Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Surviving "Nuclear Winter"

This may seem an odd thing to say just hours after a telephone poll showed Thursday's election to be seemingly heading towards a virtual dead heat, but people who move in certain circles seem to have suddenly reached a turning-point where they feel able to start congratulating themselves on an impending landslide Tory triumph.  As far as I can see, there are three main reasons for this bizarre phenomenon -

1) A new article has appeared on the Labour Uncut website claiming that Labour's canvass returns are wildly out of line with the opinion polls, and that the true state of affairs is that the party is facing a "nuclear winter" outside of London.

2) Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are both making campaign appearances in what ought to be safe Labour seats, rather than in what would be battleground seats if there was the remotest chance of a hung parliament.

3) There is no sign of "panic" in the Tory high command.

The last of those three reasons is by the far the silliest, because I'm not sure any of us can even say for sure what Tory panic would look like if it was happening - there are a number of different ways in which it might manifest itself.  For example, Scottish Labour reacted to their 2015 crisis mainly by going into a state of deep denial and just doing the same things over and over again in the hope they might suddenly start working.  That wasn't a sign of inner peace.  Proper insights into the current thinking of the campaigns will probably not be on offer until after the election is over.

The list of campaign stops for the leaders may tell us something important, but the electoral realignment caused by Brexit makes that sort of thing harder to read - it's possible that Labour's woes in Leave-voting heartland seats may be at least partly offset elsewhere.  In any case, what should we have taken from the fact that Hillary Clinton didn't pay much attention to the Rust Belt states that cost her the US presidential election?  Ultimately, all it proved is that her campaign was totally clueless about what was actually happening on the ground.

The only truly compelling reason for Tory supporters' cockiness is the information about Labour canvass returns, although some caution is warranted even on that front - Labour Uncut is a rabidly anti-Corbyn website which undoubtedly would like to see Labour lose this election badly so the 'rebuilding' process can start under a Blairite leader.  The new article was written by Atul Hatwal, who notoriously predicted that Jeremy Corbyn would finish a distant fourth in the 2015 leadership contest at a time when it was already blindingly obvious to almost everyone else that Corbyn had a very good chance of winning outright.  However, that dud prediction was of the "it's true because I say it has to be" variety, whereas Hatwal's claims about canvass returns seem much more credibly supported.  The extreme negativity in the article about Labour's prospects is probably exaggerated, but nevertheless there does seem to be more than a grain of truth in the contention that the party's candidates and foot-soldiers at least believe they are heading for a worse drubbing than the current polling average would suggest.

That belief doesn't in itself prove anything.  In 2015, the Liberal Democrats firmly believed they were on course to hold dozens of seats, and they were wrong.  In 2010 the Tories expected to secure a majority and in 2015 they expected to fall short - weirdly they were wrong on both occasions.  Canvass data and internal polling does seem to have its limitations.

However, let's say for the sake of argument that the theory is correct and Labour is about to significantly underperform its polling yet again.  What would that mean from a pro-independence perspective?  Basically it would ensure that we're going to get a handsome Tory victory at UK-wide level coupled with seat losses in Scotland (we don't know exactly how many) for the SNP - not an especially appetising combination.  But the silver lining is that Labour's recent recovery in Scotland is directly linked to the party's surge throughout Britain, and if that surge proves to be a mirage on one side of the border, it's reasonable to suspect it may prove to be a mirage on the other side as well.

Why is that important?  Mainly because it would remove the risk, however small, that the SNP might not come out of this election with a majority of Scottish seats.  Yes, it would still be possible that if the polls are overestimating the SNP there could be some shock Tory gains in long-shot seats that will leave us traumatised for months.  But no matter how long you spend totting up the constituencies that are theoretically just about within range for the Tories and Lib Dems, you simply won't find a scenario in which the SNP can be reduced below thirty seats without a major contribution from Labour.

The saving grace of Labour's "nuclear winter" from our point of view would thus be the guarantee of a further five years of SNP majority representation at Westminster (barring more snap elections), and the completion of the 'triple-lock' mandate for an independence referendum.

*  *  *

Both the Tories and the Lib Dems ought to be careful what they wish for.  If the Tories get their hearts' desire and dislodge Angus Robertson in Moray, it's just conceivable that Theresa May could find herself facing Alex Salmond at Prime Minister's Questions.  It's perhaps not likely that Salmond would want to resume a leadership role at this stage in his career, but it wouldn't be the first time he's made an unexpected comeback.  And if the Lib Dems do as well in Scotland as they hope, the predicted losses in England could see them being led by Alistair Carmichael or Christine Jardine before the summer is out.  The mind boggles.


  1. Today's ICM poll which a lot of people seem to be totally ignoring is hardly encouraging for Labour either. The encouraging thing from my point of view is that this hellish election will soon be over though.

  2. James, any comment on today's Scottish YouGov poll in the Times? Suggests Labour and Tories neck and neck

  3. YouGov Scottish poll in the Times today: SNP 41 (-1), Con 26 (-3), Lab 25 (+6), LD 6 (=). They say this would give SNP 46 seats, Tories seven, Lab and LD three each.

    Theresa May approval down to minus 32

    Independence Yes 43, No 57


    1. It's uncanny that those figures are almost identical to the update of the YouGov model reported at the weekend. But I suppose this must be a standalone poll if it has independence figures and approval ratings. Is there any mention of fieldwork dates? That's probably the most important thing. (I don't pay the Murdoch Levy, so I can't check myself!)

    2. The article doesn't specify fieldwork dates. I guess it must have been done over the weekend (Friday - Monday)? Scottish polls, even online, tend to take a longer period than GB polls.

      Corbyn approval is up from minus 36 to minus 5. I suppose a point further to your article is that for all that Labour have recovered (both in GB and Scotland) through this campaign, if they do go down to a big defeat, you're just going to end up with Labour civil war round 3. Which would probably drive off the recent converts.

    3. 'Civil war' is one way to describe it. Another would be to say that there is an elite in Labour who would rather have the Tories in power than Corbyn

    4. I took part in the poll online on Saturday.

    5. Fieldwork dates were 1-5 June.

  4. Considering the article is written by Hamish McDonnell, it does throw some shade at the Tories.

    "The [Labour] comeback has also been at the expense of the Conservatives, who surged into second place behind the SNP at the start of the campaign and were on 29 per cent of the vote three weeks ago. Ruth Davidson’s party has dropped to 26 per cent, enough to win seven seats in Scotland, but not quite the breakthrough party managers had hoped for.

    One of the reasons for the change in Tory fortunes has been the plummeting personal ratings of Theresa May, who was campaigning in Edinburgh yesterday but is struggling to win over voter. Her approval rating is minus 32 in Scotland, a drop of 15 points in three weeks, giving her the worst rating of any leader in Scotland."

    1. Yes I think that is fairly obvious given they stole the hardcore unionist vote that Labour had left.

      Now with the tories having quite a nightmare of a campaign, these elderly voters have probably switched based on that.

      From what I can gather, the SNP vote hasn't suffered much from the labour surge, in any event, it's the SNP's disappointing performance in education that is as much to blame for the loss of support...as well as the way another indyref was spun by the mainstream media....ie now.

  5. Punters and bookies do not rate SLab's chances of recovery. Apart from being FAV in Edinburgh South, they are miles off in every single one of their target seats, even East Lothian. Best prices in some key SNP/Lab contests:

    Aberdeen South snp 5/6 Con EVS lab 100/1
    Dunfermline and West Fife snp 1/10 Con 10/1 Lab 28/1
    East Lothian snp 9/10 Lab 3/1 Con 4/1
    Edinburgh North and Leith snp 8/11 Con 2/1 Lab 12/1
    Glasgow Central snp 1/25 Lab 12/1
    Ochil and South Perthshire snp 2/7 Con 4/1 Lab 66/1
    Paisley and Renfrewshire South snp 1/25 Lab 14/1
    East Renfrewshire Con 5/6 snp 11/8 Lab 12/1
    Rutherglen and Hamilton West snp 1/50 Lab 18/1

    1. A Scottish labour recovery in Aberdeen South is great news.

  6. Personally, I think that a lot of the Labour prices are plain silly. There is no way they should be at 12/1 in Edinburgh North and Leith for example (4/1 would still be good value). Conversely, a lot of the SCon prices look way too short to me.

  7. More worrying news, the Lib Dems have stopped campaigning in the south West of England. No way can Tories lose there majority while holding on there.

    1. Living down here (Cornwall), my suspicion is that the anti-Tory vote is largely coalescing behind Labour (who have traditionally been nowhere). There are far more Labour boards up in my area than in 2015.

      I think the Lib Dems are suffering for a) going into coalition b) falling so far in 2015. They could always in the past appeal to Lab voters as the only viable not-Tory option, but that is far from clear now. The Lib Dems will still be competitive in the odd seat here and there, but there is no general recovery.

  8. James, was you gov not the least snp/yes friendly polling company for the last year? Will that not have an effect on their results?

  9. Considering all 3 Unionist parties are promoting the "Only we can stop the SNP" I'm hoping with the Labour revival it might split the unionist vote more. Maybe that'll help the SNP keep more seats. The tribalism in Scottish politics might even undo the "paper candidates" stitch up the unionist parties tried to implement to allow each other to win seats from the SNP.

  10. 2 and 3 are indeed immaterial.

    Not least because Theresa May could be campaigning in outer mongolia and it wouldn't make a blind bit of difference. For those with their head up their arse who somehow haven't noticed, May is being kept well away from actual voters and would still end up in an empty warehouse surrounded by a handful of the 'party faithful', her minders and the usual spineless BBC reporters.

    As for a lack of panic, really?? The tories have activists on the public's doorsteps right now ranting about Corbyn being an IRA supporter in 2017. They've been told to lead with that by the tory high command because this obviously isn't just some random issue that popped into a tory canvassers head. Here's one example, and remember, it's not the excoriating response to the tory from the sensible lady that matters here, it's that the tories clearly ARE so fucking desperate and panicky they are on the doorsteps with this stuff.


    So onto 3.

    Labour Uncut has indeed been comically rabid about Corbyn while Atul was happily predicting an extinction level event for Labour not that long ago.

    So is this new revised assessment a clear-eyed warning backed by evidence or just yet more axe-grinding by an ultra Blairite?

    Well an easy way to tell is motive and conclusion. Is the article used to lay the blame firmly at the feet of Corbyn to the exclusion of everything else? Or does it go into issues of concern from the campaign of which we all know Corbyn is but one of many? Because whatever you think about Corbyn you REALLY have to be reaching not to concede he's had a far better campaign than an 'extinction level event' article would have led you to belive.

    Even the most tory friendly polling is still a good deal better for labour than it was a scant few weeks ago. Back when tory majorities of 200 and 250 being ranted about by boggle-eyed tories drunk on the announce bounce who somehow still didn't have a clue just how incompetent Theresa May was.

    Regardless, Canvassing has to be taken seriously IF it's backed up by those actually doing it and then detailed precisely where it's being received. Merely saying it's 'Outside London' is way too vague to be anything other than random rumblings from a few people.

    Actual named seats that matter with credible figures in the party detailing canvass returns would 100% have to be taken with the utmost seriousness.

    But if the canvassing is suspiciously light on details then those suspicions may be well founded.

    1. There's also a rump of panicky tories clinging on to the idea that Messina will save them all with his magical databases.

      Yeah, bout that. How did that go for the Remain campaign Messina was also neck deep in? Not well. To say the least.

      Messina also had Cameron to work with and as incompetent as he clearly was he could still string a sentence together to the public without looking like he wanted to vomit all over them, a la May.

      So the TLDR.

      Canvassing matters. The rest is feeble bullshit.

      Is the Canvassing saying what Atul claims? Some of it definitely is, but not all.

      Which makes Labour's job no easier than the tories because they are still all dealing with completely contradictory polls.

      Except for one thing.

      No Corbyn Lead. Certainly not yet.

      Which means despite everything and despite one of the most incompetent tory leaders in modern times you'd best get prepared for a tory win of some kind. Whether it's a tiny pyrrhic one for May or a full blown majority.

      Unless Labour take the lead in any poll that's still the reality.

  11. "3) There is no sign of "panic" in the Tory high command.". Perhaps because things are going they way they wanted. I do not think they want to win in England.

  12. YouGov model has been updated. SNP back up to 46 seats, range 32-54.

    Tories 304 (for all of GB), range 266-342. I think that's the lowest reading yet. Lab 266, range 230-300. Lib Dem 12, range 6-19.

    Looks like someone (either YouGov / Survation or ICM / ComRes) is going to end up with egg on their face.

    1. In the short term someone will prolly lose their job at one or two firms since their credibility will be in tatters.

      However, this is still after all the polling companies postured about doing a mea culpa for some glaring past mistakes and had promised to learn lessons.

      So the bottom line is that in the medium and long term the polling industry as a whole is going to be even more of a laughing stock and the public will treat them accordingly.

      The public really don't give a shit who is individually to blame when it comes to polls being all over the place saying completely different things.

      The public will blame them all and trust them even less. The truth is, they don't really trust them that much right now tbh so good luck with another polling debacle after this.

  13. For all that extrapolation of the percentages suggest that the SNP will lose 8 or 9 seats, the bookmakers still make them odds-on favourites in four of those touted as likely losses - eg Moray, Perth and North Perthshire, Edinburgh North, Aberdeen South.

    1. Moray has now changed, it was 5/6 for snp and tories...tories have now gone back to evens for it. That's skybet?

      North East fife is now a lib dem fav....as is Edinburgh west

      North Perthshire now 5/6 for snp and tories....

  14. Does anyone know what's happened to GWC2? There was virtually nothing from him yesterday and he's failed to turn up again today. You'd expect "something" at a time like this. It doesn't feel right. I've checked all the obvious places - James' back garden, Nicola's back garden, the gimp section in Ann Summers. But nothing. Please keep your ears to the ground and your eyes open. I'm worried about him. We should all be worried about him. And remember to love.

    PS If you happen across him hiding in some bushes you can coax him out with reassuring words - "nazi", "knickerless", "fash". Whisper them quietly and offer treats.

    1. Don't encourage the halfwit.
      While we're at this, don't encourage Aldodamus the Britnat seer either.

    2. :) Maybe they've hooked up and that's why we've not heard much from either of them over the last couple of days. Maybe they need to get past the "hot lovemaking" part of their hookup before we'll hear from them again. All wrinkly and squirmy and je t'aime oui je t'aime with an Old Holburn rollup afterwards, and scrape any bits off.

    3. I feel sick...

  15. Panelbase today Scottish sample - SNP 44% Tories 29% Slabour 21% if my numbers are correct . This is without the don't knows of which was 9% roughly.

    Sure James will correct me if I am wrong!

  16. With every poll and subsample it would appear to me that broadly the campaign has had little effect on polling numbers in Scotland. SNP around 43%, Tories around 28%, Slab around 25%, Libdems around 6% so we're probably still looking at SNP getting about 45 to 52 seats, Tories 6 to 10, Slab maybe hold onto 1, Libdems likewise

    In England I think we are looking at a Tory win largely because of a factor that I've that I've not seen discussed anywhere. Postal votes will have been out for a while and returned in most cases well before any Corbyn surge. Alloy that with Corbyn's numbers relying on youth turnout then I think we will see the Tories get about a 50 seat majority.

    The only positive is that May has been sufficiently damaged during the process that she will shortly be replaced. Most likely after the UK Government storms out of negotiations with the EU in about 6 months so that she can be the fall guy for the economic shock that follows. At which point its either Boris, Davis or Independence

    1. You could be right but I think the young - finally having something to vote *for* - WILL turn out, thus resulting in a hung parliament = Labour propped up by SNP.
      Just for fun I'll repeat my forecast, just in case it's right: SNP 50, Ruth's suicide-inducing scum 8, self-determination hating FibDums 1, "Scottish" "Labour" a big fat zero

    2. My gut also tells me that Slab will get 0 and libdems 1. Which conversely means that the SNP will at least be high 40's.

      I expect the Tories to win the 3 border seats, East Renfrewhsire, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardinshire. My gut says they'll take Pete Wishart's seat which takes you to 7 but thereafter I struggle to see where they'll get much more. As much as there will be surprises (maybe they take Edinburgh South, maybe East Dunbartonshire) surprises tend to be small in number so you do get to a likely ceiling of about 10. with a floor of 6 and a probability of 8.

  17. My prediction is SNP - 49 Tories - 7 Slab - 2 Libs -1. I think we will take Shetland and lose Edin West to Libs. Murray will hang on and another seat will go Labour in Aberdeenshire or North East somewhere.

  18. Labour 1 (not Edinburgh South),LibDem 1(not Orkney and Shetland), Tories, 4 ( 3 borders and AW and K) SNP 53

    1. That would be dreamy
      Yeah I think you're right re the dire Murray being on the cusp of oblivion. Really hoping you're right about ork/shet.
      Honestly I'm sick to the back teeth of seeing Murray's sour face popping up to trot out tired soundbites..... "Another divisive referendum blah blah blah"

  19. I've heard East Dunbartonshire is good odds for an SNP win as well as North Perthshire.

    East Lothian going Labour is also good odds if you fancy a bet against your fav team.

  20. I hope big fat pouding face gets the boot in Orkney and Shetland.