Monday, May 2, 2016

The Sunday Herald's advice to voters is, quite simply, contradictory

Not for the first time in this campaign, the Sunday Herald's lead story yesterday was hugely controversial, with the claim that Nicola Sturgeon was setting her sights on a second referendum now that a "Holyrood win" was guaranteed.  There was no direct reference to so-called "tactical voting on the list" on this occasion, but many assumed - probably correctly - that the story formed one of the subtler parts of the paper's ongoing propaganda campaign to convince pro-independence voters that the election is in the bag for the SNP, and that the list vote should therefore be treated as some kind of "bonus" or "luxury" vote that will not affect the meat of the result.

What's interesting, though, is the creative ambiguity in the phrase "Holyrood win".  What does that actually mean?  Does it mean an overall SNP majority is guaranteed?  If so, that would be an extraordinary claim given the state of the polls.  Or is it simply a statement of the bleedin' obvious that the SNP are certain to be the largest single party, and are also virtually certain to form a government?

We perhaps get a little clue to the answer in an editorial which gives a complicated endorsement/non-endorsement to the SNP.  The paper has two basic wishes for the election result -

1) That the SNP are returned to government with a majority.

2) That other pro-independence parties are strengthened.

In view of which, voters are given just one specific piece of advice -

"We see no reason why progressive Scots voters should not consider using their second list vote to back a social democratic party like the Greens - who also support independence for Scotland."

Well, there is one extremely good reason, of course - namely that a vote against the SNP on the list is a vote against an SNP majority government. The advice might make perfect sense if the paper took the same view as some Green and RISE supporters who say that the SNP would govern better without a majority, and indeed that they did govern better without a majority prior to 2011. But if we take the very specific wish for an SNP majority at face value, what is being suggested is a complete nonsense - because nobody can seriously imagine that the way to go about getting an SNP majority is by voting against the SNP on either or both ballots. I suppose if we were being ultra-charitable, we might characterise the Sunday Herald's advice as being to vote both for and against an SNP majority, because there is a path - albeit a phenomenally tough one - to a majority based on constituency votes alone. But it is simply a statement of fact that switching to a different party on the list significantly reduces the chances of a majority, because it cuts away the safety net of SNP list seats.

It seems pretty likely that if the SNP poll in the mid-40s on the constituency ballot, they will fall well short of the 65 constituency seats that would give them a majority without needing any list seats. In 2011, their 45% of the vote netted them just 53 constituency seats. Now, it's true that the arithmetic is different this time, because Labour look certain to lose further ground. The SNP could probably gain a number of Labour seats just by standing still. But the flipside of the equation is that standing still might lose them seats to the Tories, and possibly even to the Lib Dems, whose vote proved amazingly resilient in a handful of key constituencies last year. To a large extent, that was presumably down to anti-SNP tactical voting, which thanks to the referendum will be a factor this year in a way that it wasn't five years ago. So the new advantages that the SNP have this time around are balanced out by new disadvantages, and it's murderously difficult to imagine them getting 65 constituency seats on 45% of the vote.

In this blog's latest Poll of Polls, the SNP have slipped to 51.3% of the constituency vote. So is it conceivable that polls could be overestimating a party's support by as much as 6% at such a late stage of the campaign? Answer : yes, of course it is. One week before polling day in 2007, a YouGov poll reported that the SNP were on 40% of the constituency vote - in fact, they got 32.9%. And on election night itself in 2011, a Progressive Scottish Opinion poll gave the SNP 51% of the constituency vote - 6% more than they actually got when the votes came in a few hours later.

The fact that something may happen doesn't mean that it necessarily will. But even if the SNP were currently being overestimated by only about half as much as that (putting them at roughly 48%), it would be touch and go as to whether they would win a majority on constituency seats alone.

I've no idea whether the Sunday Herald's claim to want an outright SNP majority is intellectually dishonest, or whether they've genuinely managed to convince themselves - in defiance of all logic - that an SNP majority is assured regardless of how people actually vote.  Either way, the functional meaning of their advice is that voters should give a lower priority to an SNP majority than to success for the Greens and RISE, and at best should rely on blind faith to ensure that a vote against the SNP will somehow not harm the SNP.

My own view, for what it's worth, is that blind faith is never the most promising plan.  Let's take control of our own destiny.

68 comments:

  1. There is something to be said for a good Green performance on Thursday, i.e. them winning more seats than the Lib Dems.

    For debates like last night, the usual pattern has been to invite 20% of the audience from each of the historically "big four" parties, with maybe the other 20% undecided. As the Greens were added as something of an afterthought to last night's debate, they were apparently only given 10% of the audience.

    So for last night's debate, which largely focused on the independence question, you had an audience which was at least 2-1 against independence.

    If the Greens outpoll the Lib Dems on Thursday and win significantly more seats (say 7 v 4), then that position is completely untenable. The Greens would have to be given equality with the Lib Dems, thereby reducing the imbalance.

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    1. Ah, but unionists love moving the goalposts.

      I have no doubts that should the Greens overtake the Lib Dems, the Greens won't get more publicity - the Lib Dems will get less.

      The game will still be 2-1 - Tory & Labour against SNP. As long as those two parties were at least 5% ahead of the Greens and Lib, there's enough fag paper of a justification.

      Then any time they can't exclude the Greens and Lib Dems, they'll look for every way to squeeze Baron Greenback in.

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    2. If 20% of the audience were SNP supporters, then half of them must have been asleep during the debate, based on the reaction of the audience. Perhaps they had been campaigning hard and needed a wee rest.

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  2. I have absolutely no faith in The Herald , whatever shape it takes , be it The Herald , Sunday Herald or The National .The very fact that even YOU don't know where they are coming from James says it all .They are a Tory rag . In this election , as in others , they have played the confusion card . Their different outlets , promoting one party in one title and denigrating the same party in another , is a good divide and conquer tactic and I would say it is working .I for one will never make any decisions based on what they say , in any of their titles .

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  3. All the MSM is Unionist owned.
    All the MSM is promoting a split vote.
    All the MSM wants the SNP to lose its majority.
    Does it really need anything else said about 'tactical' voting?

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  4. Glad I don't buy the Sunday Herald anymore. With the sad death of Ian Bell the SH lost its soul.

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  5. As much as I want to see the Greens do well, I will be voting SNP on both ballots.

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  6. The attacks of the last few days should make those thinking about splitting their vote think twice.

    The media is making it ALL about independence, in an attempt to scare No voters away from voting SNP as the best means to run the Scottish Parliament.

    They are trying to turn the Scottish Parliament election into another independence referendum.

    At the same time, a large number of those on the 'radical left' are attacking the SNP all over social media for accepting a Sun endorsement. Making the same mistake they always do and refusing to put differences aside to look at the bigger picture.

    If the SNP end up slipping back to 45% of the vote on the constituencies, then a large amount of list seats will be needed like last time.

    Take no chances. Both votes SNP.

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    1. Yep, and the Sun pic turns out to be photoshopped, if that is what you were referring to. What next eh.

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  7. SNP TIMES TWO and IN with the EU.

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  8. Just don't buy the SH! You will feel better for it. Not sure about the National, but I will keep a watch out for the Unionist creep which has knackered the SH.

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    1. Please do , I have been doing that over the last couple of months , for a supposedly independence leaning paper it is very sadly lacking .

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  9. Does anyone know if there's going to be an exit poll for the Holyrood election?

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    1. No, there won't be. At best there might be some kind of pseudo-exit poll, like the ones YouGov and Ashcroft did at the referendum. But even that's unlikely.

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    2. So no one views the Holyrood election as being important enough to be deserving of an exit poll? I understand they are expensive - but you'd think someone in our country of 5 million would have deep enough pockets. We've even got Professor Curtice based here - and no one can be ersed seeking his expertise?

      Says it all really.

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  10. Of course if you are a labour voter, could always your regional vote to support RISE? No?
    SNP x 2. There is no other choice.
    That's why Curtice and the MSM are peddling this meanisophistry. The aim is to reduce the SNP tally at Regionallevel by hook or by crook.
    Nobody's being taken in.
    Oh look, asquirr

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  11. I'm in the "multi-party pro-Indy majority > SNP majority" camp, so I'll be going for the Greens in Glasgow. Was swithering, but NS helping out the Sun in their hour of need was the last of several straws.

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    1. @keaton
      If you google "sturgeon sun picture" have a look at the pictures that come up. Do you really think that's the genuine article - or a photoshop special?

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    2. It was photoshopped, and er why would you base your vote on one image anyway! Duh.

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  12. I like some Green policies and have becoming increasing left-wing as I get into my dotage. I'm not too doddery though not to realize that to get either more left-wing and/or greener Government in Scotland we must first of all win our Independence from the lunatic asylum in London!Keaton - the Sun is not in any hour of need. I hope you don't have to reflect in years to come that your huffy vote cost us miles on our route to freedom and do you see any better First Minister than Nicola - how juvenile to make a decision on a photo-shopped snap on a rag!

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    1. It shows you how people are still falling for media tricks , I despair .

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    2. You mean the media tricked her to appear in the picture?

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    3. Isn't the claim that the image was photoshopped? I can't say I've been particularly following the story, because if she did pose for the photo it wouldn't particularly bother me. Alex Salmond did exactly the same thing without any of this fuss.

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    4. Salmond was already famous for courting Murdoch, though. Until now, Sturgeon had avoided that association.

      There is a photoshopped image of her holding the Dandy doing the rounds, yes. It'd be interesting to know where that came from - did it originate as a joke, or was someone deliberately trying to convince people the Sun mocked up the photo? If the latter, it seems to have worked on some folk. I suspect it's the same people who bought into the whole "genetically programmed" thing.

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    5. I should add that I accept Salmond's relationship with Murdoch was hugely blown out of proportion by the media and opposition parties which had spent the last two decades sucking up to him. Regardless, Salmond definitely wasn't as "clean" in this regard as Sturgeon was.

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    6. The Sun endorses the tories in England and the SNP in Scotland. No political principles - just opportunism.

      And we all know about the Hillsborough thing - fcking horrendous!

      Sorry - any politician caught holding up The Sun while pretending to be a man / woman of the people deserves all the criticism they get. Thick useless fishwife!

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  13. John - me too! I fail totally to understand why people can't see that getting out of this foul union is the only way we can shape Scotland to suit what we want from our various political standpoints! Changing your vote on the basis of a picture in a newspaper reads more like an excuse! SNP x 2 until we get independence!

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    1. For argument's sake, what if it takes 50 years to become independent? Should we just keep voting for the SNP regardless and irrespective of the decisions they make in office?

      The SNP have cultivated this line themselves - keep voting for us, we're the only ones who can give you independence, and in the meantime stop complaining about how we're governing the country as we can sort everything out after we're independent.

      At a certain point you have to start looking at the country as it is and argue that while we support independence, there's plenty we can do now to make the country a better place today. That's what the Greens are arguing for and I genuinely don't see why anyone on the left/green side of the political spectrum would pick the SNP's platform over what the Greens are offering. It has all the positives of the SNP's vision (including support for independence) but is far more progressive.

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    2. That depends on whether you think the Greens could do a better job. If it had been up to the Greens we would have no new Forth road bridge, antiquated roads, and a 60p tax rate that could drive wealth and investment out of Scotland.

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    3. It won't take 50 years. Ireland is the example to follow, without the violence hopefully. We make Scotland a different country from Westminster, and ignore their political Party's.

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    4. Jen - you have not been watching what is going on. Much of the left of centre policies that the SNP have been pursued are as far left as any modern social democracy is going to go. I am personally to the left of the SNP but will vote for them as only they can get us to independence. Far too many well intentioned greens and socialists have been taken in by the British machine. No progressive policies will happen under any party in Scotland but the SNP. The Greens and the socialist parties simply will not get the numbers and the Empire Government in London will allow nothing progressive - look at how they are pulling down Corbyn! I'm afraid the Britnat propaganda appears to be working. You may regret not voting SNP very much!

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    5. Ireland was shaped by violence, persecution, famine and colonisation. Scotland can't follow the Irish example as our history is totally different. Another way we have deviated importantly from Ireland is in having an independence referendum which the unionists won. This trumped and superceded the SNP landslide which came 8 months later (which would have been comparable to the Irish 1918 General Election - if it hadn't been for the preceding referendum result).

      No, Scotland is more "Quebec" than "Ireland".

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  14. Has to be SNP X 2 !

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  15. Well the National bigging up Coburn today wont help the Greens or RISE in H&I. Mendacious that!

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    1. That's the kind of thing I mean about the Herald group .Why on earth would the National try to beef up the UKIP vote !.

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  16. Not getting SNP voters out to vote is the greatest potential problem. It might seem that the Sunday Herald is damaging the prospects of another SNP majority but if that's a deliberate attempt at derailment it's one that contains the seeds of its own failure. If you are minded not to bother going to vote SNP then by all means go and split your vote in order to elect a Green list member. If you're not going out to vote for a unionist party then by all means stay at home as you're right, it's not worth it.

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    1. I think you are right there Iain , we have been told for so long how far ahead in the polls the SNP are , ( and I would question that ) I think people will start to let apathy in .It has to be a beautiful day on Thursday , get all your SNP voters to the polls .

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    2. If everyone believes the SNP are going to walk it, wouldn't that cause apathy on all sides, though? Why would Labour voters bother turning out if they think they've no chance?

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    3. Tories always turn out to vote; maybe the Sunday Herald would like to see the Ruth Davidson Party as the main opposition.

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    4. The competition for second place might also get the Labour vote out too. Lib Dems might stay at home though. Think the concentration on independence might not just get the unionist vote out but may very well get the independence support out too in response to the idea that we get back in our box.

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    5. The competition for second place might also get the Labour vote out too. Lib Dems might stay at home though. Think the concentration on independence might not just get the unionist vote out but may very well get the independence support out too in response to the idea that we get back in our box.

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  17. Personally, as someone who intends to vote Green, I think we should stop talking about tactical voting. The best reason to vote Green is that we simply have a better platform than the SNP - a genuinely progressive platform that takes the environment seriously. The SNP are offering a centrist platform and the party has shown a persistent unwillingness to prioritise the environment over economic growth (M74 extension, tax cuts for multinational oil corporations, scrapping air passenger duty, etc.)

    If you believe in solving inequality and protecting the environment then there isn't a single thing the SNP can offer that's more likely to achieve that than what the Greens are offering. The only reason to vote for them on the list is that they're more likely to win seats (i.e. tactical voting).

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    1. Apparently the Greens have one or two anti-independence candidates. That's not the case in Glasgow, though (or at least, not for the only two who have a chance of getting in), so there's no worry on that score.

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    2. Wrong Jen, the SNP can offer independence, and the possibility of real change. The Greens can't.

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    3. The vast majority of voters are somewhere around the middle ground, the bulge in the bell-curve, the hump that´s the middle of any ¨normal distribution¨. If you believe in independence AND democracy, then you need a majority to vote for it in a future referendum. That´s why cautions even somewhat ´timid´ policies are needed for the time being. As you move your political centre of gravity away from the middle ground, you lose more ´average´ voters than you gain extremists. It´s simple arithmetic really :

      Unless we capture the ´hump´ we´re humped!

      Sorry Greens, RISE etc. but right now you´re simply a dangerous distraction. Can´t you just put your egos on ice at this very critical time?

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    4. It's people as well as policies that matter to me; I shall be voting SNP x 2 because I'd rather have Emma Harper in the Parliament than Sarah Beattie-Smith.

      If I lived in H&I, I might vote for John Finnie, but he's the only one.

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  18. I'll be voting SNP twice, but I actually think there is a fair chance that the SNP will actually pick up zero list seats.

    SNP to win every constituency in Scotland bar two in the South.

    ;)

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    1. At the risk of doing a Paddy Ashdown, I'll eat my hat if the SNP win zero list seats. They won a list seat in the North-east in 2011 in spite of winning every single constituency seat in the region.

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    2. Get rid of the idea that the list vote is a ´second vote´, under normal circumstances the list vote is the key to the final make-up of the parliament. If the SNP manages to get nearly all the constituency seats then it will already have its fair share of seats (possibly more) so naturally will pick up few if any on the lists.

      BUT the constituency seats are decided by FPTP which is always a gamble. Lose by a whisker in terms of votes and you´ve lost completely, no seat! What if several seats are very marginal, and if on the night the dice happen to fall the wrong way? Then the list vote come to the SNP´s aid and even things out in terms of proportion of seats to votes.

      The constituency polls will always be a GAMBLE, a toss-up. With the lists your betting on a certainty.

      SNP + SNP : In the last resort the List Vote is the First Vote.

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    3. I think the tories will take 5 seats, the lib dems 2 and Labour at least 1. I just can't see Labour getting wiped off the map. Somebody will bag a win for them somewhere (unionist tactical voting will possibly come into play here)

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  19. To be honest this election campaign has been atrocious. Everybody appears to be very tired, and no wonder, by the time that the EU referendum is decided next month, in just 5 years we will have voted in two major Scottish elections (2011 and 2016), and had a very long independence referendum campaign, and a second major one next month, along with the usual local and European elections. Rest will be needed.

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  20. Glasgow Working Class 2May 2, 2016 at 6:00 PM

    I note wee Knickerless is claiming the Unionists are a threat to democracy. After two years of Nat sis lies, hypocrisy and various ridiculous claims the Nat sis lost. The wee shite does not accept the will of the people, she and her fellow Nat sis are the threat.

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    1. Don't feed the troll, folks.

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    2. The SNP are a threat to peace.

      Scotland was ripped apart by the referendum. All the unionists seek is a period of inactivity and certainty. No one is expecting the SNP to abandon independence. But a period of time must pass in which the result of the original referendum is honoured. We have a deep division in this country now along nationalistic lines, superimposed over (and connected to) an older sectarian religious divide. We need quiet, peace and reconciliation - not round 2 which, in my opinion - and I do not condone this - risks violence.

      The unionists are the grown ups here, urging caution, restraint and gradualism. The nats are behaving like bairns, demanding they get another shot at a game they just lost (and a dangerous game it is!)

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    3. Edith Snellgrove-WhitmanMay 2, 2016 at 10:46 PM

      Which side keeps harping on and on and on and on about referendums? Your side. Ripped Apart? You need therapy and pity.

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    4. Yep, the Unionists in George Square were not displaying violence, much.

      And that was after they won - one would hate to think how much more violent they would have been, if they had lost.

      Of course, Unionism has always had a very, very violent side to it and some very, very violent supporters - and I am not talking about "on-line" either - so George Square was nothing new.

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    5. And on the other side we have the Scottish National Liberation Army who send bombs and poison through the post. I think I'd sooner take my chances with the Rangers skinheads!

      Friendships and family relationships have permanently broken down as a result of your little experiment in 'democracy' (I put democracy in inverted commas because it isn't democracy if you ignore the result). If you keep up the pressure there will be violence, in my opinion - and I do not condone it. But if the nats really insist on keeping Scotland at boiling point, bad things will happen. It's just a prediction, not a threat (personally I wouldn't hurt a fly).

      And it's disingenuous to claim that unionists are the only ones talking about referendums. Sturgeon keeps telling us about her upcoming fresh push for independence and of all the things that may trigger another referendum. So the nationalists are talking about it - all the time. It's all you live for now. The unionists are simply responding to that.

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    6. How long ago did the SNLA last send bombs or poison through the post? Don't you mean sent rather than send?

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    7. Edith Snellgrove-WhitmanMay 2, 2016 at 11:49 PM

      It sound that you don't have much good family relationships. A lot of our family voted differently and we get on fine. Ms Sturgeon only mentions it as that is the main question that keeps been banged on and on and on by the broadcasters/media. The voters aren't obsesses as you are. LoL.

      I see the poll figure are very promising for the SNP for Thursday. Just the right figures to get out the vote. Sweet dreams.

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    8. I wasn't referring to my own family.

      Most of the SNP voters are voting for that party in the hope of securing another independence referendum. The obsession lies with the nationalists and their leaders - who speak of very little else ("triggers", "converting no voters", "new campaign for indy", "the people have a right to a referendum" (we just voted in one)). So the unhealthy obsession lies with you lot and people are naturally reacting to it. Stop talking about indy and so will we!

      The poll figures are looking less promising for the SNP. Late swing in favour of common sense? Let's hope so! But even if you do get in chances are the third term will turn manky. Can't wait to see SNP force through fracking using tory votes :0)

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    9. The passage of time doesn't diminish the crime anon.

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  21. Since the London based parties have little to say about improving life here in Scotland,they appear to be hanging their hats on an anti independence ticket.
    Three parties standing on the same agenda competing for the same vote.

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    1. Lib Dems want to raise taxation and plough it into education.

      Labour want to raise taxation and plough it into welfare and public services.

      Tories want to end the nat freebie culture and ensure state resources are appropriately targeted.

      Ukip want to end our EU membership, cut red tape and simplify the tax system.

      All unionist parties - all with policies other than unionism - and in all cases bolder than the SNP

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  22. Interesting points and stimulating discussion everyone - thanks! Time to go now, though, - the kids are here with their crayons.... :)

    Alex B

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  23. Last Survation poll - done yesterday/today

    Constituency

    SNP 49% (-4)
    LAB 21% (+2)
    CON 19% (+4)
    LD 7% (-1)
    Other 5% (NC)

    List

    SNP 43% (+1)
    CON 20% (+2)
    LAB 19% (+3)
    GRE 7% (-4)
    LD 6% (-1)
    UKIP 2% (-2)
    Other 2%

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    1. Cutbot (you can get cream for that!), predicts:

      SNP 69
      Labour 24
      Tories 24
      Green 6
      Lib Dem 6

      It's squeaky bum time!

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  24. SwagBucks is a very recommended work from home website.

    ReplyDelete