Thursday, June 15, 2017

The SNP performed BETTER last week than in most recent elections

Someone suggested on an earlier thread that the SNP's performance last week was "by far the worst in seven years".  That's completely and utterly untrue, and it's perhaps another sign of how the relentless media propaganda campaign is starting to mess with people's heads.  Here is how the SNP's 36.9% of the popular vote at the general election actually compares with the other elections that have been held over the last seven years...

SNP vote shares in each election :

2010 UK general election : 19.9%
2011 Scottish Parliament election : 45.4% (constituency), 44.0% (list)
2012 Local elections : 32.3%
2014 European election : 29.0%
2015 UK general election : 50.0%
2016 Scottish Parliament election : 46.5% (constituency), 41.7% (list)
2017 Local elections : 32.3%
2017 UK general election : 36.9%

As you can see, the SNP's performance last Thursday was actually significantly better than in no fewer than four of the other seven elections that have taken place since 2010.  It was also better than in any set of local elections in history (the 32.3% in both 2012 and 2017 is the high watermark to date), and better than in any European election in history (32.6% in 1994 is the all-time high).  It was better than the 32.9% of the constituency vote and 31.0% of the list vote achieved when the party won its first Holyrood election in 2007.  And it was far better than the vote share achieved in any UK general election prior to 2015 - the previous record had been just 30.4% in October 1974.

When you bear in mind that UK general elections tend to be the toughest contests that the SNP faces (due to voters becoming transfixed with the Tory v Labour battle for power in London), hopefully you can see how 37% of the vote last week and a comfortable 8.3% lead over the second-placed party was an extremely creditable performance.  It may have been below pre-election expectations, but it wasn't below-par in any other sense.

*  *  *

Michael Portillo made two confident predictions on tonight's This Week that completely startled me : 1) that Theresa May will not even survive as Prime Minister until the autumn conference season, and 2) that the government will decide to keep Britain in both the single market and the customs union.  I've been strongly convinced that the opposite is true, and it has to be said that plenty of Portillo's predictions have proved wrong in the past, but let's suppose just for a moment that he's right.  The most obvious consequence would be that an early general election would become much more likely.  A new Tory leader might seek a personal mandate, but even if they don't, a bona fide Soft Brexit (as opposed to a fudge that falls short of single market membership) will surely lead to at least a few Eurosceptic Tory MPs resigning the whip on the grounds that the British public has been betrayed.  They might even jump direct to UKIP if Nigel Farage becomes active again and gets his party back in the game.  The arithmetic supporting the Tory-DUP pact would then become severely imperilled.


  1. thanks for that James (no really! - we need to nail the truth on this).
    Two points, though.
    First that last Thursday was in a range that might be said to be more typical of the SNP over the period that you cite - ie 2012, 2014 and both this year's election? If we argue this, then does that not point to a "core vote" + a "marginal vote" which will turn out sometimes but not necessarily - this was the vote in 2011, 2015 and 2016. One of the issues this time - Macaskill has pointed to it in his Herald piece this week - is the drop in turnout, and in my own constituency (West Dunbartonshire), the SNP lost about 11,000 of its majority - but more than 6,000 of that did not go to a Unionist party - it just didnt vote. But it made the unionist vote look a lot better -which leads me to the second point
    2. no matter the stats, the msm wont carry this because its counter to the narrative - for God's sake dont you know that the blessed Ruth "won" the LA election? Or alternatively, to take another local example, if it hadnt been for bloody Clydebank then Dumbarton and the Vale would have elected a Labour MP (Bill Heaney in this week's Lennox), even though the Council elections suggest that this was by no means a foregone conclusion.
    In short, the SNP do need to get their act together, to provide a more inspiring and dare I say "hopeful" set of policies to re-enthuse the electorate.

    1. I'm a bit sceptical about the whole notion of 'the SNP losing thousands of votes in X constituency and Labour not taking them'. Even if the turnout was differential to a degree, it's likely that the drop in turnout affected all the parties.

    2. true - though we will never know how that panned out. But what it does show without doubt is that somewhere about 8% of the electorate that voted last time didnt vote this time, so that proportion of the vote is there to be motivated to vote next time. Might as well be for independence.
      Moreover, unionist vote typically went up (though less than often is hyped) while SNP vote went down. If some of the loss of SNP vote went to the other side, then that vote has to be won back or motivated to vote.

    3. One last thing - I have just come across your other recent article, arguing that the SNP were foolish not to challenge the Unionist narrative about no mandate for indyref2. I agree. But dont you think these two arguments are, if not parallel, then contiguous?

  2. It's all well and good showing that percentage votes show a better picture than is being portrayed, but it doesn't reflect the true picture. In order to give balance to these figures, the turnout figure also has to be shown and the weighting factor against that calculated to show the true picture. Alternatively the actual numbers have to be shown. Whilst the SNP did in fact retain the majority of the seats, I don't think putting spin on it serves any purpose. If the figures are low (which they are), then the reasons for that have to be addressed, rather than by burying it in the sand. That's what the Westminster governments do, let's not follow suit.

    1. I don't understand what you mean, and if I asked you to explain it I'm not sure you'd be able to. If, for example, we consider the reason why last Thursday's result was so much better for the SNP than the 2014 European election result, that's got nothing to do with the turnout being much lower this time - because the opposite is true.

      I'd suggest you need to reflect on things a bit more, because this blogpost contains accurate numbers, not spin.

  3. The other thing which no-one seems to be taking into account about a 'soft' Brexit is whether voters down South who voted Leave will be angry and what the fall-out from that might be (besides the political possibilities of a re-emergent UKIP, I mean). It could spark unrest if people feel they have been cheated.

    Of course, UK Gov might think they can convince them it's what they voted for, or that it's 'for the best', but that remains to be seen and is quite risky....with the chance of it being seen as some sort of 'elite stitch-up'.

  4. Britnat brexiteers always forget about the EU's point of view. Typical Westminster arrogance and ignorance. I hope the EU sticks the knife into this disgusting so-called united kingdom.

  5. Independence for Scotland gets closer.

  6. How close is Portillo to the tory party these days? I thought he gave up politics for a meeja career.

  7. Can't really agree with the main thrust of this article. The first point to make here is that first order and second order elections always produce different results. Local and European elections are second order contests and the SNP has performed poorly in those elections during this period in comparison to its performance in first order elections (Scottish and Westminster elections). There are reasons for that which have nothing to do with the popularity of the party itself, such as low turnout and a tendency to vote for smaller parties (e.g. around 20% of the vote in the 2014 EU elections went to UKIP, the Greens and other small parties). The electoral system also now helps the SNP in first order elections, particularly general elections, as people are less inclined to vote for smaller parties who they know can't win under FPTP.

    The second point to make is that this is clearly the worst result the SNP has had in first order elections since the collapse of Labour post-Brown/financial crisis. The SNP has been in the ascendancy since 2011, winning the elections that count and barely taking a step back. That wasn't going to last forever and 2017 was the first major step back the party has taken in that period. It's of obvious significance and I don't think this kind of muddling of first order/second order vote totals is going to make much difference to the conclusion anyone will draw.

    1. I knew someone would try the "first order" / "second order" argument (even if I wasn't quite sure of the terminology that would be used). If we're talking about directly comparable election results, I don't see how we can lump together Holyrood & Westminster elections either, because for all sorts of reasons they clearly are no more comparable with each other than they are with local or European elections.

      If we keep everything to the level of the directly comparable, there's not much we can meaningfully say other than that last Thursday was significantly worse than 2015, but significantly better than anything before 2015.

    2. Jennifer DurnhamJune 16, 2017 at 2:54 PM

      The "first order and second order elections" theory isn't some obscure idea, there's academic literature on the concept going back decades. The basic point is that larger parties tend to suffer in second order elections because turnout drops and smaller parties benefit from protest votes (or other motivations that wouldn't apply in first order elections). It's a very obvious thing to raise in relation to your article so I'm not surprised you were expecting it, but it's absolutely a problem with the point you're trying to make.

      You could do this exercise with several other parties. For instance, take the New Labour results for general, local and European elections in Scotland. The party's election results read as follows:

      1997 - General Election - 45.6%
      1999 - European Elections - 28.7%
      1999 - Local Elections - 36.6%
      2001 - General Election - 43.9%
      2003 - Local Elections - 32.6%
      2004 - European Elections - 26.4%
      2005 - General Election - 39.5%
      2007 - Local Elections - 28.1%
      2009 - European Elections - 20.8%
      2010 - General Election - 42%

      Labour consistently secured votes around or above the 40% mark in general elections in Scotland in this period, but their local and European election results were always worse and dipped as low as 20.8% in European elections. None of this meant much of anything beyond the fact that Labour, as a large party, tended to do worse in second order elections than it did in general elections.

      Put simply, pointing at poor performances by the SNP in local/EU elections (relative to their strong performances in UK/Holyrood elections) doesn't get us to the point where the 2017 result isn't a step back for the party. I understand why you want to make that point and it offers some context on how far the party had risen before 2017, but it's a limited qualifier rather than something that gets us to a point where 2017 was actually a positive result.

    3. No. "Academic literature" notwithstanding, this line of argument doesn't work, because you've failed to explain why historically the SNP have done so much worse in Westminster elections than in Holyrood elections. Is it because Westminster is a "second order" election?

      Doesn't make sense, does it?

  8. Tommy Sheppard called it right. If the SNP had won this many seats two years ago, it would have been considered a landslide. No doom and gloom.

    1. I would agree with you were it not for one thing - the fact that the SNP won 56 seats of 59 last time out demonstrated beyond doubt that they were the real enemy of the British state (or perhaps they showed that with the 45% Yes vote the year before and 2015 just confirmed). The fact is that no matter what the outcome had been there would have been doom and gloom in the media. For instance until pretty much the last minute, about the worst result for the SNP would have been low 40s, with something stretching into the middle/ high 40s possible. That would still have been disaster, Davidson would still be claiming to be the people's champion and de facto leader of Scotland - oh and btw, it would have been proof of "no indyref2".
      Of course that is all a load of bollocks. If someone had said five years ago that the SNP would have 35 Scottish WM seats they would have told you that you were crazy, pointing to the the 2010 result (you will notice Jennifer Durnham making much this point). But the argument would have been bollocks had the SNP taken forty odd seats, and is just a little less bollocks now.

    2. Forgot to say that between 2015 and 2017 the SNP, the SG and the entire independence movement has been relentlessly criticised - sometimes rightly, but mostly on just about any grounds (like breathing) - between those two years. Dont imagine for a minute they are going to let up now.