A real clash of the titans to look forward to as Rennie takes on Sturgeon. Wonder who will win? Should be close. #WinningWithWillie— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) May 17, 2016
It would be embarrassing if Rennie suffers defeat to Sturgeon by, say, 63 votes to 5. But I'm sure that won't happen. #WinningWithWillie— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) May 17, 2016
It's absolutely uncanny. In spite of the spectacular progress made by the Liberal Democrats two weeks ago, when they surged from a pathetic 5 seats last time around to a stunning 5 seats this time (prompting the cracking open of champagne and joyous hugs between Willie Rennie and Tim Farron), I somehow just had this weird feeling - call it a premonition - that Rennie's bid to become First Minister would all go horribly wrong and he would lose to the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon by a humiliating margin of 63 votes to 5. It seemed so improbable, and yet I should have trusted the nagging voice inside my head, because that's exactly what happened.
Election of First Minister :
Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) : 63 votes
Willie Rennie (Lib Dem) : 5 votes
Nicola Sturgeon re-elected as First Minister by a margin of 58 votes.
But give Rennie his due - at least he gave us an election. Ruth Davidson, by contrast, didn't make our day - she ran away. I couldn't help but smile at this rather charitable interpretation of her decision on the BBC website...
"Ms Davidson will not stand this time, after pledging during the election campaign to form a strong opposition."
That implied, somewhat amusingly, that the only reason Davidson wasn't putting herself forward as First Minister was because it would be a breach of a clear manifesto commitment that she wouldn't try to get elected. I felt sure that she wouldn't be mad enough to attempt that excuse herself - after all, you can't control how many people vote for you, so what would she have done if there had been a Conservative majority? Would she have instructed half her parliamentary party to resign immediately? Or would she have voted for Nicola Sturgeon just so that she could have the SNP government she promised to oppose? It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Vote Tory, get SNP".
But yes, bizarre though it may seem, Davidson confirmed in her speech that she wasn't trying to get elected because she had promised to be the opposition. The mind boggles.
* * *
EU referendum polls are like the proverbial London buses - you wait a whole week for one, and then four turn up at once. Since the two ICM polls were released yesterday afternoon, we've had another two from other firms...
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
TNS poll (online) :
Remain 38% (-1)
Leave 41% (+5)
ORB poll (telephone) :
Remain 55% (+4)
Leave 40% (-3)
Remain activists were getting very excited about the ORB poll last night, but I'm not really sure what to make of it. The trend shown by ORB phone polls has been as mad as a bucket of frogs, and so far hasn't borne any resemblance to what phone polls from other firms have been reporting. When we have three polls from other firms conducted at around the same time (including a phone poll from ICM) all showing either a steady picture or slight progress for Leave, I think we have to be a bit sceptical about the ORB findings. It's not completely impossible that they're just ahead of the game in picking up a Remain surge earlier than other firms, but we'll just have to wait for more information to find out.
The other slightly irritating thing about ORB phone polls is that it's never entirely clear which set of figures should be treated as the headline figures. The Telegraph, who commission the polls, usually seem to give more emphasis to the turnout-filtered figures - which in this case are much more favourable for Leave (51% Remain, 45% Leave).
* * *
SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS
50/50 ONLINE/TELEPHONE AVERAGE :
Remain 45.8% (+1.2)
Leave 41.3% (+0.1)
ONLINE AVERAGE :
Remain 42.6% (-0.5)
Leave 43.5% (-0.3)
TELEPHONE AVERAGE :
Remain 49.0% (+3.0)
Leave 39.0% (+0.5)
(The Poll of Polls takes account of all polls that were conducted at least partly within the last three weeks. The online average is based on eleven polls - four from ICM, two from YouGov, two from TNS, one from ORB, one from BMG and one from Opinium. The telephone average is based on three polls - one from ICM, one from ORB and one from Survation.)