comments:

  1. Hamilton N. & E. (South Lanarkshire) first prefs:
    SNP: 42.9% (+2.4)
    LAB: 33.6% (-9.4)
    CON: 18.5% (+8.4)
    GRN: 3.3% (+0.1)
    LDEM: 1.8% (+1.8)
    My initial thoughts on the seat are;

    Low turnout and usually helps the Tories on a differential turnout. The deceased SNP Councillor was a very well know publican in the town and had a considerable person vote. The SNP have held on that vote and built on it. Labour put a lot of work into the ward from what I have seen on the internet.

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  2. Glasgow Working ClassJanuary 22, 2016 at 12:12 AM

    I have family nearby. All voted SNP. Great campaign by the SNP, a deserved result.

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    1. The Nat sis know how to get the benefit spongers out to vote.

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    2. It's a vast improvement on "shurrup n vote fur the Laybur maan".

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    3. The Onanists should play elsewhere.

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  3. Tories on 19% in Hamilton? This is the Hamilton I know of isn't it - the craphole about 7 mins drive from East Kilbride??

    The right are on the march. Stand aside seps - this is our moment to shine!

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    1. Its no far away fae Larkhall, the only place in the world with a Subway which doesnt have a green sign. It could not be more Loyalist. I dont how much of that affects the surrounding area but its probably significant.

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    2. Yes this wee craphole just down from ek.the town they built for the people from lanarkshire but the weegie overspill got the houses and and they got inside toilets now they look down their noses at people.short memories

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    3. The people of EK don't have much to look down their noses about. And an inside toilet is no bloody good if somebody is always in it. You need at least two inside toilets these days to have truly 'made it'.

      Aldo

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  4. Could the tory increase be unionist Labour voters thinking the Tories had a better chance and voting tactically?

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    1. On that scale? Unlikely. Might be a very small part of the explanation, but leaving aside Stephen Daisley's friends, how many traditional Labour voters would ever consider voting Tory?

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    2. Its not an increase in the Tory vote. Numerically its the same as in 2012. However the turnout is well down - as you would expect. Poor weather not helping.

      I would suggest postal vote effect. some 18% of voters in that ward are postals, and there are some desirable suburbs in the ward too. You can even buy your Bentley there.

      I have noticed an increase in percentage terms in Conservative votes all winter. But if voting is indeed polarising into Unionist and Nationalist, then I would expect a drift in some places to the "Unionist" bit of the Conservatives.

      Congratulations to Stephanie. And well done to the party organisation in Hamilton.

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  5. It looks like Tory elimination votes went:

    None: 50%
    LAB: 36%
    SNP: 14%

    So possible danger sign if Tory to Labour tactical voting in Holyrood Constituency vote? Would this be the Uddingston and Bellshill constituency which Labour hold?
    I suppose it is Tory priority to catch up with Labour.
    Low turnout, but dangerous to make automatic assumption of SNP constituency gains. Every vote counts, and regional votes are a back-up.

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  6. So what does this one imply about the size of the SNP lead nationally?

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    1. Not much. It's a local by-election. If you do a straight extrapolation you get to a roughly 13% SNP lead over Labour, but that doesn't take account of the fact that you'd expect the swing to be smaller in areas where Labour weren't traditionally strong.

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    2. Labour aren't 'traditionally strong' in Hamilton?

      Aldo

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    3. Yes, they are. That's the point I'm making - that's why the extrapolation doesn't work.

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  7. I've been thinking about the Tory 'surge' of a couple of % in some polls.

    People say Tories are more likely to vote. Sure, but for Holyrood historically? For Westminster sure and maybe for councils too. However, Holyrood is something a lot of Tories never wanted and many saw it as not important. So, this might explain at least partly why their vote share was always lower here than for Westminster. Certainly, turnouts for Holyrood have always been markedly lower.

    However, 2011 and the referendum may have changed this. Projected turnouts for Holyrood are much higher now, suggesting people who previously didn't bother voting for it are now planning too. Likely candidates would be Tory voters here.

    Tories got 13% on average in 2011, but 15% in 2015. If the extra 2% are coming from 'didn't bother with Holyrood before but worried about another iref', then you have your explanation for the possible little Tory uptick in polls. No increase in the Tory base, which continues its slow decline, just not ignoring Holyrood so much.

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    1. Of course the same could apply to council by elections. Tories most worried about SNP doing well / possible new iref so taking every opportunity to vote now.

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  8. However the result is explained and analysed it is nevertheless remarkable that the SNP is not showing any signs of loss or weakness despite having been in government at Holyrood since 2007 .

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  9. Tories increase is explained away if you look at this wards history. They lost 6% back in 2012, believed at the time to have been tactical switches to Labour.

    If those 'natural Tories' came back this time, then the small additional increase of Labour voters moving Tory is in line with other performances elsewhere.

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  10. I don't know why folk are surprised that labour voters are switching to Tory. They have had virtually the same policies if slightly different rhetoric for the last 20 years.

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    1. There was and still is a sheep mentality with Labour and Tories. With the Tories, its middle class old women in leafy suburbs. For Labour, it is older folk from unionised work. They would never vote for the other side hence the tactical voting in 2015 was a disaster.

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  11. I'm from Hamilton. I don't think the "Labour" vote has collapsed. I think they didn't put up a very experienced candidate. I also think the main continuum is no longer between left and right but now is between nationalist and unionist - so it's natural for Labour voters to switch to Tory in the event of a poor candidate choice.

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    1. But if the Tories can put up a better candidate than Labour doesn't that signify Labour collapse and Tory resurgence?

      I'm thinking that Ruthie sees this as a crusade, and I wonder if her team is getting a lot of help from England, financially.

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    2. Yeah, I get what you're saying. Certainly locally that sounds true! It doesn't necessarily follow that Labour candidates in general will be poor though.

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  12. Can the popularity and personal vote of the former Councillor also play a part, even in a multi-ward, transferable vote system? I believe that the former Councillor was very well liked and respected.

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    1. I think so. Lynn was a champion for Hamilton.

      Steph is fairly new to the SNP and new to government so she doesn't have a strong personal vote, but she has a strong message - that Labour no longer represents her. She has voted Labour all of her life and she not only decided to stop voting Labour, but to vote Yes, join the SNP and then run for office under the SNP.

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  13. It seems the political scene in Scotland is slowly but surely changing into a pro-indy versus anti-indy affair. At least until Scotland regains its independence. Of course unionists will be entitled to campaign for Scotland to rejoin the so-called united kingdom - we all need a hobby I suppose.

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  14. The idea of the tories gaining ground in Scotland is truly frightening. With liebour having had many years to keep Scotland in their grasp, while ensuring Scotland remains shackled to westmonster, people need to think very carefully about which direction they want their country to go. Destructive, greedy, immoral, undemocratic and sell off all the family silver, that they haven't sold already, ie, the unionists. Or, a progressive, modern, life affirming, forward looking, democratic and much more equal country, ie the SNP.
    The choice is simple, and the differences between the two are stark, regards the election in Scotland in May.

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    1. It is not really surprising that the Tories are attracting votes. They will have most of the SNP Pouters in their back pocket by now, although you should never underestimate the Brit nat element in SLAB. It is the Tories who are positioning themselves as the defenders of the Union. SLAB and the Lib Dems to an extent have to reach out to their supporters and voters, who voted Yes in the independence referendum. You cannot do that by being as viscerally for the Union as they were during the referendum campaign.

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    2. "SLAB and the Lib Dems to an extent have to reach out to their supporters and voters, who voted Yes in the independence referendum."

      A fool's errand if ever there was one. The ones who voted Yes nearly all went over to the SNP in the general election last year. They're not coming back.

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  15. Interesting that one of the comments suggests that it is natural that Labour supporters should give their second preference to the Tories. This more than anything explains the collapse of their vote throughout Scotland.When voters can no longer differentiate between Labour and Tory policies, in an environment where the Tories are moving further and further to the right,then Labour has lost more than it's voters.

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    1. The 2nd preference vote relates to the STV voting for local councils. If there is a slight transfer of votes from Labour to Conservative then that would weaken Labour's position in FPTP Constituencies and it would help the SNP.

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  16. The Tories are trying to turn SE16 into a straight fight between Scottish nationalists & British nationalists, the vote in Hamilton reflects this with Tories up 2 % gained from unionists who would normally vote for other parties. We all know Tories cant win on policies, but turn it into Yes v No & their vote will increase the main thing is by how much & from which parties will they take votes..

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  17. "how many traditional Labour voters would ever consider voting Tory?"

    Political commentators need to move on from this sort of stuff.

    The idea of traditional Labour and traditional Tories, is all a bit...traditional. All a bit 20th century Scotland.

    Voters are not as tribal or as entrenched in the left or right, as they used to be. Particularly now that pro/anti union is the dividing line. Looking at the recent polling data, I'm pretty convinced the Tory surge in Scotland is real and has plenty of room to grow well into 20-30% levels as we head towards May. Just consider the number of disenchanted Labour/unionists out there with nowhere else to go.

    I really hope I'm wrong but the more results I see with swings to the Tories, the less I'm inclined to dismiss it as "local" or "freakish".

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    1. We may inhabit different worlds, but people I know may not be tribal pro-SNP or pro-Labour, but they're certainly tribal anti-Tory. On your last point, I can't really think of many recemt results like this one. When the Tory vote has gone up, it usually hasn't been by much.

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    2. My experience of 25 years canvassing in and around West Lothian suggests something a bit different.

      I think the 'traditional' Labour vote of the last 30 years included two radically different groups; first, the sincere socialist/social democrat who mistakenly believed that Labour offered some route to social justice but, secondly, socially conservative unionists, the type who love to wave the Daily Mail in your face to 'prove' their point.

      That first group largely voted Yes at the Referendum and, in the process, realised where Labour's priorities really lay. Now they largely vote SNP, fewer Green and fewer still SSP/Rise and Solidarity.

      That having happened, the second group are left with a party unable to offer any resistance to the growing 'threat' of nationalism, at least compared to the Tories who look to have a lock on Westminster power for the foreseeable future. They are looking for a new way to express their Britishness.

      I long believed that Labour totally misunderstood this split and they still don't seem to get it or, rather, refuse to accept it.

      In a vain effort to woo back the Yes voters it has lost, Labour has softened the message that was keeping that second group in line. The result is a slow drip of ex-Labour voters switching to the Tories (and probably UKIP too).

      There is a real danger that that drip becomes a steady stream and then a torrent. Personally, I don't think that will happen while Ruth Davidson is the Tory leader - she is no more than a PoundStretchers Trump politically speaking - but I do think there might be enough remaining Labour voters staying home in May to allow her to nick second place in the popular vote (I think the Tories are almost certain to win more constituencies than Labour in any event).

      It really shouldn't come as a surprise. From the 60's Labour built a coalition of Scots, including many who would have voted for the old Unionist party. The strength of numbers that a reliable coalition offers often allows seemingly irreconcilable political differences to be accommodated. But as those numbers start to fall away, so do the reasons for being part of it...

      Very soon, Labour could be left with only the rump of the 1st group - those whose belief in the Union outweighs their desire to deliver a social democracy in Scotland. And many of those will already be wrestling with whether they have their priorities right.

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  18. I can't believe nobody has mentioned 'The Rangers' in this thread. Basically even Rangers fans found the Tories too toxic in the past and could vote for other parties: hold their nose and vote Labour (perception of being strongly Catholic); Lib Dem; other right wing fringe that weren't Tories and the SNP because they were not a threat to their beloved Union. Many just didn't vote.

    There is a real movement among Rangers fans now who feel ever increasing pressure on their team and their rule Britannia GSTQ certainties. It is resulting in an ever more angry outlook and all of a sudden the Tories appear on their side. There are lots of nasty hard-core Bluenoses in the Hamilton area and they popped out for the by-election.

    Ruth is making a blatant pitch for the hard-core right wing George Square mob. When everyone comes out to play they are largely negated but a low turnout council election they can make up 8%.

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    1. Glasgow Working ClassJanuary 23, 2016 at 8:58 PM

      Davie boy you sound like a bigot with one left foot. Bite hard on yer pillow son.

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    2. It is funny you should say that on the day that JK Rowling and Stephen Daisley were sharing jokes with a guy called "Follow Follow". In fairness, I suspect JK Rowling didn't understand the connotation.

      Stephen Daisley is an interesting guy though. He is now an editor at STV. He has now spent a great deal of his time campaigning on 'Tunnocks'. He still does. Apart from Buzzfeed he has probably tweeted on this issue more than any other person. He also refers to independence supporters as 'them' quite often. Furthermore, he rights weird right-wing diatribes supporting Israel, racial profiling and various anti-SNP articles. I suspect he has a fair idea of the type of person 'Follow Follow' is and is just happy for the attention.

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    3. So to answer your question. I don't think it has got worse. The media types like the 'Follow Follow' crew because they are the only people on twitter that support their 'peculiar' viewpoints that aren't fully-fledged activists in a political party. A bit of 19th century bigotry can be overlooked if you'll retweet their pish.

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    4. GWC - I was a Rangers fan for 30 years.

      You and I should meet up one day for a drink and we can discuss this further. I live in Glasgow's South Side - where do you suggest?

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  19. I have no doubt that the Tory vote in Hamilton benefited from SNP hating Labour voters and the Rule Britannia mob. It is an Indy vs Unionist political landscape now and there is only one winner there. Roll on May elections!

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  21. Could Corbyn also be a factor? As noted above there's been little policy difference between Labour under the Blairites and Tory. Now there's a chance that Labour will drift back to the centre (I use that advisedly) will those right wing Blair lovers move to a new political home rather than drift with them?

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