Friday, December 14, 2018

Chortle. John McDonnell wants us to believe that the SNP are only calling for a no confidence vote because they don't want a general election.

Two astonishingly silly statements were made the other day about the SNP's motivations in relation to a vote of no confidence in the Tory government.  Labour's Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell claimed that the SNP were only pushing for such a vote to take place so that it would fail, thus ensuring there wouldn't be an early general election, in which Labour would supposedly be breathing down the SNP's necks and poised to make seat gains.  On the other extreme, our dear old friend Mike Smithson, known fondly to thousands of East Dunbartonshire residents as an "impartial election expert", claimed that the SNP would not be planning to vote against the government unless they were very confident that they would hold all of their 35 seats and perhaps make gains.

Two completely contradictory claims, and ironically both wrong.  But which is the daftest of the two?  On this occasion I'd have to say McDonnell just about shades it.  There's something quite exquisitely risible about the claim that the SNP are demanding a vote of no confidence because they don't want a general election.  I know the notion that an election is less likely if you table the motion too soon might seem vaguely plausible to some (and Torcuil Crichton of the Record was predictably credulous about it), but the reality is that a) any no confidence vote is likely to fail regardless of timing, and b) no confidence motions are not a finite resource in any case.  If one fails, it doesn't stop you tabling another later on, and it doesn't prevent the result being different the second time around.  The famous no confidence vote of March 1979 was not the first one that the Callaghan government had faced.

Smithson, of course, is just making his customary mistake of assuming that the SNP have some sort of decision to make on how to vote on a no confidence motion, and that the way they jump will be cynically determined by their own immediate electoral prospects.  It's been pointed out to him umpteen times that it is utterly inconceivable for any left-of-centre party in Scotland to do anything other than vote to bring down a Tory government if the opportunity arises.  But that message just isn't getting through to him, and I suspect it never will.  Can you imagine what would actually happen if the SNP even abstained on a no confidence vote?  It wouldn't just be a problem at the next election, it would haunt the party for decades to come.  No, Mike, that was never an option, and it wouldn't have been an option even if the SNP were at 6% in the polls.

I'm fairly sure that Smithson and McDonnell are both equally wrong about the SNP's expectations for seat gains and losses in a snap election.  The polling average at the moment suggests that the SNP's lead over Labour has increased since June 2017, so it's obviously nonsensical for McDonnell to suggest that the SNP are resigned to losing seats.  But on the other hand, the increase in the lead is not so dramatic that it couldn't be reversed (and indeed more than reversed) if there were the kind of sudden shifts of public opinion during the course of an election campaign that we saw last year.  There are a large number of ultra-marginal seats, some held by Labour, some held by the SNP, meaning that relatively small swings could make the difference between landslide and disaster.  Nobody can possibly say which way it will go on the basis of current polls, or at least not with any confidence.  If the SNP are optimistic about their prospects, I would suggest it's more likely to be because they feel they've cracked the problem of finding a winning campaign strategy.  It may well be (and I'm just speculating) that the recent relentless focus on cancelling Brexit for the whole of the UK has been designed to make the SNP look like the only logical home for Remainers in a 2019 election - and Remainers, let's not forget, make up 62% of the Scottish electorate.  They're in the majority even in Moray (albeit only just).

*  *  *


  1. I'm struggling to keep up with so many twists and turns. It's a lot better than the usual mad pre Christmas shopping horrors!
    Happy Christmas when it comes James!

  2. I was registering my foreign birth with the Irish authorities to confirm my citizenship, and I had to state my 'country of residence', 'country of birth' etc.

    Went back and forth through the drop-down list but couldnae find 'UK' or 'Great Britain'. Was like 'WTF' until I thought to check under 'S' and then was sorted. :-)

    Sure I should have looked there first, but I'm just to used to being told 'Scotland isn't a country/nation!' by the British, even on forms.

    Of course such friendly respect is not just given by the Irish. My e.g. French marriage certificate likewise has me officially as 'Scottish'.

    1. Och well aye, ah cannae compare tae yer genius, sae maybe you can help us?

      1. What is my nationality?
      2. What country is my country?
      3. What nation my nation?
      4. What flag is my flag?

      One word answers for each.

      And not my citizenship mind, but my nationality. Not my state, but my nation. Not my union flag, but my country's flag.

      Come on, it won't hurt ;-)

      (I'm not Irish - not yet).

    2. You are a sperm that has not evolved but Irish intervention could be helpful. You could be a shovel on the HS2 project.

    3. Oh and 2.5% of the Irish population are from the UK. By contrast, just 0.6% of the UK population are Irish; 4 times less.

      The English in particular do like their mass migration; they make up 10% of the Scottish population and 20% of the Welsh population. That's the freedom of free movement!


    How our model says the House of Commons would look if an election were to be held today:

    CON 305 (-13)
    LAB 265 (+3)
    SNP 40 (+5)
    LD 18 (+6)
    DUP 10 (-)
    SF 7 (-)
    PC 3 (-1)
    GRN 1 (-)
    IND (-)

    That would be an epic landslide 68% of MPs for the SNP, up on the massive landslide of 59% they got in 2017.