Saturday, July 13, 2019
That said, another comment from Ms Sturgeon at the same event left the impression that she was minded to use the next Holyrood election to obtain a mandate, not for independence itself, but for a referendum. Yes, I know we already have such a mandate from the 2016 election, but the theory seems to be that yet another one might somehow break down Westminster's resistance. There was an intriguing comment in the New Statesman a week or two back that "many Scottish MPs" (whether this referred to SNP MPs, or Tory MPs, or both, wasn't made clear) now expected Nicola Sturgeon to engineer an early Holyrood election for that purpose. I must say that if we are going to go down the road of seeking a superfluous repeat of a mandate we already have, I would much prefer it to be done in a snap election, because at least that means less valuable time would be squandered. And it would almost be like a 'free hit', because under the rules, as long as a snap election takes place before November 2020, the next election in May 2021 would go ahead as scheduled. So if the snap election didn't work out as hoped, we would have another chance before too long. Probably the worst-case scenario for a snap election would be the SNP being returned as a minority government but without a pro-indy majority. (Although at the moment it seems that a pro-indy majority would be the most likely outcome.)
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Some good news from the Scottish subsample of the latest GB-wide YouGov poll...
SNP 45%, Conservatives 20%, Labour 13%, Liberal Democrats 10%, Brexit Party 9%, Greens 2%
YouGov's Scottish subsamples appear to be correctly structured/weighted, so the only problem with them is the small sample size.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
GoFundMe allows fundraisers to remain open for donations indefinitely, so with your forgiveness I'll continue to promote it occasionally for a little while longer, although I'll try to do so less obtrusively than before. (I know there are always one or two people who are holidaying down a cave in Albania when the fundraiser is run, and only find out about it later on.) And as has been the case for many years, there'll continue to be a permanent "Donate" link in the sidebar (desktop version of the site only).
Thank you again, and hopefully you'll find the blog to be an interesting read over the weeks and months to come.
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As you probably saw the other day, Plaid Cymru has decided to take the highly unusual step of sitting out the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election and urging its supporters to back a unionist party (the Lib Dems) instead. My initial reaction when I first heard this was being contemplated was that it might just about make sense in the current circumstances, but only as a complete one-off. However, it appears that the new Plaid leader Adam Price sees the Brecon deal as merely the first step towards a more comprehensive "Remain alliance".
I must say I have my doubts as to whether that would be a runner in a general election. My guess is that we'll end up with something that looks very much like the recent past, ie. only a few limited and localised deals between the Lib Dems and the Greens in a handful of constituencies. Possibly the Lib Dems might also hold their noses and give some or all of the remaining Change UK MPs a clear run in return for Change not making too much of a nuisance of themselves anywhere else. But I strongly suspect that the Lib Dems will conclude that they have too much to lose from entering into a full-blown electoral pact with Plaid - it would almost certainly mean giving up on their hopes of retaking Ceredigion, for example.
But just suppose for a moment that it happened. It would be bound to lead to pressure on both the Lib Dems and the SNP to agree something similar in Scotland. That would be uncomfortable territory for both parties, not least because it would be almost unprecedented in modern times for the SNP to throw their weight behind an anti-independence party in any constituency. But could there be scope for the SNP to make what David Cameron might have called "a big, open and comprehensive offer to the Liberal Democrats"? The obvious shape of any pact would be that one party would stand aside if the other party is either the incumbent in the constituency or in a clear second place to a non-Remain party. That would mean the SNP standing aside in only four constituencies, and the Lib Dems standing aside in the other fifty-five.
Let's face it: the Lib Dems would be bound to turn the offer down, not only for the above reason but also because an arrangement with the SNP would drive a coach-and-horses through their 'double down on British nationalism' strategy by costing them an untold number of Tory tactical votes in their current constituencies. But they'd walk away from a Remain alliance at the cost of the moral high ground.
Sunday, July 7, 2019
As you may have seen, the senior SNP MP Angus MacNeil and the former depute leadership candidate Chris McEleny have tabled a resolution that would require the SNP to use the next Westminster or Holyrood election to seek an outright mandate for independence in the event that the UK government refuse a Section 30 order for an independence referendum next year. I was startled to see an independence supporter on Twitter brand the plan as "childish" and "idiotic" - a rather bizarre outburst against the whole principle of parliamentary democracy, which recognises that a party has a mandate to implement a policy if it fought and won an election on a relevant manifesto pledge. A number of us asked the irate indy supporter what his alternative was. Was he just going to hold his hands up and say "well, it's been a good, clean fight, but London have said no, and that's the end of that"? All he came up with was that we needed to have majority support for indy before we could do anything - a very slippery answer that completely evades the issue. An unambiguous majority for Yes in the opinion polls would just give the increasingly unhinged imperialists in the Tory leadership an even greater incentive to refuse a Section 30 order, so what do you do then?
But actually, though, we shouldn't even let the point that "we need a Yes majority" pass without questioning the premise that there isn't a Yes majority already. There have been four proper independence polls this year, all of which have put Yes support in the high 40s, and on each and every occasion I've made the observation that it was an unusually high level of support from a polling firm (either Panelbase or YouGov) that have in recent years tended to show relatively No-friendly results compared to other firms. I'm not sure the full implications of that have quite sunk in.
For example, in the first half of 2018, when Ipsos-Mori put Yes support at 48%, YouGov were saying it was only somewhere between 43% and 45%. Now that Yes are on 49% with YouGov, doesn't it seem entirely plausible that a new Ipsos-Mori poll would put the figure at 51% or above?
In October 2018, when Survation had Yes on 47%, Panelbase had Yes on only 44%. Now that Yes are on 49% with Panelbase, would it really be that surprising if a new Survation poll put Yes on 51% or 52%?
It doesn't necessarily work that way, of course. At the end of the 2014 indyref campaign, when the hitherto No-friendly pollsters like YouGov suddenly showed a massive swing towards Yes, the other firms didn't follow suit. Instead, there was a sudden convergence between the findings of different pollsters - and something very similar happened in the EU referendum. So it's not certain that Ipsos-Mori or Survation would be reporting an outright Yes lead if they were polling right now - but for my money there's a reasonable chance that they would.
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Friday, July 5, 2019
I've expressed my concern before that the Conservative party, which down the ages has long rubbished opinion polls and said that "the only poll that matters is on polling day", is now trying to turn Scotland into an opinion poll democracy - in other words, a country in which you can ignore the way in which people actually vote because a YouGov poll of 2000 people is supposedly a more accurate representation of what they want. Hunt tried exactly that line today - he said that it didn't matter that a majority of the Scottish Parliament wanted a referendum, and that it didn't matter that people had knowingly voted for the parliament to have a pro-referendum majority. All that mattered is that a poll from God knows how many months or years ago supposedly shows that MSPs are going against the wishes of their constituents. Mackay pointed out that the most recent poll in fact shows that a majority are in favour of a referendum - to which Hunt feebly replied "there are lots of polls, Colin". So now it seems that Scotland isn't so much an opinion poll democracy as a "the last opinion poll that a British Prime Minister conveniently bothered to notice" democracy.
Except it gets even worse than that. When Mackay sardonically summed up Hunt's hypocrisy with the words "so your poll counts but mine doesn't?", Hunt effectively abandoned his belief in the overriding importance of polls and started waffling about how "people I talk to in Scotland" (ie. Tories) don't want a referendum. So in the space of two minutes, Scotland had been downgraded twice from an opinion poll democracy to a vague anecdote democracy.
As an aside, it's worth noting that Hunt's statement today that he will attempt to block an indyref even if the SNP win an absolute majority at the 2021 election flatly contradicts what he said on the subject only a couple of weeks ago. If I was a Tory member, and even if I agreed with Hunt's revised stance, I'd be a bit worried that the 'flexibility' of his views means that he can't be trusted to keep his word on other subjects. How can he be trusted to stick to his promises on Brexit, for example?
Monday, July 1, 2019
Now, before anyone trots out the standard response of "anyone can edit Wikipedia, so don't complain, just put it right yourself", it isn't quite as simple as that. Someone has already attempted to reverse the edit, but within literally one minute the SNP and Plaid were removed again, with the following 'explanation' appended to the edit history -
"Please see the discussion on talk - strong consensus for removal of at least some columns, namely SNP/Plaid among most"
So I checked the Talk page, and as I suspected, this "strong consensus" turned out to consist of an in-group of only about six or seven people, all enthusiastically agreeing with each other based on their shared Anglocentric trance that it somehow makes perfect sense to remove the SNP but to retain parties that have far less support than the SNP. Before you look at the discussion, I should probably put a health warning on it, because it dismisses the SNP and Plaid as "regional" parties who should only ever be mentioned in the context of their own "areas" and who are "irrelevant" to the "national" picture. Someone quite reasonably points out that similar pages for other countries manage without any great fuss to include separate columns for ten or more parties, so there's no actual need for the UK page to be artificially edited down to seven. But that argument was shouted down on the basis that other countries have proportional representation and we don't, meaning that parties with relatively low percentage support can't hope to win seats. Which is a bit of a circular argument, because if the requirement for inclusion is the ability to win seats, how can you possibly exclude a party whose support is so geographically concentrated that it currently holds 35 seats under first-past-the-post and looks set to win considerably more in the next general election?
The only way of getting this ridiculous decision overturned is to change the "consensus" on the Talk page. I've made my point there already, but I'm only one voice. So if you're a Wikipedia editor and if you feel as strongly about this as I do, I would recommend that you leave a comment there and help to break the Anglo groupthink. If you're not familiar with commenting on Wikipedia Talk pages, you need to hit the edit button in the top right hand corner as if you were editing an article, and then simply add in your own comment in the appropriate place. You then 'sign' your comment by adding four tildes (~~~~) at the end of it.
Sunday, June 30, 2019
An independent Scotland would not be forced to join the euro. The Channel 4 "Fact Check" (sic) notoriously claimed a few weeks ago that it would be, which led to the comical spectacle of other Fact Check services demonstrating conclusively that the Channel 4 "Fact Check" was riddled with factual inaccuracies. The theoretical requirement for new EU states to move to adopt the Euro in the long-term is a legal fiction and everyone in Brussels knows it. No state can be forced to take the steps that would be necessary to switch currencies, as Sweden has been helpfully demonstrating in the sixteen years since it rejected Eurozone membership in a referendum.
An independent Scotland would not be required to join the Schengen Zone. The UK and the Republic of Ireland are both current EU member states, but neither are members of Schengen and instead have their own Common Travel Area. Whether or not there is a hard border after Brexit, Ireland is highly unlikely to be joining Schengen, and it's blindingly obvious that the EU would agree that any arrangement that is appropriate for Ireland as an EU state would also be appropriate for Scotland as an EU state.
Scotland will not "control fisheries" after Brexit. Fisheries was one of the key devolved powers that was subject to the Westminster power-grab last year, so control will in fact lie in London or more likely in Brussels - because we know that Scottish fishing communities have always been regarded by London as expendable in any horse-trading with the EU. Although it's true that many Scottish independence supporters do regard the Common Fisheries Policy as the worst thing about the EU, the reality is that we won't be "taking back control" of fisheries under Brexit, and that we'd therefore be sacrificing little by rejoining the EU as an independent state.
You see, that's the thing, Boris - if you want to blackmail a nation into submission, the threat actually has to be credible.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 31 of the fundraiser, and so far £8370 has been raised. That's 98% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
You might have noticed that for weeks now, when a journalist or Tory politician has erroneously claimed that "there is still no appetite in Scotland for an independence referendum", I've been pointing out to them that the most recent poll on the subject actually found that 50.2% of the public are in favour of an early independence referendum and only 49.8% are opposed. Admittedly one thing that made it slightly hard to get that point across is that, after rounding, the published figures were 50% in favour and 50% opposed.
Well, that's no longer a problem, because the Sunday Times have today published more details of their sensational Panelbase poll from last weekend, and it turns out there is now a clear pro-indyref majority even after rounding. 52% are in favour of holding an early independence referendum (up 2 points on the last poll), and 48% are opposed (down 2).
You're in severe danger of running out of excuses, Ruth.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
Jo Swinson says that London should attempt to block an indyref because the SNP lost ground at the last general election. As Lesley Riddoch has pointed out, this means that if the SNP gain seats at the next general election (as opinion polls currently suggest they will), the Liberal Democrats would be morally obliged to support and facilitate an indyref. But that rather satisfying piece of inescapable logic shouldn't distract us from the nonsensical nature of Swinson's statement. Democracy would grind to a halt if majority parties that happened to lose seats at the most recent election were not regarded as having a mandate to act. In both 1987 and 1992, the Conservative government won an outright majority but suffered a net loss of seats. According to the Swinson Doctrine, then, the Thatcher/Major government should have been prevented by some mechanism from implementing its programme for ten of the eighteen years that it was in office.
Which begs the obvious question: if the majority party didn't have legitimacy to govern, who had legitimacy in its place? Should a minority party have been able to govern instead because it had forward momentum? In other words, should Labour's 229 seats have somehow been regarded as outcounting the Conservatives' 376 seats, because the 229 represented a net gain of 20 and the 376 represented a net loss of 21? And if so, how on earth would you have got such a system to work in practice? Lock up 200 Tory MPs so that Labour could outvote them?
Or, just to float the only other alternative I can think of, should nobody have been allowed to govern at all between 1987 and 1997?
And there are other questions too. If the only decisive factor is whether a party gains or loses seats at the most recent election, shouldn't the SNP's massive stride forward at the European election only last month mean that there is now an open-and-shut case for an indyref? If Swinson's answer to that point is "ah, but that was only a European election, not a Westminster election", how does she explain the fact that her own party in coalition government regarded the SNP as having a mandate to hold an indyref in 2014 based on its success in a Holyrood election rather than a Westminster election? (The SNP had a mere 6 Westminster seats at the time.) At what point did Westminster elections take over from Holyrood elections as the designated democratic event in which these matters are decided? Were the electorate informed of this abrupt change, and indeed of the reasons for it? Would it be unkind of me to suggest that Swinson appears to be making this stuff up as she goes on?
Jackson Carlaw says that London should attempt to block an indyref because a majority of parties (three out of five) in the Scottish Parliament are opposed to the idea. What I'm about to say is so blindingly obvious that it shouldn't need saying, but apparently it does: the crucial point in a parliamentary democracy is who can command a majority of seats, not who can command a majority of parties. If it worked the way Carlaw wants, his own government at Westminster would be powerless to act, because it's supported by only two parties in the House of Commons (the Tories and the DUP) and opposed by six (Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Change UK and the Greens). Indeed, the Carlaw Doctrine would instantly make elections completely redundant - all you'd have to do is round up all the random bods who have registered a party with the Electoral Commission and ask them for a show of hands. Carlaw could find himself outvoted by seventeen splinter communist parties.
It's also worth mentioning that the Carlaw Doctrine flatly contradicts Ruth Davidson's recent arbitrary "ruling" that a pro-independence majority at Holyrood is only valid if it's a single-party SNP majority and not if it's a multi-party majority comprising the SNP, the Greens and possibly others. So which is it to be, guys? Do you want broad multi-party support for a referendum, or are you insisting it has to be a go-it-alone SNP effort? I don't see how you can have it both ways.
Carlaw also says that the Tories are "not dictating to the people of Scotland" because the people of Scotland do not actually want a referendum. But he knows full well that the evidence on that point is mixed: the most recent poll on the subject (conducted in May by Panelbase) found that 50.2% want an early independence referendum, with 49.8% opposed. For reasons that aren't clear, YouGov polls have tended to show a more negative picture. When evidence on the state of public opinion is contradictory, you have two options: you can either make the decision yourself, in which case you are dictating to the people, or you can put opinion polls to one side and allow the people to resolve the ambiguity by means of an election. And, as it happens, the people have already done that: they elected a government in 2016 that had a manifesto commitment to an indyref in the event of Brexit. Why is Carlaw ignoring their verdict?
Rather confusingly, Carlaw spent a large chunk of his debate with Keith Brown the other night demanding that Brown should "name the day" for a referendum and commit to bringing out a White Paper - the pretty obvious subtext being that the SNP are running scared of holding the vote and the Tories want them to "bring it on". If I may gently say so to Jackson, it's rather hard to make that line of attack stick when in the next breath you're bellowing: "THE SNP ARE HELLBENT ON CALLING AN INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM, BUT WE SAY NO, NO, NEVER!!!!"
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 30 of the fundraiser, and so far £8290 has been raised. That's 97.5% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Paging Carole Malone: Sorry, Carole, but every single opinion poll this year has shown that support for independence is significantly higher than 45%
"Every time they do a poll it says that the figures now for staying within the union are higher than they were at the time of the referendum."
What is it about opinion polling that makes people feel entirely comfortable in making something up that they would like to think is true, go on television and present it as fact, and then have it go completely unchallenged? And yes, Fiona Bruce, I'm looking at you. In this case, Carole Malone's claim is not only untrue, it's the opposite of the truth. There have (inexplicably) been only four polls this year that have asked the standard independence question, and every single one of them has shown that support for independence is now significantly higher than the 44.7% recorded in the 2014 referendum. Here they are...
Panelbase, April 2019: Yes 47%, No 53%
YouGov, April 2019: Yes 49%, No 51%
Panelbase, May 2019: Yes 48%, No 52%
Panelbase, June 2019: Yes 49%, No 51%
If you look at the list of polls on Wikipedia, you'd get the false impression that there was also a fifth independence poll this year conducted by Survation using a "non-standard question", which supposedly showed a much bigger No lead. In fact, that wasn't an independence poll at all - it was a propaganda poll commissioned by Scotland in Union which asked respondents about whether they wanted Scotland to "leave the UK", rather than whether they wanted Scotland to become an independent country. "Leaving the UK" covers a wide range of possibilities of which independence is only one. Others include becoming part of another existing state, or becoming a self-governing dependency like Jersey. However, even if you include the Survation poll as an independence poll (and you shouldn't), it would still be the case that four out of five polls this year have shown Yes support at higher than 45%. So Malone's claim is completely untrue no matter which way you look at it.
Incidentally, it's not even the case that Malone's claim used to be true but no longer is. Although support for independence appears to have increased markedly over the last nine months or so, a clear majority of polls conducted over the entire period between September 2014 and now have shown Yes at 45% or higher.
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I've been meaning to mention that I was interviewed down the phone on IndyLive Radio last week. You can listen to the show on catch-up HERE - the bit with me starts at just after the 2 hour mark.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 27 of the fundraiser, and so far £8020 has been raised. That's 95% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Sunday, June 23, 2019
Bombshell Panelbase poll shows support for independence at a three-year high - even without Boris Johnson as PM
No 51% (-1)
Incidentally, the finding that there won't be much of a Boris bounce was supported at Britain-wide level by a Survation poll yesterday, which suggested that the Tories would enjoy a net gain of only two points with Johnson as leader, and that the Brexit Party would only slip back four points. The Tories and Labour would be tied for the lead in that scenario.
Panelbase also have Holyrood voting intention numbers...
Scottish Parliament voting intentions (constituency ballot):
SNP 42% (+1)
Conservatives 20% (n/c)
Labour 16% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 11% (+3)
Scottish Parliament voting intentions (regional list ballot):
SNP 39% (+2)
Conservatives 20% (+1)
Labour 16% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 10% (+2)
Greens 7% (n/c)
The SNP's 42% on the constituency ballot is their highest vote share in any Panelbase poll since 2017. In a way it's strange that the Tories are doing a little better in the Holyrood vote than in the Westminster vote, although that may simply be because some voters don't think there's much point in switching to Farage's mob in a Scottish Parliament election.
There would be a very clear pro-independence majority in Holyrood on those numbers, and the SNP wouldn't be far away from an outright majority of their own.
2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 24 of the fundraiser, and so far £7925 has been raised. That's 93% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
Humiliation for Ruth Davidson as Tory leadership result proves no-one in Westminster is listening to her
Having two endorsements blow up in her face in the space of one day is really quite an achievement for Ruth, and I suspect up-and-coming Tory hopefuls will be asking her to keep her distance from now on. Let's hear no more nonsense from the media about how she has influence or leverage in the corridors of power - she clearly has none whatsoever. Scottish voters should be under no illusions that if they vote Tory in a general election, they're voting for the Westminster Tory party in all its ugliness, and not for Ruth Davidson.
Conservative party leadership election (final ballot of MPs):
Boris Johnson 160
Jeremy Hunt 77
Michael Gove 75
Michael Gove eliminated, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt proceed to members' ballot.
What does this mean for us? Well, in one sense it might be just as well to see the back of Gove. Even in a contest in which all the candidates were frantically outbidding each other on who was going to crack down the hardest on Scottish democracy, Gove stood out as the most obsessed with "our precious, precious Union", which may well be why Davidson belatedly backed him. Apparently he had been floating some madcap plan to get a "Union Guarantee" written into international law, whatever that might mean. It's also possible that having a Tory leader with a Scottish accent might have been of some marginal help to the party in defending their north-east seats against the SNP, so at least that danger has been averted.
However, I do believe that having Boris in Number 10 is going to be a double-edged sword for the SNP. He'd probably make it easier for Yes to win an independence referendum, but in the short term, I suspect he'll win back votes from the Brexit Party in Scotland as much as anywhere else, which will make it less challenging for the Scottish Tories to retain at least some of their seats.
Johnson v Gove in the members' ballot would have sent a powerful message to the EU, with the only question being which of the two leading members of the Leave campaign was going to be in charge during the Brexit endgame. As it is, we have a Leaver versus a Remainer - but that may not make a whole lot of difference, because if Hunt's words can be taken at face value, he's more open to the possibility of No Deal than Theresa May was.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 21 of the fundraiser, and so far £7555 has been raised. That's 89% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Nevertheless, with the health warning that everything I'm about to say is likely to be proved wrong within a matter of hours, here's how I see the state of play for each candidate going into today's second round.
Rory Stewart: Ah, the pride of "The Middleland". Arch-nemesis of Roman Emperors and their wicked walls. Barking mad though he is, it's impossible to deny that Rory was the clear winner of the Channel 4 debate on Sunday night - he made Hunt and Javid look bland, he made Raab look like an extremist, and he made Gove look like an idiot. He'll also presumably have been boosted more than the other candidates by the departure of Matt Hancock (irrespective of Hancock's opportunistic endorsement of Boris Johnson). I expect Rory to make a big leap today and to survive the cut once again, although the million dollar question is how high up the pecking-order he'll be. Even if he makes it to the final two, though, he doesn't have a hope in hell of actually winning the leadership, because the members' ballot is literally unwinnable for anyone who isn't a hardline Brexiteer. So he's going for the silver medal, in the hope that will leave him well-placed for a future tilt at the leadership once the Brexit kaleidoscope has shifted.
Jeremy Hunt: Solid but unspectacular in the Channel 4 debate. Doesn't seem to be particularly going forwards or backwards at the moment. His hopes of reaching the final two will hinge upon no-one else having sufficient momentum to overtake him.
Sajid Javid: Of the six remaining candidates, he strikes me as being the least likely to make it to the members' ballot. That's not to say he'll be in sixth place today - he may well be higher than that. But it's hard to see his path to reaching the top two, because he doesn't have a big enough natural constituency. Stewart has the pro-Europeans, Hunt has the establishment, Johnson has the careerists and some of the Brexit headbangers, Raab has the rest of the headbangers, and Gove has the kitten-who-thinks-he's-Rambo fan-vote. Who does Javid have?
Michael Gove: I keep wondering if he realises just how ridiculous he's making himself look with the hard man routine. I can only assume he doesn't. But Tories react differently to that sort of thing than the rest of us, so God knows.
Dominic Raab: He's had a poor campaign so far, and he continued to be uninspiring in the Channel 4 debate. But I just wonder if he might be on the verge of a breakthrough in spite of himself. There's a clear incentive for the Brexit true believers to lend Raab a tactical vote in the hope of stopping Stewart, Gove and Hunt. A No Deal v No Deal members' run-off would reduce the temptation for Johnson to "pivot", as the Americans say.
Boris Johnson: Almost certainly the next Prime Minister, and all the rest may be sound and fury signifying very little.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 19 of the fundraiser, and so far £7365 has been raised. That's 87% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Monday, June 17, 2019
Memo to Jeremy Hunt: the most recent poll shows a majority IN FAVOUR of an early independence referendum
"Yes the Scottish people will decide. In poll after poll they’re telling you no to indyref2. So I won’t give in to your grandstanding."
Which is as much as to say: "Yes, Nicola, the Scottish people will decide, and I will be the sole arbiter of what they have decided, and regardless of what they say my adjudication will be that they have said No. Hope this helps." But there's also another little problem (OK, massive problem) with Hunt's claim that "poll after poll" has shown that the Scottish people are opposed to an independence referendum. The problem is simply that the claim is untrue.
The most recent published poll on independence was conducted roughly one month ago by Panelbase. A total of 513 respondents agreed that there should be an early independence referendum, either "while the UK is negotiating to leave the EU" or "when the UK has finished negotiating to leave the EU". 508 respondents said there should not be a referendum in the next few years. In percentage terms, that means 50.2% of the population support an early indyref, and 49.8% are opposed. Have a look at the datasets for yourself if you don't believe me, Jeremy. You'll find them HERE.
But even if Hunt's basic claim wasn't such an obvious falsehood, there would still be something deeply troubling about the way he and other senior Tories seem to want to make opinion polls an integral part of the British constitution. Whatever happened to the pre-election mantra of Tory leaders down the ages: "The only poll that matters is on election day"? If Jeremy Hunt had his way, the new rule would be "we don't need to hold an election because I've just seen a YouGov poll". It wouldn't be so bad if there was the slightest reason to believe that opinion polls can be relied upon to estimate public opinion with an exceptionally high level of accuracy, but we know that's not the case from multiple recent examples. Polling actually seems to be somewhat less reliable than it was a few decades ago (probably due to the demise of the landline phone).
Meanwhile, Hunt's three "tests" for being willing to consider a Section 30 order are as barking mad as might have been predicted. Firstly, he agrees with this week's incarnation of Ruth Davidson that the SNP would have to win a single-party overall majority at Holyrood before a referendum would be a possibility. I can't think of another parliamentary democracy anywhere in the world in which two parties who win a majority between them are not allowed to implement a policy they agree upon. During the Tory-Lib Dem coalition years, you didn't hear John Bercow saying -
"The Ayes to the right, 327. The Noes to the left, 308. But as the Ayes include both Conservative and Liberal Democrat members, the vote is not valid. So the Noes have it. Aw-daaah, unlock."
Secondly, Hunt wants the SNP to run their currency position past him. That's a bit like saying the opposition party will only be allowed to contest an election if the government has given the green light to its manifesto. Hunt's Britain sounds like it would be a bit of a tinpot affair.
And thirdly, he wants Nicola Sturgeon to rule out a "wildcat vote" (sic), which is a bit of a circular argument, because if the Section 30 order was forthcoming, there'd be no conceivable need for a "wildcat vote" (sic), would there?
You know, it's amazing: before Ruth Davidson won her stunning victories in the 2016 and 2017 elections by coming a very distant second to the SNP, the complaint from both the Tories and the mainstream media used to be that Scotland had become a "one-party state". And yet the one sure-fire effect of the Hunt/Davidson insistence that the SNP need a single-party majority will be to deter independence supporters from flirting with smaller pro-indy parties on the Holyrood list vote. If the Tories want to restore the "one-party state", they're going absolutely the right way about it.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 18 of the fundraiser, and so far £7266 has been raised. That's 85% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Saturday, June 15, 2019
Richard Leonard begs for mercy as brutal YouGov subsample puts Scottish Labour on just 8% of the vote
Liberal Democrats 22% (+2)
Labour 19% (-1)
Conservatives 17% (-1)
Greens 8% (-1)
SNP 4% (-1)
Plaid Cymru 1% (+1)
Change UK 1% (+1)
Would they end up as fluent speakers? Probably 99% wouldn't, but the position of Gaelic is precarious enough that the other 1% could make a hell of a lot of difference. And the majority who would only learn a few words and phrases wouldn't be wasting their time by any means. About fifteen years ago, I forced myself to learn some very basic Gaelic - I didn't get very far with it, but I've noticed that if I watch BBC Alba now, I can still pick out quite a number of the most common words and understand what they mean. That's nowhere near enough to comprehend entire sentences without resorting to the subtitles, but it does mean that the language no longer sounds as alien to me as it did when I was growing up. And one of the biggest battles that Gaelic faces is that too many people in its own country regard it as totally alien.
I suggested on Twitter that one of the most cost-effective ways in which the Scottish Government could promote Gaelic is by offering a grant to Duolingo to develop a Gaelic course. A few people replied to point out that there is currently a spirited campaign on social media to get Gaelic included, and that I could maybe give it a small boost by mentioning it on this blog. You can follow the campaign on Twitter HERE, and there's also a thread on the Duolingo forums where hundreds of people have expressed an interest in learning the language. But from what I can gather, what is really needed to get some traction is for fluent Gaelic speakers to volunteer to actually build the course. I'm sure there must be at least a few Scot Goes Pop readers who speak Gaelic fluently, so if you'd like to do something truly wonderful and game-changing for Scotland and its linguistic heritage, you can register your interest by filling in this form. (Gaelic isn't one of the options in the drop-down menu, but if you scroll down to the bottom, you can select "Enter Other". Might be best to say "Scottish Gaelic" in case they wrongly assume you're talking about Irish.)
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 16 of the fundraiser, and so far £6846 has been raised. That's 81% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Welcome to Ruth Davidson's 674th position on the circumstances in which an independence referendum might be "allowed"
What we have learned, though, and it's largely of academic interest only, is that Ruth has changed the 'rules' yet again, because the position she set out in response to Campbell's question flatly contradicted every previous pronouncement she's made on the subject, which themselves flatly contradicted each other. For example, in the run-up to the 2011 election, she declared that the SNP wouldn't get a referendum "for free" and would have to "earn it", and went on to clearly state that the way they could earn it was by a combination of pro-independence parties winning an outright majority in the Scottish Parliament - exactly what happened in the end, albeit that probably came as something of a shock to her. (She was absolutely explicit that the majority could be a joint SNP-Green majority, and didn't have to be the SNP alone, although it just so happened the SNP won a solo majority.) In the period immediately after the EU referendum of 2016, when it wasn't yet clear whether Nicola Sturgeon intended to use her mandate for a second indyref, Ruth said it would be constitutionally wrong for the UK government to attempt to block a referendum if the elected SNP-Green majority in the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of one. But after the Scottish Parliament duly passed such a vote, she did a 180 degree turn and insisted that Westminster should block a referendum under all circumstances. Now she's rowed back on that extremist stance somewhat, but she hasn't reverted to her original position, because her new line is that there has to be another single-party SNP majority before the mandate can be respected - the opposite of her statement in 2011 that the required threshold was a combined SNP-Green outright majority.
In the run-up to the 2016 election, a number of us issued warnings about the misguided belief that it was possible to "vote tactically on the list". We pointed out that if the SNP lost their overall majority because their own supporters switched to another pro-independence party on the list, the Tories and the media would seize on that, and claim there isn't really a mandate for an independence referendum. But I don't think anyone who went down that road should be beating themselves up too much, because the reality is that election results don't matter a damn to Ruth. If the SNP had won an overall majority, there would have been some other excuse. The threshold would magically have become an outright SNP majority on the popular vote. If there had been such a majority, then we'd have been told that Holyrood elections aren't actually important, and that if the SNP win a majority of the popular vote at Westminster, then maybe we can talk.
Democracy is a rules-based system. Countries in which the powers-that-be change the 'rules' retrospectively after losing an election are generally held to be sham democracies. We can only ponder why a mainstream media that claims to pride itself on "fearlessly holding power to account" never seems remotely interested in pinning Ruth down on her endless and frantic shifting of the goalposts on an independence referendum, and the implications of that farcical process for the state of UK "democracy".
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The two little surprises in this morning's Tory leadership ballot were the scale of Boris Johnson's lead, and the fact that Rory Stewart scraped into Round 2. The most popular slice of wisdom about these contests is that the early frontrunner hardly ever wins (with the only recent exception being Michael Howard), but on this occasion I suspect we're all waiting for a twist in the tale that isn't going to arrive. I don't see how Boris can be stopped, unless there's a new Gove-style revelation about his past (which admittedly is always a real possibility given the nature of the man). But I do hope and pray that Tory MPs will at least preserve our sanity on Tuesday by sending Rory Stewart back to the Middleland tae think again.
Conservative Party leadership election (first ballot):
Boris Johnson 114
Jeremy Hunt 43
Michael Gove 37
Dominic Raab 27
Sajid Javid 23
Matt Hancock 20
Rory Stewart 19
Andrea Leadsom 11
Mark Harper 10
Esther McVey 9
Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper and Esther McVey eliminated after failing to reach the 17-vote minimum threshold.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 14 of the fundraiser, and so far £6731 has been raised. That's 79% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Historians will puzzle over how it came to this, but the stars seem to be aligning for Boris and a No Deal Brexit
The fact that he was 'created' by a comedy TV show is one thing that would make a Johnson win unusual, but it's not the only thing. This would also be the first time in living memory that a governing party has installed a backbencher as Prime Minister. I'm actually struggling to work out when such a thing last happened. Theresa May was Home Secretary when she took over from David Cameron. Gordon Brown was Chancellor when he took over from Tony Blair. John Major was Chancellor when he took over from Margaret Thatcher. James Callaghan was Foreign Secretary when he took over from Harold Wilson. Sir Alec Douglas-Home was Foreign Secretary when he took over from Harold Macmillan, who in turn was Chancellor when he took over from Sir Anthony Eden, who in turn was Foreign Secretary when he took over from Sir Winston Churchill. You might assume that Churchill himself must have been a backbencher when he became PM due to his famed spell in the wilderness, but in fact he'd been First Lord of the Admiralty in Chamberlain's short-lived War Cabinet. So a Johnson premiership would be a very rare example of non-continuity for a government in mid-term. He resigned from Theresa May's administration for a reason, and it can be assumed that he'd oversee a change of direction more akin to an outright change of government.
What would it mean for us? I've heard some people say that Boris Johnson doesn't really believe in anything but his own ambition, so there's no way of knowing for sure whether he'll keep his promises to the ERG headbangers until he's actually in office. But for my money it's his ambition that'll ensure he does stick to his word, because he'll know his place in history will be guaranteed if he delivers on a No Deal Brexit. Even if it unleashes economic calamity, it's unlikely to be reversed for a very long time, and so the political status quo would become synonymous with Boris in much the same way that the post-war consensus was synonymous with Attlee.
Which leaves the question of whether parliament would be able to stop No Deal if Johnson is hellbent on bringing it about. Today's vote makes that less likely, but doesn't close off the possibility entirely. But one thing is for sure: a parliament that thwarts the main objective of the government is making an early general election inevitable. Polling suggests that Johnson is the only one of the ten Tory leadership candidates who would recover a significant number of the votes lost to the Brexit Party in time for an election this autumn, so it could be that, paradoxically, he would help save Ruth Davidson's bacon in her north-east seats in Scotland. The SNP might instead have to look towards gains from Labour to keep up the momentum towards a second independence referendum.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 13 of the fundraiser, and so far £6500 has been raised. That's 76% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Saturday, June 8, 2019
If you want a risk-free referendum, try living in a totalitarian state. This is Scotland, and we can't win independence without risking defeat.
So this is an uncomfortable thought for Pete, who is previously on the record as wanting to delay an independence referendum until we "know" we will win it. The real lesson of Quebec is that if you timidly hold off from calling a referendum until the moment seems perfect, you eventually find that you're no longer anywhere near government and can't hold a referendum whether you want to or not. And if you can't call a referendum, you can't become an independent country.
As I've pointed out umpteen times before, the pre-knowledge of victory that Pete is seeking is unattainable anyway. Public opinion in referendum campaigns is notoriously volatile, much more so that in regular elections. Even if it was somehow realistic to think we'll get Yes support to 60% before the referendum campaign even begins (and I don't think it is), we'd feel a bit bloody silly for holding off until that point if there's a 20% drop in support within a week or two of the campaign starting. You can find endless examples from referendums around the world of that sort of thing happening - and indeed the two Quebec referendum campaigns are themselves excellent examples of volatility. In 1980, the Yes side were in a winning position but suffered a catastrophic loss of support as the campaign progressed, but in 1995 the swing was in the opposite direction, with Yes turning around a seemingly insurmountable deficit to draw more or less level by polling day.
Even if a 60% starting point wouldn't guarantee victory, surely it would give us a somewhat better chance than a 45% starting point? Well, maybe, but the operative word is "somewhat". I strongly suspect that the relative stability of independence polls in recent years is deceptive, and that once a campaign is underway we'd see a big swing in public opinion once again. The real test always comes when the public actually focus on the choice in front of them.
Incidentally, volatility has been increasing even in regular elections. There have been any number of occasions over recent years when we "knew" the result of an election in advance...until it turned out that we didn't.
2007 Holyrood election: SNP started the campaign with a solid lead, but ended up in a virtual dead heat with Labour.
2011 Holyrood election: Labour appeared to be coasting to an effortless victory, until the SNP completely turned it around in the closing weeks and won by a landslide.
2015 Westminster election: A hung parliament was supposedly guaranteed, and indeed masses of column inches were devoted to pondering whether majority government had become a thing of the past in Britain. David Cameron ended up with an overall majority that virtually no-one saw coming.
2016 Holyrood election: An SNP majority government was supposedly so assured that SNP voters didn't even need to bother backing the party on the list vote. In the end, the SNP fell two seats short of a majority.
2017 Westminster election: The reverse of 2015. A landslide Conservative majority was a nailed-on certainty, but we ended up with a hung parliament instead.
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On the subject of learning the wrong lessons from Canada, Stephen Bush of the New Statesman has offered the following reason for thinking that Dominic Raab wouldn't be able to follow Stephen Harper's notorious example by proroguing parliament for tactical reasons -
"One of several crucial differences between the Canadian example and the United Kingdom is that while Elizabeth II is the head of state in both, in Canada, her constitutional role is largely parcelled off to the governor-general, who is appointed by the prime minister. It’s one thing for the governor-general, who is usually a former political figure, to be drawn into politics, but quite another for the same to happen to the sovereign."
I'll freely hold my hands up and say that I don't know whether it would be legally possible for a British Prime Minister to achieve a No Deal Brexit by means of a tactical prorogation. But I do know that Stephen's reading of the Canadian precedent is incorrect. The Governor-General at the time of the 2008 constitutional crisis was Michaëlle Jean, a Liberal appointee. There was a great deal of speculation about whether she would allow herself to be dragged into political controversy by blocking the request of the Conservative Prime Minister for prorogation, in line with her presumed Liberal loyalties. When she took the opposite course of action, it was firmly interpreted as her playing a straight bat by putting constitutional precedent before partisan politics, in much the same way that the Queen would be expected to in this country. She had clearly received advice that it would be constitutionally inappropriate to decline a prorogation request from the Prime Minister.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 9 of the fundraiser, and so far £5722 has been raised. That's 67% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Friday, June 7, 2019
Labour's narrow win in Peterborough doesn't significantly reduce the chances of No Deal - the Tories know they lost the seat because of the Brexit Party
Another of Curtice's claims that startled me is that Labour are just as keen as the Tories to avoid an early general election. That seems unlikely to me - in spite of the sudden drift towards multi-party politics, it's still probably the case that in a first-past-the-post election, what is bad for the Tories must be good for Labour. Jeremy Corbyn would much rather win an election this year with 30% of the vote than wait three years and lose an election with 40% of the vote. So I presume Labour would still try to trigger a general election if the chance arose to do that - and of course this result makes the parliamentary arithmetic slightly more promising for them. When it first became clear that this by-election was likely to take place, the Tories were ahead in the national polls, and it seemed obvious that they would gain a seat which they had only narrowly lost in 2017 to a Labour candidate who had since been forced out in disgrace. That bonus seat would have slightly shored up the government's position, but as it is they remain highly vulnerable to defeat on a motion of no confidence if a small number of Remain-supporting Tory MPs make a last-ditch attempt to stop No Deal.
Tonight's result is slightly reminiscent of the landmark Darlington by-election in 1983, in the sense of the leading opposition party unexpectedly fighting a successful rearguard defence against an insurgent party. The difference is that the upstart party that fell short in 1983 was a centre-left outfit that was a mortal threat to Labour at a general election, whereas this time the defeated party is more of a threat to the Tories. There have been some suggestions that Farage's loss relieves the pressure on the Tories to push for No Deal, because they no longer have to be quite so concerned about the Brexit Party threat at the general election...but anything more than a cursory glance at the result tells the opposite tale. The Tory narrative will now move on from "if we don't go for No Deal, we'll lose most of our seats to the Brexit Party" to "if we don't go for No Deal, we'll lose half of our votes to the Brexit Party, and Labour will win the election by default". That said, Farage has missed a golden opportunity to build further momentum that could have pushed the Brexit Party into a clearer lead in national polls - and that would have made No Deal even more likely.
Jeremy Corbyn's critics obviously miscalculated yet again by talking up a leadership crisis in expectation that Labour would lose tonight. Instead, the chances that Corbyn will lead Labour into the general election (which were already very high) have strengthened further. Whether that's good news or bad news for the SNP and the Yes movement is almost impossible to tell - it just depends on which Jeremy Corbyn turns up at the election. The Corbyn factor undoubtedly worked in our favour at the Holyrood election in 2016, but against us at the Westminster election a year later.
Peterborough by-election result:
Labour 30.9% (-17.2)
Brexit Party 28.9% (n/a)
Conservatives 21.4% (-25.5)
Liberal Democrats 12.3% (+8.9)
Greens 3.1% (+1.3)
UKIP 1.2% (n/a)
Chirstian Peoples Alliance 0.5% (n/a)
English Democrats 0.5% (n/a)
SDP 0.4% (n/a)
Monster Raving Loony Party 0.3% (n/a)
Independent 0.3% (n/a)
Common Good 0.2% (n/a)
Renew 0.1% (n/a)
UK EU 0.1% (n/a)
Independent 0.0% (n/a)
Swing from Conservatives to Brexit Party: 27.2%
Swing from Labour to Brexit Party: 23.1%
For some reason the BBC reported the Labour-to-Brexit swing as being around 8%, but that figure was miles out.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 8 of the fundraiser, and so far £5488 has been raised. That's 65% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
It's that time of the year again when I ask for your help as I continue to write about Scottish politics. If the fundraiser succeeds, the likelihood is that I'll continue to write on this blog, although I always try to keep open a bit of flexibility just in case I end up writing on another website, or perhaps even following the lead of other bloggers by self-publishing a book. (But if my circumstances change completely and I'm unable to continue writing about politics at all, at that stage I would pass the remaining funds on to other pro-indy causes.)
So what is Scot Goes Pop? It's one of the most-read and also one of the oldest pro-independence websites in Scotland. It began way back in 2008, but gained in popularity in 2013 when I launched the Scot Goes Pop Poll of Polls for voting intentions in the independence referendum. I had become quite cynical about the way anti-independence newspapers repeatedly seized on individual No-friendly polls as 'proof' that the campaign was supposedly over before it had even started. The intention was clearly to sap the morale of Yes campaigners. The Poll of Polls was a useful corrective, helping to put unfavourable polls in their proper context by comparing them to the average numbers across all polling firms, and emphasising the high degree of uncertainty about the true state of public opinion.
In the run-up to the 2015 general election, Scot Goes Pop picked up on the extraordinary SNP surge several weeks earlier than the mainstream media, mostly because I wasn't dogmatic enough to ignore the consistent and unambiguous message being sent by the Scottish subsamples of Britain-wide polls. And then as the 2016 Holyrood election approached, I warned that the SNP were in danger of losing their overall majority at a time when other voices were insisting that a majority was a foregone conclusion, and that the SNP didn't need any list votes at all.
With yet another Westminster general election potentially in the offing now, and as preparations continue for a possible second independence referendum, I hope to continue with the blog's unique coverage of the polling situation from a pro-indy perspective. To get a better idea of what Scot Goes Pop is all about, please watch this short promo film that I made with Phantom Power last year.
The latest figures from the Traffic Estimate site suggest that Scot Goes Pop has received 62,200 unique visitors over the last 30 days (as of 31st May 2019), making it the fourth most popular alternative media site in Scotland. Not bad for a one-person operation!
There's often a misconception that the purpose of a fundraiser such as this is to cover "running costs". In fact, there are no running costs for Scot Goes Pop, because it uses a free blogging platform. There are, however, a few miscellaneous (and usually small) expenses that crop up as an indirect result of the blog. To give a couple of examples: last year I was asked to speak at the Hands Off Our Parliament rally at Holyrood, which obviously meant paying a train fare to Edinburgh, and in 2016 I was asked to invest in a decent microphone to improve the sound quality of an Independence Live debate I participated in with Tommy Sheridan. The fundraiser can help cover expenses of that type, but the main purpose is simply to help me keep body and soul together while I'm writing.
I should stress for the benefit of any passing trolls that the fundraisers are not my sole source of income, and I'm relieved to say that I even do some work that has nothing to do with either politics or writing. But long-term readers will know that I post frequently and at length during particularly busy periods, such as general election and referendum campaigns. During those brief spells, the level of commitment required almost approaches that of a full-time job. At other times it can be like a very time-consuming part-time job. I'm also sometimes asked to write articles for other publications - for example, until a year or two back I was a pro-independence columnist for both the International Business Times and the Talk Radio website. Those articles were often requested at extremely short notice and I ended up writing them in a variety of weird and wonderful settings and circumstances. It simply wouldn't be possible to do that if I was also trying to hold down a 9-5 job. The fundraisers give me the flexibility to drop everything and write as and when required (most obviously when an opinion poll is published).
As you may know, there have been other spin-offs from the blog's success. I currently have a monthly column in iScot magazine, and I've also written for publications such as The National, the Sunday National, Fair Observer, National Collective, and even the Eurovision Times! Many of the IBTimes articles were syndicated on Yahoo, sometimes reaching huge audiences. I've been interviewed on BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 5 Live, CTV News (Canada), the Bauer radio network, Radio Sputnik, and numerous alternative media podcasts, films and live-streams.
As always, please don't feel under any pressure to make a donation. Scot Goes Pop isn't a newspaper or a magazine - it's a blog, and there's absolutely no charge for reading it. The option to donate is there if you want to, but it's only an option. And, of course, if you have a spare minute or two you can always pass on the word to others - every tweet or Facebook share helps enormously!
Click here if you'd like to donate.
The voters that transiently flirted with Change UK seem to be mostly coalescing behind the Liberal Democrats now. That's less optimal for the SNP, because the Lib Dems are much more of a seat-winning threat at a general election than Change UK would have been. But everything is relative - better to see the Lib Dems prosper at a modest level than to have Labour emerge as the Britain-wide party of Remain and enjoy a bandwagon effect that could sweep away the SNP's seats in the central belt. And in any case, there's not much point mourning one missed opportunity to split the unionist vote when another has come along right on cue. As long as the general election takes place before Britain leaves the EU, Nigel Farage's new party looks set to deal a killer blow to Scottish Tory hopes.
It's less clear whether the Brexit Party threat to the Tories would fade away if the election takes place after Brexit, but that's certainly a possibility. Paradoxically, though, any Lib Dem threat to the SNP might also be neutralised by Brexit being delivered, because it's very hard to see how the Lib Dems would adapt to the new environment. Vince Cable has already said that it wouldn't be credible for Britain to apply to rejoin the EU in the foreseeable future, which would effectively leave the party fighting for a softer Brexit - an objective unlikely to capture the public imagination in quite the same way as "B******* to Brexit". The SNP, by contrast, would still be able to speak to the Remain true believers by promising that an independent Scotland will be a full member of the EU.
At the moment, it looks like the Brexit Party pose a much bigger danger to the Scottish Tories than the Lib Dems do to the SNP, so on balance it would probably be better for the SNP if an election takes place before Halloween.
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The break-up of Change UK yesterday was eerily reminiscent of the last days of the SDP in 1987-88. From my vague recollection of something I once read in a book, the fracturing of the SDP was completely unnecessary, because although there was a clear majority in favour of a merger with the Liberals, there was also a clause in the party constitution that would have allowed David Owen to prevent the merger taking place by means of a blocking minority. But he waived his right to do that, because he actually wanted a split. He wanted to be free of the pro-Liberal faction that he was sick to death of dealing with, even though following that course clearly posed an existential threat to his political cause. Change UK seem to have reached the same point - they just couldn't be bothered thrashing out a compromise that nobody would have been happy with but ultimately would have been in the best interests of all concerned.
It seems to be the case that some of the Change UK MPs wanted to throw in their lot with the Lib Dems, some wanted to carry on with their own party, and some wanted to leave behind party politics altogether. The obvious compromise between those three positions would have been to persevere with Change UK as an independent force, but negotiate an electoral pact with the Lib Dems. And I'm not sure it's true that the Lib Dems would no longer have been interested after the European election result, because Change UK would still have brought eleven MPs to the table, including some bigger personalities than the Lib Dems have in their own ranks.
One thing we know for sure now is that Nigel Farage would beat Chuka Umunna in a game of chess. Farage thought several moves ahead and timed the Brexit Party's entry onto the electoral stage to perfection. Change UK's timing couldn't have been worse. They'd probably point out that they didn't see the European elections coming - well, OK, but Farage did, and in any case it was the local elections a few weeks earlier that generated the Lib Dem momentum and snuffed out Change UK's chances of a breakthrough. The split from Labour should either have taken place early enough to allow for participation in the local elections, or it should have been delayed for several months until the elections were safely out of the way. By that point, they could have used their own novelty value to combat the Lib Dem surge.
I of course derive no satisfaction whatever from the fact that the loathsome Chris Leslie and Mike Gapes don't seem to realise that the decision they've just made to soldier on in a rump fringe party means that their parliamentary careers are drawing inexorably to a close.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 6 of the fundraiser, and so far £3575 has been raised. That's 42% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Saturday, June 1, 2019
We've got to get out of this place: UK on course to elect Farage as Prime Minister, says Opinium poll
Britain-wide voting intentions for Westminster (Opinium):
Brexit Party 26% (+1)
Labour 22% (-4)
Conservatives 17% (-5)
Liberal Democrats 16% (+4)
Greens 11% (+7)
SNP 4% (n/c)
Plaid Cymru 1% (n/c)
Change UK 1% (-1)
UKIP 1% (-1)
It's no great surprise that it's the Brexit Party rather than the Liberal Democrats that have the lead in this poll, because the Lib Dem lead in the YouGov poll the other night was wafer-thin and was reported by a pollster that had recently been producing much more favourable numbers for the Lib Dems than other polling firms. But what is a surprise is that the Lib Dems are languishing in fourth place, and appear to have got less of a boost from the Euro election result than the Greens. And what may go unnoticed due to the impact of an outright Farage lead is that the Brexit Party themselves are only 1% up - a counterintuitive finding given that the Tories are 5% down.
When things are in such a state of flux, opinion poll results themselves can help to generate momentum and thus affect future polling, and from that point of view it's worth remembering that the Opinium fieldwork preceded the publication of the YouGov poll. So perhaps there's a secondary Lib Dem boost that Opinium haven't been able to pick up yet.
In case you're consoling yourself with the thought that Brexit Party support is too evenly-spread for first-past-the-post and that Farage wouldn't be able to become Prime Minister on 26% of the vote, the seat projection from Electoral Calculus based on this poll tells a grimmer tale. The Brexit Party would be just 20 seats short of an overall majority, and with the Tories holding on to 26 seats, there would be no realistic majority for any government other than a Farage-led government. That said, I'm not sure what assumptions Electoral Calculus are making about the geographical distribution of support for the Brexit Party, which is, after all, a party that only received its first ever votes just over a week ago.
Nigel Farage has taken out an each-way bet with his Brexit Party adventure - he can either win directly by becoming Prime Minister, or he can win indirectly by spooking the Tories into embracing No Deal. It's becoming increasingly hard to see how he can possibly lose.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 2 of the fundraiser, and so far £2684 has been raised. That's 32% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Historic YouGov poll puts the Tories and Labour in third and fourth place in Britain-wide voting intentions for Westminster
Britain-wide voting intentions for Westminster (YouGov):
Liberal Democrats 24% (+6)
Brexit Party 22% (+4)
Conservatives 19% (-5)
Labour 19% (-5)
Greens 8% (+2)
SNP / Plaid Cymru 6% (+1)
Change UK 1% (-1)
UKIP 1% (-1)
Scottish subsample: SNP 44%, Conservatives 19%, Labour 12%, Liberal Democrats 11%, Brexit Party 7%, Greens 6%, Change UK 1%, UKIP 1%
What remains to be seen is whether the Lib Dem and Brexit Party surges are the real deal, or whether they're Cleggasm-type effects that will ebb away once memories of the Euro election fade. But if by any chance things carry on like this, the SNP could be in a with a golden opportunity of cleaning up at the next general election, because for the first time ever they won't have to deal with the perception that people need to vote for a Labour government as the only alternative to the Tories. Instead, they'll quite reasonably be able to point out that a vote for the SNP is the only credible way in Scotland of helping to stop Farage.
The one possible fly in the ointment, as I suggested the other day, is that it looks likely that the next Lib Dem leader will be a Scot. But even if the Scottish Lib Dems do get some sort of Swinson boost, and even if they feed off the UK bandwagon effect, they can only realistically hope to win in a relatively small minority of constituencies. There are huge swathes of Scotland where the SNP are the only conceivable beneficiaries of a Tory and Labour collapse.