Monday, March 4, 2019

Could Scottish Labour be heading towards a total wipeout at Westminster?

This has only just occurred to me, but it should have occurred to me a couple of weeks ago.  What do we know, or think we know, about the seven Scottish Labour seats at Westminster?  That six of them would be under severe threat if there is a swing to the SNP at the next general election, but that the seventh (Ian Murray's constituency of Edinburgh South) is absolutely rock-solid in almost all circumstances.  But, as it happens, Ian Murray is also the only one of the seven MPs to have been dropping hints about the possibility of defecting to the Independent Group.  And it's not even irrational for him to have done so.  For almost any other Labour elected representative in Scotland, it would be electoral suicide to join TIG, because the traditional Labour vote would not follow them across.  But Murray doesn't primarily owe his position to the traditional Labour vote, but rather to industrial-scale anti-SNP tactical voting, and those voters would in all likelihood see Murray under any party label as the best prospect for keeping the SNP out.  At the very least the odds would be against Labour holding Edinburgh South if Murray is standing against them - if we're being super-optimistic, there's a chance that he might split the unionist vote and let the SNP in through the middle, but more likely is that he'd retain the seat himself.

So if Murray defects, it could be a double-whammy - it would generate anti-Labour momentum that might make it even more likely that the other six seats will fall, while also depriving Labour of the one seat they thought they could bank on.  But even if they were completely wiped out in Westminster, would it actually matter in the long-run?  After all, the Scottish Tories were wiped out in 1997, but regained a toe-hold in 2001 and then eventually came back with a vengeance in 2017.  Perhaps the difference is that the Tory core vote had nowhere else to go (or nowhere credible) even when the game seemed to be up, whereas there are a great many alternative homes for hitherto committed Labour supporters - if they're pro-indy, there's the SNP, if they're socially liberal, there's the Lib Dems, if they're dogmatic unionists, there's the Tories, and if all else fails there's the Independent Group itself.  Voters might just take a signal from a wipeout in the Commons that would lead to a total and irreversible collapse of the Scottish Labour vote.  I'm not making a prediction, but it's a plausible possibility.

Having said all that, Murray might be given pause for thought by the latest Opinium poll including the Independent Group as an option on a standard voting intention question.  Opinium are the only polling firm to be taking that approach, and it's unsurprising that they're producing much lower numbers for the Independent Group than firms who ask hypothetical questions that make a song and dance of reminding respondents about the group's existence.

Britain-wide voting intentions including the Independent Group (Opinium):

Conservatives 37% (-3)
Labour 33% (+1)
UKIP 7% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+2)
Independent Group 5% (-1)
SNP 4% (n/c)
Greens 4% (n/c)
Plaid Cymru 1% (n/c)

Scottish subsample: SNP 44%, Labour 25%, Conservatives 23%, UKIP 3%, Greens 1%, Independent Group 1%, Liberal Democrats 1%

That's probably the most reliable guide we have to the Independent Group's true popularity at present, and it's not hard to see how it could deter further defections.  And yet, ironically, the only way the group are likely to improve their standing is by attracting a lot more defectors.

There's a famous quote attributed to Peter Hitchens that always does the rounds when an opinion poll that people don't like the results of is published: "Opinion polls are a device for influencing public opinion, not a device for measuring it.  Crack that, and it all makes sense."  Of course that's not true, or at least it's not the whole truth - opinion polling is a spectrum, with cynical American-style push-polling at one extreme, polls produced with the honest intention of discovering the current state of play at the other extreme, and all sorts of shades of grey in between.  But what we're living through at the moment is a clear-cut example of a scenario in which decisions made by pollsters and those who commission polls are likely to shape the outcome of future elections.  There's a clear incentive for those sympathetic to the Independent Group to downplay the credible Opinium results and instead commission (or talk up) more of the fantasy polls that purport to put their heroes in the teens or even higher.  As misleading as those polls are, they could prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy if they hoodwink potential defectors into thinking they would be joining a party that is already a going concern.

There's a sub-plot here, though, because Heidi Allen has told ITV in a new interview that the Independent Group are actually trying to discourage any more than two or three Tory MPs from defecting for the time being, because that would "destabilise the government".  As bonkers as that may sound, you can kind of see her point - even if a much-expanded Independent Group abstain on confidence motions, the likelihood is that a Conservative-DUP alliance without a working majority would not be able to plough on, and a snap election would see the Independent Group project snuffed out before it really got started.  And yet if the Independent Group limit their own critical mass in the Commons, they'll make a breakthrough less likely anyway.  It's a real Catch 22 for them - it's certainly hard to see how they'll overtake the SNP as the third largest group in the Commons without a decent number of Tory defectors.


  1. "It's a real Catch 22 for them - it's certainly hard to see how they'll overtake the SNP as the third largest group in the Commons without a decent number of Tory defectors."

    I can see a possible mass walk-out of Labour MPs suddenly swelling the ranks of TIG.

    1. Even based on the upper end of the rumours, there aren't quite enough potential Labour defectors. They'd need at least some Tories to overtake the SNP.

  2. There is clearly a real desperation in the Nat si movement. After brexit and the country moves on the Nat sis will have to move tact and do what they do best, find something else to moan about.

    1. "Move tact." That's got to be a deliberate error. That's just too good.

    2. I know James just being lazy. I have Cordelia here with me and she can suck the Brexit Rock.

    3. "Move tact" is good, but for devastating wit and creativity it's hard to beat "nat sis".

    4. 'Moves on'.

      I nearly weed myself reading that lol. Aye, and there's a unicorn in the field behind ma hoose.

      Even if England strikes some sort of deal, on the 30th March the trade negotiations begin. Those with the EU will take years and could be veto'd at any time by Ireland, resulting in a hard brexit.

      All this shite for the past 2 years has just been over the exit agreement. This is the super easiest bit as nobody has to give anything away. In the coming trade negotiations, both the UK and it's 27 neighbour block have to start making sacrifices / concessions to put together a deal. That means the UK giving away e.g. (Scots fisheries), allowing the EU to make some UK laws etc. It's that or a North Korea brexit.

      At the same time, to allow negotiation of these new deals with the EU and beyond, devolution will be effectively ended to give give the English government full control of Scots fishers, agriculture, health services etc.

      Sorry, GWC, but this has decades to run. Scots will end up voting for indy if simply because they want to take the super low risk option and live the quiet life.

    5. Glesga! There is clear desperation in the drivel you post You must lead such a sad life that all you can do is come on to this and spout utter garbage It must really gall on you that despite all of the media with the tools of the Westminster State and morons like you blethering pish the SNP are still by a country mile the dominant force in Scottish politics. Suck that, Clown!

  3. James,

    Do you have the percentage changes in the Scotland figures?



  4. People do understand that 'no deal' doesn't vanish on the 29th right? We either (1) crash out with that, which beggars the UK for an extended period before some type of deal is eventually reached, or (2) we enter protracted negotiations for years (a very optimistic two years 'transition' currently pencilled in) which could at any time result in no deal.

    The UK also need to start trade negotiations with other states. These should take many year due to much less existing alignment. They too can, after this period, result in 'No deal'. Remember TTIP? Many, many years went into that (dates back to 1995-2007 in earnest) and it never happened.

    If there is one thing you don't want when entering into trade deal negotiations, it's to need a deal quickly (that's the UK). You will be eaten alive. You'll be lucky to be left with your underwear by the time you are signing.

    1. It could be worse you could just be left with idiots like GWC and the other tool calling it'self Glesga unless of course they are the same Bitch!

    2. I think they're the same person. She goes under an array of other weird names depending on the amount of booze she's downed by any given time.

  5. Bloody nats...

    No, wait, hold on.

    Brexit: Scottish and Welsh parliaments hold simultaneous debates

    Scottish and Welsh politicians are joining forces in a bid to force the prime minister to change her position on Brexit.

    An identical motion will be debated simultaneously by the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly - with co-ordinated votes.

    It will underline opposition to Theresa May's deal, demand a delay to Brexit and call for "no deal" to be ruled out.

    So, will England just overrule Scotland and Wales? Must be 'England'. Can't be 'Britain', not if Scotland and Wales (and N. Ireland) are not on board.

  6. Dunno whether anyone hereabouts listens to 'The Lesley Riddoch' podcast or not?

    She had an interesting slant on post Brexit negotiations. She said, I paraphrase, that after Brexit took effect there would be nothing to stop either the EU or EFTA from opening discussions / negotiations / exploratory talks with Scotland. In her analysis (and mine I might add) it would make a fair degree of geopolitical sense.

    In other words, we might have friends out there that share economic and social ideas that are not too much apart.

    It seems a reasonable scenario to me. Thoughts?

    1. She's absolutely right. I've said this before.

      The basic rule of the EU is that it doesn't meddle in 'domestic' politics. It stayed out of the iref and the brexit ref. Catalans would actually be in an easier position if Spain left the EU.

      However, come brexit day, that all stops. UK is no longer a member. It gives up the right to have the EU stay out of its domestic matters.

      The UK voted to give the EU/EEA the right to negotiate directly and openly with Scotland if they want to. The 27 can freely say Scotland can join if it goes independent and when/how that can happen etc. We've already seen this in earnest post-brexit vote.

      But that's what brexiters wanted right? I mean they freely voted for it so they must want that? Just like they wanted to end their own free movement etc.

    2. Which is why, I might add, if you wanted to time an iref perfectly, you'd wait until the UK ‘legally’ left the EU (29th March), but was still in it ‘economically’ (transition) period. That way you can open negotiations with the EU/EEA to set up a deal for independence before people vote, but you are still 'in' the single market throughout. Ergo, you never really leave (not the single market anyway).
      Hold the vote before brexit day and the EU still has to keep quiet, quoting the standard rules, which the UK press distorts to ‘You won’t be able to join, so you might as well stick with brexit’.

      Now is absolutely not the fucking time. Not if you are unionist.

    3. Spain (and other EU states) are only luke warm about Scottish indy if the UK is a member. They don't want the EU readily facilitating the break up of member states.

      Once the UK isn't a member state, the latter don't give a shit any more. They can campaign for Scottish indy if it suits them.

      England is going to get a serious shock when it leaves. It's power on the global stage will be massively diminished overnight as it will no longer have 27+ mates standing beside it.

      But this is what brexiters like GWC wanted right? It's what they voted for. Everyone knew this (if they didn't, they should have maybe not been voting, instead letting those who understood the issues make the decision).

    4. I’ve just downloaded la Riddoch’s podcast to listen to. My water cooker informant suggested that LR was suggesting that she thought there is an active move towards a post departure invitation offer from both EU and efta to Scotland?
      If external parties such as these can in any way offer encouragement towards an independent Scotland’s future, I suspect we might possibly have a much smoother ride to getting the vote out, in much the way that labour support in 97 allowed lots of people to just agree, rather than agonise over a decision.

    5. Have you ever travelled into space un-accompanied?

  7. The TIG shouldn't even be included in these polls until such time as it registers as a proper political party, and declares its financial backers.

    Otherwise why not poll the hypothetical levels of support of other 'might become a party' groups too?

  8. 'GWC' - North Of Ireland tout, horsed out by his brethren, as a informer.

    Bedded in loyalist west-central Scotland, at the behest of his handlers, hence, the lack of recrimination for his awful comments.

    1. Doubtful. Cordelia's too gobby and booze-filled to ever pass for a successful informer. What it really is, is some meek, miserable wee guy whose only outlet is spending half its time on here, screaming obscenities.