Monday, May 8, 2017

Take a bow, SNP voters of Irvine Valley - you voted till you boaked, and stopped the Tories

I know that some people are looking for reassurance that the "vote till you boak" message didn't go totally unheeded on Thursday.  So allow me to present to you Exhibit A - the Irvine Valley ward in East Ayrshire, which has become famous for its new 'Rubbish Party' councillor, but which should really be better known for its shrewd use of lower preferences to prevent a Tory from being elected.  This was the result on first preferences -

SNP 1128
Conservatives 920
Rubbish 784
Labour 775
SNP 551
Others 468

You wouldn't have been terribly optimistic about the chances of stopping the candidate in second place from being elected in a three-seat ward, but that's exactly what happened.  The decisive moment was the elimination of the less popular SNP candidate after five counts.  With the top-placed SNP candidate having already reached the quota and been declared elected, there were now only three candidates left in contention for the two remaining seats, and so whoever found themselves in third place on the sixth count was going to draw the short straw.  The Tory looked safe-ish, with a lead of 75 votes over the Rubbish Party, and 84 over Labour.  But then 112 of the votes from the eliminated SNP candidate transferred to Labour, 147 transferred to the Rubbish Party, and only 25 went to the Tory.  That meant the Tory was brutally leapfrogged by the other two candidates simultaneously - but only just.

Sixth count (votes rounded to nearest whole number) :

Rubbish 1036
Labour 992
Conservatives 989

Councillors elected : 1 SNP, 1 Rubbish, 1 Labour

So the equation here was really simple and stark - if all SNP voters had only ranked the two SNP candidates, they would have ended up with a Tory councillor.  But because a significant number of them used their lower preferences, they got a Labour councillor instead.  Maybe not something to dance in the streets about, but I think most of us would regard a Labour councillor as the lesser of two evils in the current circumstances.  The flip-side of the coin, though, is that the majority of SNP voters did not use enough of their lower preferences, which made the Labour-Tory battle for the final seat much closer (3 votes!) than it needed to be.

*  *  *

We still don't have the nationwide popular vote totals, but a lot of the gaps have been filled over the last 24 hours.  In most councils that I've been able to find figures for, the SNP vote share was up.  That's been offset by sharp declines in a limited number of SNP/Tory battleground areas (such as Moray and Angus), but given that those are not the most populous councils, I'm struggling to see how the national SNP vote share isn't going to be up at least slightly.  I may end up eating my words, but that's how it looks at the moment.

I'm more confident in saying that the Tories' vote is only going to be in the low 20s.  The increase in their vote in some councils looks reasonably impressive until you recall that it's being measured from a pathetic 13% national vote at the last local elections in 2012.  When the exact percentage figure is finally revealed, there are going to be some red faces among the media organisations who indulged in wishful thinking over a Tory performance that in reality is almost certainly well short of the high 20s/low 30s recorded in recent opinion polls.


  1. Really? Red faces? Doubt they will really report it. Passing reference at best. Nifty job james.

    1. I don't think they'll report it at all, let alone really report it...but the thing is they'll know.

    2. Correct, James, they won't report it at all.

  2. I totally boaked but many, many went for 1&2!!! No change in Prestwick at all!

    1. My niece, despite being nagged to put down all 7 preferences in our ward (votetilyouboak) forgot to do this and only voted 1 & 2 SNP.

      In our ward (3 councillors), the 2 SNP candidates and the 1 Tory were elected. We had no Libdem candidate, so their votes would probably go Tory. Still, the Tory was elected by making the quota in the First Round whilst the 2 SNP did not get elected until the Sixth Round!

      I was shocked. Then I remembered that our ward has (a) a high retired (mainly Tory) demographic in Largs & Isle of Arran & (b) a high Orange Order, working-class demographic in Ardrossan, (the home town, it is rumoured, of the Yoon troll, 'Spanner').

      But today I am positive because as the Yoon media increasingly hail the Orange Order as the last hope of Yoondom, and if that ugly, odious rent-a-mob is Yoondom's last defence to Independence, then our Independence is closer than it has ever been and far closer than we think.

      But knowing the nature of the Orange Order, it will turn ugly before we become independent. Very ugly indeed.

  3. And in East Dunbartonshire it was the Unionists that voted till they boaked James. Check out particularly the Lenzie then the Twechar then Bearsden North seats. In the first 2 Liberal paper candidates in 6th place for one leapfrogged big time the expected SNP second candidate thanks to Tory transfers and then in the SNP Leaders seat he lost thanks again to transfers. ED was a dreadful day for SNP and looks like they're going to lose MP as well in a month!

    1. Will the Tories get 56 MP's in Scotland, ever?

    2. You are right about the ED Council votes; the Tories voted a straight "anyone but the SNP" ticket. Still hopeful we can retain John Nicolson as our MP, though. We had 29.3% of the votes, compared to 24.6 for the Tories and 15.05 for the Lib Dems. The Tories will be convinced they can win but I think the Lib Dems will through everything at trying to get Jo Swinson back in. So I don't think there will be any cosy tactical voting pact and that might help us. Boundaries between the council and Westminster seat are different and we don't yet have the figures to do a like for like comparison but I'd be cautiously optimistic.

    3. Plus the sitting MP, John Nicolson, is an absolutely brilliant MP, who will appeal to a lot of undecideds and inspires across the board generally. People there may vote for the man, just as they did for Libdems Charles Kennedy or Ming Campbell. Jo Swinson very much fails in the charisma stakes and she abandoned the area to be with her MP husband down south, when she lost in 2015. That will do her no favours with the Libdems' vote either.

    4. Sorry but he's toast. Jo Swinson already has 5 leaflets out. He's very slow on the uptake.

    5. He might as well just give up then. It's a well-known iron law of politics that no-one can compete against five Lib Dem leaflets. Four maybe, but five - not a prayer.

  4. I can see why you've come to that conclusion, not knowing the area or candidates involved, but that analysis is not accurate. The Rubbish Party candidate is a well known local Tory who has campaigned for the conservatives for years. Everyone knows she's a Tory. She left the party in March, allegedly because they didn't select her as their candidate because she was too extreme. Thus, if anything, she split the Tory vote and the difference is between having a Tory who wears their colours on their lapel or hides them in their closet. I suppose, for Sally, they might be in her castle, the house in Canary Wharf, or on the yacht...hard to know

    1. She certainly is a Tory, through and through. Unaware of how the real world works and a very strong sense of entitlement, just to add to it. But she has been a very active member of the community and has worked very closely with all councilors, regardless of political colouring. I know several groups in the local area dislike her, especially the walking types... as she routinely sticks up "hunt in progress" signs around her castle to put off walkers. But she is a better bet than a candidate that is directly associated with the Tory party - they are ordered not to work with the SNP councilors!

      However, it is worth mentioning that the Labour candidate has always worked with other councilors and done right by the local community. He should have been returned by the simple virtue of reputation and integrity alone.

      The Tory\Unionist vote was split many ways in the Irvine Valley. We had the Rubbish Part (rich castle lady and former Tory activist), Ian King (Irvine Valley Loyal member... Orange), the other independent candidate whose name escapes me (but is so against independence that he wouldn't let them put independent next to his name) and you get the idea...

  5. North Ayrshire local election result 2017:

    1st preference vote totals:

    Labour 12320
    Socialist Labour 76
    Green 439
    Conservative 11099
    SNP 16644
    UKIP 106
    Independents 5712
    No Referendum 238
    Independent Socialist 165
    TUSC 42

    Shares (with changes from 2012 in brackets):

    SNP 35.5% (-0.1%)
    Labour 26.3% (-5.1%)
    Conservative 23.7% (+14.4%)
    Independent 12.2% (-6.8%)
    Green 0.9% (n/a)
    No Referendum 0.5% (n/a)
    Independent Socialist 0.4% (n/a)
    Socialist Labour 0.2% (-0.9%)
    UKIP 0.2% (-0.3%)
    TUSC 0.1% (no change)

    If this is of interest to you, James, and I can forward my spreadsheet workings if it saves time. Hard to know which results you a) already have seen and know and b) what you would find interesting! Have just worked my way out from my own area in looking at these really.

  6. James, notwithstanding what Anonymous says above, which is common knowledge locally, the Doon Valley ward in East Ayrshire did something similar.
    The Tory was 2nd in the first preferences yet failed to be elected, one of th independent candidates getting at the 9th stage.
    Also noticeable here was orchestrated voting by the OO.
    Anonymous (a different yin).

  7. You're probably right. However without knowing how many transferred votes to the SNP candidates you can't tell how many of those from the eliminated candidate were from first preference ballots for them or lower preferences from previously eliminated candidates.

    Now the transfers to the Rubish candidate might possibly be predominantly from the SNP voters given your advocacy of sussing out independents and placing them before unionists.

    However if there's been a significant transfer from SNP voters to Labour, or Lib Dem, then it kind of undermines any reference to total "unionist" councillors as a message to the SNP.

    Ironically in some cases electing a Labour councillor was the right thing to do. However in my ward they managed two seats without my help.

    The dilemma is that if you're in a Labour dominated area then forcing them to form a cross party alliance with the Conservatives might serve better than ensuring they have more seats than them as doing so might give them more seats than the SNP.

    The same dilemma would be faced by the Conservatives if they massively voted Labour as a lower preference and given how they only just passed them in total numbers it's something that might have resulted in them losing whatever propaganda victory they create by coming a distant second.

    At the same time Labour voters giving lower preferences to Conservatives might very well have provided them with that "victory"

    1. I realize you may be generalizing with your reference to the Lib Dems, but they did not have a single candidate in any of the 3 Ayrshire councils. They must have some supporters, though, so where did their votes go?

    2. The actual results in that constituency are here,,

      Note that there's actually a shocking lack of transfers by SNP supporters. Although there might have been enough to produce that result.

      If anything it's more down to voters for independents who might be more in tune with the idea that if their first preference didn't get elected then they'd get another go.

      That said, if SNP voters had got on board with the concept then the "Rubbish" candidate might have received at least 500 votes meaning they'd be elected by passing quota and then things might have gotten really interesting as her excess got distributed.

      In reality it wasn't just SNP voters that told the Conservative to take a hike. It was a joint effort.

      As to who the would be Lib Dem voters would pick in the absence of a candidate, Scottish averages have them roughly 20% each to Labour, Conservative and independents and 10% to SNP, if I'm remembering it right with about 20% no transfer.

      Those are badly recalled figures and national averages.

    3. Iain, once again, I have to say I'm slightly baffled as to what you're getting at here. It was transfers from the SNP that stopped the Tory on the sixth count - that's an indisputable fact. The vast majority of those people voted SNP on first preference - we know that because the eliminated SNP candidate only saw her vote increase from 551 to 605 between the first and fifth counts (and about a third of that increase came from the other SNP candidate's surplus).

    4. Not all of those originated in the other SNP candidate. Not having every ballot to hand there's no way of telling how the SNP voters tactical vote went. The SNP candidate who got in was an incumbent as was the Labour candidate who also got in.

      The votes for the SNP candidate who was eventually eliminated rose from 551 to 605. Only 18 of those 54 extra votes came from the election of the other SNP candidate.

      Now this is where things get interesting. If people hadn't known the "Rubbish" candidate was a "tory" they might have followed your advice.

      If those 452 votes dropped on the floor had predominately gone to her then she'd have been elected with a fairly substantial surplus. It would then have depended entirely on just how much those extra votes had swung the overall ratio of all the next preferences as to who amongst the remaining two candidates got a boost.

      I'll give you a clue, if those voting for her knew she was a closet tory then it's highly probable the balance of those votes would have been towards the real deal.

      In this case if more people who hadn't sussed out the independent and followed the pattern of placing an independent ahead of a "unionist" they would have actually elected the Conservative.

    5. "The votes for the SNP candidate who was eventually eliminated rose from 551 to 605. Only 18 of those 54 extra votes came from the election of the other SNP candidate."

      You're repeating what I've only just said. I've no idea why.

      "If people hadn't known the "Rubbish" candidate was a "tory" they might have followed your advice."

      The advice was to rank independent/fringe candidates ahead of the Tories unless they were fascists. As far as I'm aware, the Rubbish candidate was not a fascist, so the advice applied to her as much as to any other independent.

      The Rubbish candidate would have required another 121 transferred votes to reach the quota. Any surplus she'd have been passing on to the Tory would have been small (and by that stage would have been diluted by the SNP voters among her tally anyway).

    6. It was only just under 322 votes. Still the Rubbish candidate was only 121 short of making quota. If she had then in all probability that'd give the advantage back to the Conservative candidate. Although to be fair those 121+ extra votes would probable swing the balance towards Labour.

    7. Basically you're advice if followed to the letter would have resulted in every one of the 111 votes transferred to Labour going to the Rubbish candidate. So they'd have already been bellow the Conservative. Any more the gap would have only widened.

      Your advice, if stopping conservatives was the aim, was potentially self defeating in this case.

    8. Sorry, what was only 322 votes? Are you talking about non-transferable votes?

    9. Yes. Originally my argument was what if every SNP voter had followed the place an independent ahead of a unionist. My original 400+ was based on the running total rather than just those dropped when the second SNP candidate was eliminated.

      The point still stands. It was only because some of the transfers via that SNP candidate went to Labour that the official Conservative didn't get in.

      The advice you gave certainly needs a health warning. Although by the sounds of it she is a bit of a fascist so you've a get out there.

    10. No, this just isn't stacking up, Iain. What you appear to be talking about is a 'utopian' scenario in which every single SNP voter followed my exact advice to the letter, which would mean using every preference, ranking Labour ahead of the Tories, and ranking independents ahead of both Labour and the Tories. In that scenario, you're correct that the Rubbish candidate would have reached the quota on the sixth count, BUT on the seventh count, almost 40% of her entire available surplus would have been SNP voters transferring direct to Labour. It's not at all clear why you're so convinced the Tory would have been elected.

    11. Where would the other 60% have gone? Surely not to the Tory candidate who was already ahead?

      If your advice would really have been to place the Rubbish candidate ahead of Labour then you would, in this particular case, have been wrong.

      Which is why, even though they didn't mention it, there might have been as many tweets against taking credit for something that if you bothered to check would have failed.

      Of those transfers that did happen it would only have taken 2 to vote for the independent as per you advice for that final elimination to have the true blue one vote ahead of the red.

      You seriously want to look at the actual result and congratulate the combined voter SNP or not who voted Labour.

    12. This is a well-worn theme from you, and I've already explained several times why you're wrong. Worrying about accidentally affecting the order in which candidates are eliminated/elected is daft - it's like being scared of your own shadow, and it will prevent you taking action that in the vast majority of cases will do good rather than harm. In this particular case it's impossible that harm could have been caused -
      at worst the effect would have been neutral. But you've failed to prove that it would even have been neutral - as far as I can see you're relying on guesswork, and that really isn't good enough. Neither of us know what would have happened in the hypothetical scenario you're interested in, but what we do know is two things -

      1) The actual result is a clear-cut example of a Conservative candidate being stopped because SNP voters used enough of their lower preferences.

      2) If SNP voters had only ranked the two SNP candidates, the Tory would definitely have been elected. (As, indeed, would the Rubbish candidate, which makes the criticisms from Women for Independence even more puzzling. If people hadn't Voted Till They Boaked, they would have ended up with two "Tories" for the price of one.)

    13. That's true. So no real harm done. It's the same reliance on luck in the last Holyrood election regarding whether to vote Green on the list or not.

      If anything there's been a lot of good fortune and skin of the teeth in the SNP's success.

    14. "So no real harm done."

      No harm of either the real or unreal variety. A lot of good, in fact. And no reliance on "luck". That's the beauty of STV.

  8. I was at the Aberdeenshire count and I saw far too many ballot papers with an X beside each SNP candidate and no other markings. Of course they were rejected when there were two SNP candidates.

    1. I'm no Electoral Commission Officer, but I would hazard a guess that due the instructions on the ballot papers explicitly stating for the voter to NUMBER their PREFERRED candidates then that might be why they were thrown out.

      I'm not sure as to what is so complicated with numbering them as if you did just put a cross then the system does not know what snp candidate to rank 1st....they could even just be ranking them last but that doesn't matter, as it wasn't specified what the voter wanted to do.

    2. Do you mean why did voters do that or why were the ballots rejected?

      If the former, ignorance.

      If the latter, how can the system decide what the voter's 1st and 2nd preferences were when all they have to go on is two identical Xes on the paper? Adjudicators are instructed to reject anything which doesn't indicate the voter's preferences. So a single X can be accepted as a 1st preference but more than one X must be rejected.

    3. Political Darwinism.

      If someone is too dumb to read the instructions on the form and put a few numbers in a few boxes, then I'm not sure I want them influencing our choice of who runs the council.

    4. I have some sympathy with that last comment.

    5. Depends on the verbal instructions given. If someone is told to mark only the candidates they prefer without saying to number them or that an X is valid without saying only one then that's poor guidance.


      Seems pretty obvious to me. Anyone who can count past 10 without having to take their socks off should be able to follow those instructions.

    7. You can read. You know what you're doing. You might also be confident enough to ignore contradictory advice to the instructions on a piece of paper that might not even be in big enough print for an auld dear to read.

  9. James, I think you'll find Rubbish councillor is a reactionary Tory.

    1. It's quite bizarre, this - I've just trawled through 145 notifications on Twitter and found the Women for Independence account spent part of the morning ranting at me for not "checking with someone from the local area" who could have told me what the Rubbish Party candidate was like. Apparently this "proves" that what I said about STV was "always a flawed analysis".

      Hmmm. Alternatively it proves that people succeeded in keeping the actual Tory candidate out, which was the aim of the exercise. It's no surprise that non-Tory candidates can range in views from hard left to hard right, with all sorts of shade of grey in between. But unless (as I said in the video) we're talking about an out-and-out fascist, there are very sound reasons for favouring a non-Tory (including an eccentric ex-Tory) over an actual Tory.

      If Women for Independence were so unhappy about what I was saying during the election, I must say it's a great pity they didn't raise it with me at the time, rather than quietly seething as they appear to have been doing. I'm sure I could have laid to rest any misconceptions they may have had, but I wasn't even given the chance. Hey-ho.

  10. Regardless of who is the opposition and by whatever name; they stand between us and freedom for our country. So the FIGHT continues (or we could all go off in the huff and do nothing!) C'mon, let's do it!

  11. I'm very pleased with what happened in our ward.

    I was worried the LibDem might lose out to the second Tory and was anxious to transfer as many surplus SNP votes to the LibDem as possible. That worked, but not quite as I had envisioned. In fact the LibDem was stronger than I had thought and was the second candidate to get a seat.

    The Tories fielded two candidates. One the "real" candidate, a proper Tory, and the other a local tradesman who just wanted to be on the council and realised standing for a party was a better bet than as an independent. He actually sounded out the SNP first before he went to the Tories! I think they just thought they'd let him stand as a supernumerary and maybe he'd hoover up enough transfers to get in.


    Because the Tory vote was split the SNP candidate topped the poll and was elected straight off. Bingo. But then the Tory vote was split enough that the LibDem came through next, probably helped by fractional transfers from SNP voters.

    So in the end the final seat was between the two Tory candidates. And the tradesman won! The Tories must have underestimated his personal vote. He pushed their "real" candidate right out of the council altogether. They are apparently spitting carpet tacks.

    Which just goes to show the benefits of ranking all the way down. I don't suppose there was much of my vote left by the time the third seat was being allocated, as it started on the SNP candidate and then as a fractional transfer helped the LibDem, but such as it was, I had ranked the tradesman above the "real" Tory just in case this precise scenario were to emerge - even though I thought it very unlikely.

    Well chuffed here. We have three decent councillors in our ward, and the Tory is actually ashamed of being a Tory!

    1. Actually, I remember saying in an earlier thread that if the Tories had put up two candidates it didn't really matter how an SNP voter ranked them because one of them was pretty well bound to get elected before SNP transfers got that far.

      OK I was wrong. If the Tory vote is weaker than they thought, as it clearly was here, this may end up pushing both candidates quite far down the poll. So it certainly is worth ranking them. I'm really glad I did.

      It also illustrates that you don't need to try to second-guess how the vote will go in your ward or how the transfers will go. All you need to do is give careful thought to your genuine order of preference and your vote will do what you want it to.

    2. A heartening tale for a Monday morning.

      Thanks Rolfe! :)

    3. The Nat sis should be ashamed of pursuing Tory policies.

    4. Hilarious! Do you mind sharing which ward it was?

  12. Peter Murrell saying 105,000 more votes than in 2012, confirmation soon.
    But will the BBC redo the sums? #Notional

  13. The SMSMS is incapable of embarrassment. They know what they are.

    Did anybody else notice a strange incident involving Ruth Harrison during the EBC results programme. She attacked John Nicholson as only having a small majority in his seat, then changed that to a small minority. She went from truth to lies.
    Either because she's a revolting hag of a turd of a morbidly obese Nazi, or it was in her script and she accidentally told the truth before being prompted to lie.

    1. Or perhaps just a Freudian slip?

  14. Thanks for that James. Very interesting. An analysis of the entire country would be very useful for next time (but a huge job).

    One question: would it be as, or more, effective to leave the very last choice (ie Tory) blank, instead of numbered? Or wwould it make no difference?

    1. Makes no difference. See his previous posts on this.

    2. Any box you leave blank is effectively treated as if it is ranked one lower than the lowest preference you actually wrote in. So if you only leave one blank then it makes no difference. Except for foregoing the pleasure of writing in that bottom raking against the Tory. (In my case the Tory I liked less than the other Tory.)

      I tend to think, if you actively rank them last you're saying, clearly, "over my dead body". If you just leave it blank maybe you just overlooked him or couldn't remember who he was or ran out of time or something. The lowest ranking should be delivered with gusto, I feel.

    3. You're right, of course, but I just couldn't put a mark against a Tory, even if it was working against them - I struggled to rank the 2 Labour candidates, but I did.

      Then the blasted Tory got in on first preferences! So in fact I need not have voted for the Labour candidates to stop her; there was nothing I could do about it. Also my first preference, whom I had assumed as a two-term incumbent would be a shoo-in, ended up being the last to be elected, so none of my lower preferences counted at all.

      Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    4. Your vote sis what you wanted it to do, all the same. In both 2007 and 2012 the SNP councillor was elected to our ward as last man standing, so my vote didn't transfer at all and the fact that I hadn't given much thought to later preferences didn't matter. But it was fine. I wanted the full force of that vote on the SNP candidate and it did that.

      So with your vote. Your later preferences didn't come into play at all, so it was as if you'd simply put a 1 against your first preference. You didn't help the Labour candidates in any way. The point is, your vote was prepared to do something else if the circumstances had been different, so it was important to do the ranking anyway.

      This time, knowing our SNP candidate would get over-quota, I thought very hard about my later preferences and in fact that thought paid off. I wasn't left thinking, damn, if only I'd ranked the two Tories the other way round, or anything like that.

      It's absolutely clear what has to be done. Think long and hard about your true order of preference, including whether you prefer hard-core Tory over UKIP even, and then rank all the way down the paper. Stop thinking about a mark against a candidate as being a vote for, and start thinking about is as a score-card. Take pleasure in giving the Tories the worst scores you can.

      Then no matter how the count goes, your ballot is ready for any eventuality and your vote will do what you want it to do.

    5. For "sis" read "did". Fat fingers.

    6. Thanks for the answers. No difference - this is what I thought. But as anonymous points out, it does make a difference in that it makes it easier for people to use the method when they (understandably) feel extremely phobic about giving any vote at all to a Tory candidate.

      This might be a good alternative: "vote till you're about to boak".

  15. I expect I'm not the first to say this, but Labour are now officially lower than rubbish. LOL

  16. South Ayrshire result and vote share changes here:,_2017#Summary

  17. I've very nerdily added up all the votes, and with just Aberdeenshire, East Dunbartonshire, Fife, Moray and Orkney to come, the Tories are on.....

    *drum roll*

    wait for it........


  18. Dumfries and Galloway 2017 local election result:

    Scottish Libertarian Party 118 votes
    Independents 11350 votes
    Conservatives 21138 votes
    Labour 10077 votes
    SNP 11779 votes
    Greens 1026 votes
    Lib Dems 1350 votes

    Total first prefs cast: 56838

    Shares (with changes from 2012 in brackets):

    Conservatives 37.2% (+10.6%)
    SNP 20.7% (+1.2%)
    Independents 20% (+1.9%)
    Labour 17.7% (-11.6%)
    Lib Dems 2.4% (-1.6%)
    Greens 1.8% (no change)
    Libertarian 0.2% (n/a)

    1. The figures are here, BBC tweeted them out earlier.

    2. Oh excellent :) Ta. I can stop messing around now :)

  19. I stay in the valley, I used the "vote till you boak" tactic, thankfully so did others.

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