Saturday, June 18, 2016

No clear trend in the weekend polls

Three new EU polls have been released tonight, but only one of them was entirely conducted after the murder of Jo Cox.  So let's start with that one, which was a phone poll carried out by Survation -

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

Remain 45% (+3)
Leave 42% (-3)

The problem here is that the changes could be consistent with either a genuine swing to Remain after Ms Cox's death, or with illusory margin of error 'noise'.  The last poll from the same firm recorded a hefty swing to Leave, and also put Leave in easily their best ever position in a Survation phone poll, so even in the normal course of events it wouldn't be at all surprising to see a modest reversion to the mean in the subsequent poll.  At the end of the day, it's still the second-best ever showing for Leave in a Survation phone poll, and it's still a statistical tie - ie. due to the standard margin of error, it's not possible to say which side is in the lead (even assuming the poll's methodology is basically sound).

UPDATE : This is the peril of trying to write a blogpost on the Saturday night before a referendum.  I was about to discuss this evening's YouGov poll showing a reduced Leave lead, only to discover as I checked back on Twitter that a second YouGov poll has been published in the last few minutes, and it was conducted on Thursday and Friday - which may or may not mean that it was wholly conducted after Ms Cox's death, depending on what time the poll commenced on Thursday.

Remain 44% (+2)
Leave 43% (-1)

That perhaps tips the balance in favour of there having been genuine movement towards Remain very recently, although Peter Kellner's declaration that there is only a 10% chance that the apparent changes could be caused by normal sampling variation sounds like mumbo-jumbo to me.  YouGov last showed a one-point Remain lead less than two weeks ago.

The best news for Leave comes in the new Opinium poll, which was conducted between Tuesday and Friday - and therefore presumably must have included a significant number of interviews both before and after Ms Cox's death (although given the nature of online polling, it's likely that the majority were before).

Remain 44% (n/c)
Leave 44% (+2)

Probably the most that can be said about those numbers is that they contradict the impression given by the first of tonight's two YouGov polls that there was movement back towards Remain even before the tragedy on Thursday.

To summarise what we've learnt, then : it's possible and perhaps likely that Thursday's events may have caused a swing back to Remain, but there isn't enough information to say that for certain yet, and if it has happened, it doesn't look like the swing has been on a big enough scale to put the referendum out of Leave's reach.  The most recent phone and online polls both point towards a statistical tie - although I suspect we'll now see substantial backing for Remain on the betting markets due to the assumption (which could easily be proved wrong) that the closing days of a referendum campaign are bound to see movement towards the status quo.

Bear in mind there is a potential danger for Remain that the support they may have won back in the last 48 hours could prove to be soft, and that the voters who have switched sides may change their minds again once the news agenda returns to the main issue.

UPDATE II : It turns out that only two-thirds of the second YouGov poll was conducted after the murder of Ms Cox, so that adds to the uncertainty and leaves Survation as still the only poll entirely conducted after the tragedy.  I'm slightly confused by the YouGov datasets - the actual hard numbers appear to show a wafer-thin Remain lead of just 50.2% to 49.8% after weighting and with Don't Knows excluded, and yet we're told that the percentages after rounding are Remain 51%, Leave 49%.  I've looked and looked and scratched my head, and I can't see or think of any obvious explanation for that discrepancy, but perhaps I'm missing something.

It also still appears to be the case that YouGov aren't weighting or filtering by turnout, which may mean that Leave's true strength is being slightly underestimated, because Leave voters continue to be more likely to say they are absolutely certain to make it to the polling station.  Admittedly, that factor could be offset by the undecideds, who appear set to break more for Remain (although how many of those people will actually vote is open to question).

Simultaneous BMG polls contradict each other on whether Leave or Remain are in the lead - but both polls are out of date anyway

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

BMG, online :

Remain 45% (-4)
Leave 55% (+4)

BMG, telephone :

Remain 53%
Leave 47%

Both polls were fully conducted prior to the murder of Jo Cox, and indeed the fieldwork started as long ago as the 10th.  So in a sense this is historical data that can only contribute to our understanding of the state of play prior to the tragedy.  The online figures are entirely as expected, with the same sort of swing to Leave detected recently by ICM and YouGov.  More surprising is the decent lead for Remain in the phone poll, but it's hard to draw any conclusions about the trend from that, because there are no baseline figures to work from - this is BMG's first phone poll of the campaign.

The big question is whether BMG followed the same practice as ICM did with their own recent simultaneous online and phone polls, by using exactly the same methodology (apart from data collection method, obviously) for both polls.  If they did, this is a direct contradiction of ICM's finding (that was successfully replicated after a fortnight had passed) that the divergence between phone and online polls has closed.

Even so, BMG are not one of the big names in political telephone polling, so although reputation is no guarantee of accuracy, I would be inclined to give more weight to the ICM and Ipsos-Mori phone polls - conducted at roughly the same time - putting Leave ahead.

We still await the first credible poll to be conducted since the murder.  USA Today are reporting "poll data" from yesterday (ie. the 17th) supposedly showing a swing towards Leave, but from the limited information available, it doesn't sound like a proper representative poll to me.

Friday, June 17, 2016

So where now?

For the first time yesterday, I briefly came to the conclusion that the balance of probability slightly favoured a Leave victory.  I was very surprised by the complete turnaround shown by Ipsos-Mori, which until now had tended to be the most Remain-friendly of telephone pollsters.  I would have expected the Remain lead to be sharply down in their new poll, but a very clear Leave lead was a shock.  (That was partly due to methodological changes, but even so.)  A Survation phone poll also suggested a small Leave lead, and with some online firms reporting a Leave lead of as much as seven points, it seemed to me the likelihood was that Leave had built up just enough of a cushion to have a decent chance of holding on.

But then came the tragic murder of Labour MP Jo Cox yesterday afternoon.  That's dominated the news for more than 24 hours now, and is bound to have some kind of impact on public opinion, even if it's entirely unclear so far what that impact will be.  It may be direct or indirect (or both), and could be any of the following -

* Floating voters who had begun to swing towards Leave may take a step back and think "what is this country becoming?", and revert to Remain.

* There may be a backlash against the attempts by some on the Remain side to (with varying degrees of subtlety) politicise the tragedy.  That could help Leave.

* There could be an effect on turnout.  The 2004 Madrid bombings - which occurred days before a national election - didn't seem to directly change many people's voting intentions, but it did lead to a bigger turnout than anticipated, which helped the socialists to an unexpected victory.  If younger people turn out to vote in solidarity with the Cox family, it could help Remain.  But if the turnout is depressed by the suspension of campaigning, it could boost Leave.

* The public may conclude that the tragedy has no relevance at all to the referendum, but will still find themselves indirectly influenced by the suspension of campaigning.  There have been some suggestions that the Leave camp will lose the momentum they had built up, but I suspect Remain might have the greatest problem in this scenario.  The advocates of the status quo tend to have the most cards to play at the close of a referendum campaign, and Remain have effectively lost two days that they presumably would otherwise have spent ramping up apocalyptic fears about the economy.  (Given the public mood after Ms Cox's death, it's also going to be hard to resume a relentlessly negative, fear-based campaign when hostilities resume.)

If I was going to guess, I would say that Remain are more likely to benefit in one way or another, but we'll just have to wait for polling evidence.  The information will probably come gradually - first we'll get polls that were only partly conducted after Ms Cox's death, and only after that will we get definitive evidence of any shift in opinion.  As always, it's also worth remembering that a substantial minority of votes have already been cast by post - and there are strong rumours that Leave have done very well so far.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cameron and Osborne reaching the end of the road as two more telephone polls put Leave in the lead

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

Ipsos-Mori, telephone poll :

Remain 47% (-10)
Leave 53% (+10)

Survation, telephone poll :

Remain 42% (-2)
Leave 45% (+7)

Indecision 2016

A few people have been taking me to task in the comments section about my uncertainty over how to vote next Thursday - they reckon it's a no-brainer that every independence supporter in Scotland should vote Remain, because we need to be able to point to as strong a Remain majority as possible. I think it might be an idea to repost my response here, so that I don't have to repeat myself another fifty times over the next week!

"I take an entirely different view, Rolfe, and I must say that I think 'risk' is the wrong word in this context. If the tactical objective is a UK Leave/Scottish Remain, then every single person in Scotland is simultaneously voting both for and against that outcome. That's simply a fact, and there's no way of avoiding it. The UK result looks like it could be very close (and I would still say Remain are slightly more likely to win), whereas the Scottish result looks pretty clear-cut. If that wasn't the case, and if Leave had a big UK lead, there would be overwhelming logic for independence supporters to vote Remain, but that isn't where we are. A Remain win of 65% to 35% in Scotland coupled with a Remain win of 50.1% to 49.9% across the UK isn't going to get us a second independence referendum, but a Remain win of 63% to 37% in Scotland coupled with a Leave win of 50.1% to 49.9% across the UK could just do the trick. That's the dilemma, and I have to say I think the likes of Bill and 'Sales - Select Wallpaper' are in danger of losing sight of the fact that Scottish votes do contribute directly to the overall UK outcome. We aren't having our own separate referendum here.

As I've said before, the problem with tactical voting this time is not that it can't or won't work, but rather that the side-benefits of Brexit for the independence movement may not actually be important enough to compensate for the major downsides of being stuck outside the EU if we don't get independence. That's why I'm still in two minds."

Just to reiterate : of the two main side-benefits that I think might arise from Brexit, I'd say greater powers for the Scottish Parliament is much the stronger potential argument for voting Leave, and the prospect of engineering a second independence referendum is the weaker. I'm also not trying to influence anyone else's vote - it would be a bit difficult to do that anyway, given that I genuinely haven't made up my mind yet on what I think the best choice would be! I've simply been thinking aloud about how to cast my own vote. There's no doubt at all that the vast majority of SNP members will vote Remain, and that may well be a very good thing. SNP voters are another matter, of course - we know from opinion polls that a sizeable minority will vote Leave, and I personally know of a couple of passionate Yes voters who had "I'm With Nicola" plastered all over their Facebook profiles only a few weeks ago, but who are now backing Brexit without seeing any contradiction. They're doing that because of immigration, though, not because of more powers for Holyrood or a second indyref. I suspect there are only a tiny number of people who are flirting with a Leave vote for the specific reasons I am, so even if you think it's unwise, I don't think you should fret too much about it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

UK establishment rocked as Ipsos-Mori TELEPHONE poll reveals Scottish people support second independence referendum in the event of Brexit

In the comments section yesterday, Calum Findlay bemoaned the fact that there have been very, very few full-scale Scottish polls giving voting intention for the EU referendum.  That's left us flying blind to some extent, because public opinion throughout the UK seems to have been moving pretty fast in recent weeks, and we've only been able to guess whether it's been moving in Scotland too, and if so, whether it's been happening at a faster or slower rate.  Today's new full-scale Scottish poll for STV (conducted by Ipsos-Mori via telephone with no expense spared!) finally answers those questions, and should largely assuage any fears that Remain can be caught north of the border.

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?  (Ipsos-Mori, telephone, Scotland only)

Remain 58% (-8)
Leave 33% (+4)

That's pretty much as I would have expected -  it would have been naive to think that Scotland was immune to the Brexit surge, but the Remain lead was so enormous to begin with that the swing would have had to be much, much greater north of the border before there was any chance of the race looking even vaguely tight.

On the rare occasions when different polling firms have conducted full-scale Scottish polls close together, they have sometimes produced wildly different estimates of the Remain lead - for example, in late April, Ipsos-Mori put the gap at 37 points, but Panelbase said it was just 24.  That can presumably be attributed to the telephone/online divergence witnessed throughout the UK, and which now seems to have either diminished significantly or (if ICM are to be believed) vanished altogether.  But we can't totally exclude the possibility that Ipsos-Mori are overstating the Remain lead, perhaps because Scottish Leave voters feel uncomfortable about admitting their intentions to a telephone interviewer.  (You could argue the case that a Leave vote is more 'taboo' here than it is in England.)  Even if there's something in that, though, a 25 point lead gives us a pretty decent margin for error.  Remain have in-built advantages over the coming week - if there's a late swing, history suggests it's somewhat more likely to be towards the status quo, and Ipsos-Mori show that undecided voters are leaning towards Remain.  Taking all of that together, it now seems almost impossible to imagine that Remain won't win in Scotland, and probably by a decent (if not necessarily overwhelming) margin.

As was the case in the (relatively) recent full-scale Scottish polls from ICM and TNS, respondents were asked whether they supported a second independence referendum in the event of Brexit.  This time the result was different -

Agree there should be a second independence referendum within two years in event of UK voting Leave with Scotland voting Remain?  (Ipsos-Mori, telephone, Scotland only)

Agree 47%
Disagree 45%

Someone has pointed out in the comments section below that the STV website's reporting of this finding is very misleading.  I'd go further than that, actually - I think it's absolutely bloody disgraceful.  They've effectively presented 'don't knows' and 'neutrals' as people who disagree with a second referendum, and claimed that "a majority of Scots do not back a second referendum in the event of the UK as a whole voting to Leave but Scotland voting to Remain in the European Union". I mean, WHAT THE HELL?! If anyone had tried to spin the ICM and TNS polls as showing that "a majority of Scots do not oppose a second referendum in the event of Brexit" (which technically would have been an accurate statement), they would have been greeted with a chorus of helpless laughter.

Mr Aidan Kerr, have a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror, and ask yourself why you've written the article in that way. This poll shows narrow SUPPORT for a second independence referendum in the event of Brexit. The numbers speak for themselves - you can see them, I can see them, the dogs on the street can see them. I trust we're not going to witness any repeat of this nonsense on the TV news bulletin tonight - and if we do, serious (and fully justified) questions about bias are going to have to be asked.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

ComRes catastrophe for Cameron as Remain's lead is almost wiped out in another telephone poll

About two minutes after ICM had suggested the online/telephone divide was a thing of the past, it seems to be opening up again - online polls from other firms now seem to be mostly pointing to a reasonably decent Leave lead, while phone polls from other firms are showing a dramatic swing to Leave, but one that leaves the two sides more or less level-pegging.  That's very much the story of tonight's new phone poll from ComRes.

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?  (ComRes, telephone) 

Remain 46% (-6)
Leave 45% (+4)

It has to be said that at a moment when polls from credible firms are showing a spread that runs from a 7-point Leave lead to a 2-point Remain lead (arguably it runs all the way to a 5-point Remain lead, depending on which version of the ORB phone numbers you prefer), it really is incredibly silly for otherwise intelligent people like George Eaton and Dan "Hokey Cokey" Hodges to look at the ComRes poll and say "Leave needed to be 4 points ahead at this stage if they were to withstand the late swing towards the status quo, they're actually 1 point behind, therefore they've lost".  Somebody should update the list of classic logical fallacies to include "only the last poll I looked at matters, and it negates all of the others".

These commentators obviously don't like having to cope with uncertainty, but I'm afraid to say we've got it by the barrel-load at the moment.  For example...

* Nobody knows whether online polling or telephone polling is more accurate.  If online polling is pretty close to the mark, it seems more likely than not that Leave are currently ahead by four or more points.  If phone polling is on the money, it's not even clear which side is in the lead.

* Leaving aside the specific effect of data collection method, nobody knows which pollster has the best-founded methodology more generally.  The ComRes datasets don't seem to be out yet, but in past months their turnout model seems to have been particularly favourable to Remain, which may explain much of the difference from the ICM phone poll.

* Even if a pollster's methodology is bang-on accurate, there is a standard margin of error for each individual poll in any case.  The ComRes numbers are - just about - consistent with a Leave lead of 4 points (or indeed with a much bigger Remain lead).

* The 4-point lead that Leave supposedly need at this stage is a number plucked out of thin air.  Yes, there is a tendency for there to be a late swing towards the status quo, but there's no "iron law" - nobody can be sure it will actually happen, and if it does, nobody can be sure what the scale of it will be.  Much will depend on the turnout - if it's very low, I wouldn't be totally shocked if Leave actually do slightly better than the late polls suggest.

*  *  *


A couple of weeks ago, I switched to using ORB's turnout-filtered numbers in the Poll of Polls sample, because the firm finally seemed to have come into line with their client (the Telegraph) by presenting those as the headline results.  Now they appear to have changed their minds again, and have reverted to headlining the unfiltered numbers while the Telegraph carry on using the filtered ones.  I can't keep going back and forth like a yo-yo, so I've made an executive decision that the Poll of Polls will continue to assume that the filtered numbers are definitive.  That helps Leave, but only slightly.  Just over 60% of ORB's phone sample say they will definitely vote, so the filtered numbers would probably be most accurate if the turnout is in the low 60s or thereabouts - although it must be remembered that one of the problems at the general election was that certain types of people (who were disproportionately likely to vote in a particular way) overestimated their own chances of getting to the polling station.


Remain 44.6% (-0.2)
Leave 46.6% (-0.3)


Remain 42.3% (-0.7)
Leave 45.4% (+0.1)


Remain 46.8% (+0.3)
Leave 47.8% (-0.7)

(The Poll of Polls takes account of all polls that were conducted at least partly within the last two weeks. The online average is based on eleven polls - five from YouGov, two from ICM, two from Opinium, one from ORB and one from TNS.  The telephone average is based on four polls - two from ORB, one from ICM and one from ComRes.)

Tumultuous TNS poll tilts towards Leave

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?  (TNS, online)

Remain 40% (-1)
Leave 47% (+4)

The fieldwork for TNS polls is often well out of date by the time of publication, but in this case it concluded yesterday - although it ran for about a week, so it still has older data than the most recent polls from other firms.

In a probably needless attempt to cover themselves, TNS have issued a statement identifying several different reasons why the apparent Leave surge and overall Leave lead may be misleading.  Most obviously, they point out the danger that normal sampling variation could give the illusory appearance of a swing towards one side or another - but in reality, we have several polls from different firms conducted at roughly the same time, and all but one of them have shown some kind of movement towards Leave, so it's unlikely that's happening by random chance.  TNS also note that their turnout model (which boosts the Leave lead) is based on past voting patterns at general elections, and it's possible that different types of people may be more likely to drag themselves to the polling station in an EU referendum.  That's true, but I do think it's slightly odd that they've used young people as an example.  Intuitively, it doesn't seem likely to me that young people will be any more enthused about an EU referendum than about a general election.  Affluent and highly-educated voters are much more likely candidates to save Remain's bacon - but their tendency to vote in greater numbers is presumably already factored into the turnout model.

This is a very rare example of a poll where Leave have a slight lead among the Scottish subsample (44% to 43%).  If that was the actual result, it would of course scupper any strategy for an early repeat of the independence referendum.  But the finding should be taken with a pinch of salt - Scottish subsamples are very small, not correctly weighted, and therefore potentially wildly unreliable.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Third poll out of three today to put Leave ahead - and it's another telephone poll

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?  (ORB, telephone fieldwork) 

Remain 48% (n/c)
Leave 49% (+2)

For telephone polls, ORB now filter their headline numbers by certainty to vote, which generally helps Leave.  Among the unfiltered sample, Remain are still ahead, but their five point advantage is dramatically down from the peak of twenty points recorded just a few weeks ago (when some commentators were declaring it 'game over').

*  *  *

UPDATE : And we also have a YouGov online poll, which reports the Leave lead jumping from one point to seven.  That could be pretty significant, because before now there had only really been one recent online poll showing a dramatic swing to Leave (the big shifts were generally confined to phone polls).

Remain 39% (-3)
Leave 46% (+3)

That isn't quite a record-breaking Leave lead for YouGov, but it's certainly the highest since the firm reported the mini-recovery for Remain in late February (which other firms curiously failed to pick up).  Even before that, a 7-point Leave lead would have looked unusually big - it was only bettered once, by a 9-point lead in early February, which in retrospect was probably a fluke.

Note for "international thriller writer" and "Thatcherite outlaw" Sean Thomas, if he happens to be reading this : No, the Scottish Sun did not come out for independence in 2014.  They ummed and ahhed about it, but in the end they were neutral (and if anything, their polling day front page might have been said to subtly steer readers towards No).  So the English edition is going out on more of a limb this time by backing a Leave vote outright.

Britain could be on the brink of leaving the EU, as ICM online AND phone polls give Leave a decent lead

Until now, it's been possible to believe that the apparent spectacle of phone polls moving sharply in favour of Leave was illusory.  There had only been a handful of phone polls over the last two-and-a-bit weeks - an ICM poll which put Leave in the lead, and which many people thought might be a rogue because it was conducted over a Bank Holiday, and two ORB polls which showed a narrow Remain lead on the headline numbers, but which still had very substantial 'underlying' Remain leads among the whole sample.  But most of the reassurance for Remain has just been dramatically stripped away with the publication of a new ICM phone poll that shows the Leave lead growing still further.  There's no Bank Holiday get-out clause this time, so the new poll essentially corroborates the previous one from the same firm.  Even taking into account the margin of error, two consecutive polls showing a small Leave lead make it very unlikely that Remain are currently ahead (if ICM's phone methodology is basically sound, that is).

As was the case two weeks ago, ICM conducted a simultaneous online poll, and found that the previous huge divergence between online and phone polling has vanished into thin air.

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

Telephone poll :

Remain 45% (+3)
Leave 50% (+5)

Online poll :

Remain 44% (n/c)
Leave 49% (+2)

As always in Britain-wide polls, the Scottish subsamples are tiny and unreliable.  But for what it's worth, the phone subsample puts Remain ahead by 54% to 44%, and the online subsample puts Remain ahead by 54% to 39%.  So as of this moment, we appear to be on course for the UK Leave / Scottish Remain 'doomsday scenario' that is thought could trigger an early second independence referendum.

When we see polls like these, it's worth taking a step back and recalling that the referendum is already well underway - a substantial minority of people have already voted by post, and in some cases they did so quite some time ago.  So if ICM are right, Remain are in a bit of a pickle here, because some of the result is already set in stone.  Pro-Europeans will be banking on a late swing back towards the status quo, which does often happen in referendums (although if it does occur, there's no guarantee it'll be on any great scale), and possibly on ICM proving to be less accurate than other firms.  It's perfectly possible, for example, that the next Ipsos-Mori phone poll will still show some kind of Remain lead, because so far Ipsos-Mori have tended to be more Remain-friendly than other phone firms.  But there again, Ipsos-Mori reported an enormous swing towards Yes as they converged with other firms at the end of the indyref campaign, so absolutely nothing can be taken for granted at this stage.

*  *  *


Today's new update of the Poll of Polls marks the first time Leave have been ahead on all three averages.  However, the telephone average is based on just two polls, so should be treated with a bit of caution.


Remain 44.8% (-0.2)
Leave 46.9% (+1.4)


Remain 43.0% (+0.1)
Leave 45.3% (+0.4)


Remain 46.5% (-0.5)
Leave 48.5% (+2.5)

(The Poll of Polls takes account of all polls that were conducted at least partly within the last two weeks. The online average is based on ten polls - four from YouGov, three from ICM, two from Opinium and one from ORB. The telephone average is based on two polls - one from ORB and one from ICM.)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A few responses on the EU referendum dilemma

There was quite a bit of reaction to my post the other night about the dilemma I'm facing on how to vote in the EU referendum.  Some of the points raised were perfectly fair, but there were also quite a number of misconceptions that I'd like to clear up.

First of all (and I've now made this clear in three different blogposts), I am not particularly arguing for tactical voting in the referendum.  Of the two potential arguments in favour of a Leave vote that I raised, I think the prospect of more powers for the Scottish Parliament is much the stronger one, and tactical voting is much the weaker.  The point I did make, though, is that tactical voting is perfectly viable, in the sense that there is a reasonably simple calculation to make if you want to maximise the chances of a UK Leave vote being coupled with a Scottish Remain vote.  As things stand (and the polls may change dramatically over the next ten days, in which case the calculation will also change), a Scottish Remain vote does not look in much doubt, whereas the UK result could go either way - meaning that a budding tactical voter should clearly be more preoccupied with trying to influence the UK outcome.

The reason why voting on a tactical basis alone isn't a good idea is not that it can't or won't work, but rather that it's open to question whether the tactical objective of a UK Leave/Scottish Remain is actually a good thing or a bad thing.  I think there's a better than even chance that such an outcome would lead to an early independence referendum, but it's anyone's guess whether we would go on to win that vote - and if we didn't, we'd then be stuck inside the UK and outside the EU, partially as a result of our own handiwork.

To return to the practicalities of tactical voting, though, a number of you pointed out that a UK Leave/Scottish Remain combination isn't enough in itself - we'd need a significant majority for Remain in Scotland to emphasise the gulf between the public's wishes on each side of the border.  I don't dispute that for a moment, but my most basic assumption about tactical voting hasn't changed since we discussed the issue in respect of the Holyrood election.  The point is that any tactical voting is likely to be very small in scale.  It'll be restricted to political obsessives, and therefore won't make much of a dent in the seemingly huge Remain lead in this part of the world.

Aha, comes the next objection, in that case the whole exercise is futile, because we'd need to drag the Scottish Remain vote all the way down to the low 50s before we'd have any chance of influencing the UK outcome.  Well no, that's not true, actually, and the low 50s figure is plucked out of thin air.  If the final batch of polls show the UK result to be on a knife-edge, we won't know how many votes are required to swing the balance between Remain and Leave.  It's conceivable (unlikely, but conceivable) that it could be a very, very small number.  In the notorious Florida election in 2000, there were roughly 6 million votes cast, and the final gap between George W Bush and Al Gore was just 537 votes.

Turning now to what I consider to be the sounder potential reason for voting Leave, ie. a repatriation of powers to the Scottish Parliament, a number of you were adamant that this was a bogus argument, either because the EU's powers on agriculture, fisheries, etc. would automatically revert to the UK government after Brexit, or because the UK government would just steal those powers back anyway.  The first of those two claims is pretty easy to deal with, because there is no doubt about the legal position.  Unless a power is explicitly reserved to Westminster, it is devolved to Scotland - except to the extent that EU law has supremacy.  Matters such as agriculture and fisheries are not reserved, and therefore after Brexit those powers would default to Holyrood.  Now it's quite true that the UK parliament can change the rules to suit itself, but there's no sleight of hand available to them - they'd have to clearly and openly strip the Scottish Parliament of the powers.  That would almost certainly mean the first substantive breach of the Sewel convention since 1999.  Professor Alan Trench, for example, has been explicit in his view that the Sewel convention has evolved to mean that powers can't be added or removed without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, which in this case is surely not going to be forthcoming.  By any stretch of the imagination, a major breach of Sewel constitutes a 'material change of circumstances', and would trigger a constitutional crisis.

What might happen, though, is that the UK government will recognise the danger, and instead of simply grabbing the powers back, will say to the devolved administrations : "Let's be reasonable about this, chaps.  There has to be a certain amount of central control over agriculture and fisheries, so let's sit down at a constitutional conference and thrash out the appropriate post-Brexit distribution of powers."  So whichever way you look at it, there would be opportunities for Scotland - either the EU powers would simply revert to Holyrood, or there would be a massive constitutional crisis in which London would be seen as the transgressor, or the Westminster government would be forced to open up the UK's constitutional framework for negotiation between the various administrations (and it could be expected that Westminster would have to make big concessions during those negotiations if they wanted agreement on clawing back the agriculture and fisheries powers).

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During the televised referendum debate on Thursday night, I had another reminder of how certain things that should be totally uncontroversial have somehow become unsayable.  I made a straightforward observation that seems to me to be irrefutable - that five of the six participants in the debate were female, that the presenter was also female, and that if the situation had been reversed there would have been complaints.  Simply as a result of pointing that out, I lost roughly ten followers on Twitter (unlikely to be a coincidence, because it's unusual to lose that many in one night), and I was deluged with indignant responses - one or two of which I considered to be downright offensive.  In a nutshell, the charge was that I had some sort of "problem" with the very rare occurrence of a mostly-female panel, which should in fact be unreservedly applauded by every right-thinking person on the planet.

To state the bleedin' obvious, identifying a slam-dunk example of a double-standard is not the same thing as arguing that all-female or mostly-female panels are in any way undesirable.  The people who instantly complain about each and every example of a mostly-male panel on TV or radio have really got to get the story straight here.  It's perfectly reasonable to argue that the frequency of male-dominated panels should be reduced, but if you're going to say that a female-dominated panel is a "wonderful" sight (as many did), you can't then say that male-dominated panels should be eradicated.  If a mostly-female panel is sometimes a good thing, then the occasional mostly-male panel is not only OK or tolerable, but a good thing.  It really is pretty simple, and I would respectfully suggest that the people who react so angrily to that entirely logical line of argument are suffering from more than a touch of cognitive dissonance.

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You may already have seen this, because Roseanna Cunningham linked to it earlier, but it's a jaw-dropping insight into the Kafkaesque antics of the UK immigration authorities.  If that's the way a young, white American woman can get treated, the mind boggles as to what must sometimes happen to people of other nationalities/ethnicities. (And yes, I know the American immigration authorities are even worse.)