Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Memo to the Daily Record: you cannot say "this election is not about independence" just 24 hours after your own political editor angrily insisted that Westminster elections are the ONLY elections in which anyone is allowed to vote for independence. That is a direct and total contradiction, and you are treating your readers like idiots.

On one of the previous threads, someone posted about focus group findings suggesting that voters who were swithering between the SNP and Labour were most concerned about whether it was better to bolster Labour's majority and have Scottish MPs from the governing party, or whether it was best to have SNP MPs as an independent Scottish voice in the House of Commons.  I found that encouraging in a way because it strongly implies that nobody buys into the line that Labour are at risk of not winning in England and that Scottish votes might be decisive and that "this is an opportunity that Scotland can't afford to miss" and all the rest of the standard Sarwar guff.  But clearly the Daily Record, the most contemptible newspaper on the planet (a view I've consistently held since before I even started blogging in 2008), still think trying to treat Scottish voters like idiots in that way is a promising strategy, and in their front page endorsement of Labour have basically instructed the Jocks to "eat your cereal, stop thinking about independence and give the Tories a kicking".  As a visual aid for this Orwellian-style "two minutes hate", a rogue's gallery of Tories with demon eyes is presented so you can see who you're supposed to be kicking.  And what makes this truly Orwellian, of course, is that the real motivation for the endorsement of Labour is the Record editorial team's undying hatred of the SNP and burning desire to see the SNP defeated and humiliated.  They don't give a monkey's about the Tories and could quite happily tolerate living under Tory rule - as they proved in 2014 by helpfully arranging another ten years  of Tory rule by backing the No campaign in the independence referendum with the fraudulent "Vow".

In their tweet tonight, the Record claim that it's been fourteen years since they last backed Labour.  Anyone who follows their output may reasonably conclude that they've kept their supposed non-support for Labour over the last fourteen years exceptionally well-hidden.  If they've refrained from making an official editorial endorsement during that time, it was only due to a worry over sales, because they knew that many of their readers had become passionately pro-independence and pro-SNP during the indyref campaign and would probably instantly walk with their feet if the Record reverted to the explicit "be a sheep, baa-aa, vote Labour" stuff.  The editorial team have been gagging for the earliest possible moment that they could get away with resuming normal service, and they think they've found it - but you can tell they're not quite sure and are nervous they may be miscalculating and jumping the gun.  The giveaway is that the opening words of the endorsement are "this election is not about independence", imploring independence supporters to absurdly believe that they can somehow take a holiday from what they believe in and can vote against independence by voting Labour without that having any actual effect or consequence.

But wait - is this election really not about independence?  How can that be, given that only yesterday the Record's political editor Paul Hutcheon told us that John Swinney has no credibility in claiming a mandate for an independence referendum from the Holyrood election of 2021, because the Supreme Court had "ruled unequivocally a referendum is a matter for Westminster, not Holyrood".  In other words, he is not just saying that Westminster elections are about independence, but that Westminster elections are the ONLY elections that are about independence.  According to Hutcheon, you are literally NOT ALLOWED to vote for independence or for a referendum on independence in any other type of election - you have to do it in a Westminster general election, because that's your one and only shot.  If you're an independence supporter, Hutcheon is telling you that when a general election comes up, by Christ you do not muck around - you clear your diaries and use that election for the purpose God has ordained, namely to express your view on whether Scotland should be an independent country.

So the Daily Record is factually wrong to tell its readers that this election is not about independence, and we have that on the Highest Authority imaginable - no, not God, someone far more senior, it's Mr Paul Hutcheon, political editor of the Daily Record.  Congratulations, chaps, you managed to pre-contradict the entire thrust of your logic for endorsing Labour.  That takes some talent, and we salute you.

(And yes, we know what the get-out clause will be - although general elections can be about independence, not all of them are, and this is one of the exceptions.  You can tell it's one of the exceptions because the Daily Record says it is.  Don't even bother to try to think for yourselves, guys - you are sheep and that's why the Record exists.  If you're ever allowed to vote for independence, the Record will inform you in plenty of time.  However, don't wait up for that, because the Record have decided you will never be allowed to vote for independence.  They just haven't told you yet.)

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I've been continuing to write constituency profiles for The National, and here are the links for Glasgow South, Glasgow North East, Glenrothes & Mid Fife, and Gordon & Buchan.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Two more constituency previews

No polls today as far as I can see, and no decent football results either, but I can at least offer you two more constituency profiles that I've written for The National. Glasgow South West is HERE and Glasgow West is HERE.

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Although it's too late to register to vote, it's not too late to make sure that people who are registered also have the correct form of photo ID ready for 4th July.  If you know any independence supporter who may not have a passport or a photo driving licence, send them HERE to check if they have another type of acceptable photo ID, and if turns out they don't, send them HERE before the deadline of 5pm on Wednesday to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate.

Would the SNP be in a better or worse position in the polls if Humza Yousaf was still leader?

Given that it's the penultimate weekend of the election campaign, I'm more than a bit surprised that there's no sign of any full-scale Scottish polls in the Sunday papers yet, although admittedly sometimes it becomes clear by mid-morning on a Sunday that there is one but it hadn't percolated through to social media overnight.  So we'll see, but I've had a look at the Scottish subsamples from the most recent GB polls, and it's the familiar pattern - the SNP vote seems to be resilient, but Labour's modest lead is stubbornly still there.

Which raises an interesting question - what would be happening now if John Swinney hadn't replaced Humza Yousaf?  It wasn't until after Yousaf stepped down that Labour really opened up some clear water, so it's reasonable to ask the question of whether the SNP would currently be polling better if he was still in harness - not because he was popular, but because the trauma of a leadership change does seem to have negatively affected the party's popularity.

Well, one thing's for sure - if Yousaf had dumped the Greens from government and then somehow clung to power, the SNP would be in a much worse position than they are now.  His personal ratings had always been low, but they still fell off a cliff after his strategic misjudgement, and if he had ploughed on into this campaign the SNP could have been facing something close to a wipeout by this point.  

So the only meaningful question is whether the situation would have been better if Yousaf was still there without having ditched the Greens.  That's much more difficult to say, but for what it's worth every instinct in my body suggests that even if the SNP had started the formal campaign period roughly level with Labour, they would then have gone backwards over the course of the campaign because Yousaf's unsuitability as leader would have made itself felt.  He probably would have been quite gaffe-prone on the campaign trail, and I think in particular the Question Time format the other night would have been ghastly for him.  It's the kind of setting where in the past he's come across as arrogant and really put people off.

It'll always be impossible to prove, but my guess is that the SNP are in a stronger position to face this election due to the leadership change, however intuitively unlikely that may seem.

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Last night, I decided to take a whole evening off from writing constituency profiles and blogging, and I went to see the midnight cinema showing of the Doctor Who season finale.  In a way it was quite an odd thing to do, as I hadn't actually seen any of the season until then.  I found myself stepping from one of my home universes into another, because suddenly I wasn't surrounded by chatter about "Grangemouth" and "women won't wheesht" and "notional majorities" and instead it was "Big Finish audios" and "sonic screwdrivers" and "jeezo, I draw the line at Time And The Rani".  Oh, and there was a much higher percentage of people with blue hair than at an average Alba branch meeting.

My latest two constituency profiles for The National are Glasgow North East and Glasgow South - they don't seem to be on the main part of the website, but they were in the print edition, which means you can find them in the digital edition if you're a subscriber.

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Although it's too late to register to vote, it's not too late to make sure that people who are registered also have the correct form of photo ID ready for 4th July.  If you know any independence supporter who may not have a passport or a photo driving licence, send them HERE to check if they have another type of acceptable photo ID, and if turns out they don't, send them HERE before the deadline of 5pm on Wednesday to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate.

Friday, June 21, 2024

If you have a postal vote, please vote, and please vote for a pro-independence party

Postal votes are apparently dropping, so I just want to take this opportunity to reiterate that if you're an independence supporter, spoiling your ballot or voting for a unionist party would be a monumentally foolish thing to do.  Please vote, and please vote for a pro-independence party.  If the polls are right (and they're not always right, but they're the only guide we have), the election is going to be very close in Scotland between Labour and the SNP.  With the right result, we could keep the flame of independence burning bright. But the wrong result would be a generational 1979-style setback that could remove independence from the agenda for the foreseeable future.

We need the SNP to retain as many seats as possible.  Ideally we need them to beat Labour in the popular vote, and if they don't, we need them to get as close to Labour as possible.  And if you don't want to vote SNP, remember Alba are an option in one-third of constituencies.  But if Alba aren't standing in your seat, and if you don't want to vote Green either, I urge you to vote SNP anyway.

There is no way of "repurposing your ballot for independence" by spoiling it, in spite of what a certain gentleman would have you believe.  A spoilt ballot is a spoilt ballot.  It will be recorded as a spoilt ballot and as absolutely nothing else.  The only way to purpose a vote for independence is to vote for a pro-independence party.

Believe me, you'll miss that pro-independence majority when it's gone.

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I've previewed the constituency races in Glasgow East and Glasgow North for The National - you can read the articles HERE and HERE.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

SNP hold steady in Savanta poll - and the polls showing Reform UK in second place across Britain no longer look like outliers

Again, although this is not great news, the fact that the SNP are not going backwards is reassuring to an extent because Westminster elections are really tough 'away fixtures', and even a few points behind Labour there's a decent chance of retaining a respectable number of seats - although admittedly it's also dangerously close to a tipping point where the electoral system might start to really punish them and reduce them to single digits.

Scottish voting intentions for the UK general election (Savanta):

Labour 38% (+1)
SNP 33% (-)
Conservatives 15% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-)

The seats projection has the SNP on seventeen seats, which is almost like a halfway house - it's much worse than anything the SNP have had since 2015, but it's also much better than anything they had prior to 2015, including even in 1974-79.  It would be their fourth best general election result in history, both in terms of seats and popular vote share.

Meanwhile, the latest batch of GB-wide polls is pretty remarkable.  One has Reform UK nine points clear of the Conservatives, and most of the others have Reform UK and the Tories within a couple of points of each other.  Only one (from the relatively untested More in Common) has the Tories in a comfortable second place.  I'm not convinced there's going to be a swingback to conveniently get the Tories off the hook here - there's now a very real chance they could finish in third place in the popular vote behind Reform UK, and also in third place in terms of seats, most likely behind the Liberal Democrats.  Oh, the Starmer v Davey encounters at PMQs will be so thrilling.

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I've previewed the constituency races in Edinburgh West and Falkirk for The National - you can read the articles HERE and HERE.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Another polling boost for the SNP as YouGov MRP update shows them gaining ground

Although the progress the SNP have made in this update is modest (they've improved from seventeen seats to twenty), I'm nevertheless reassured by it, because with the fieldwork being fairly up-to-date it's a good indicator that the momentum hasn't been against the SNP in this campaign.  There were one or two little straws in the wind that had started to worry me.

YouGov MRP seats projection for Great Britain:

Labour 425
Conservatives 108
Liberal Democrats 67
SNP 20
Reform UK 5
Plaid Cymru 4
Greens 2

Remember that the target for the SNP to retain a majority of Scottish seats is 29, and they're doing just about well enough to remain on the fringes of contention for that.  The upper bound of the projection is 34 seats, much higher than the upper bound of 23 in yesterday's Ipsos MRP.

More to follow...

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I've previewed the constituency races in four of the Edinburgh seats for The National.  I can't find them in the main part of the website, but they were in the print edition and are thus available in the digital edition if you're a subscriber.  I wrote too much for the Edinburgh South piece and had to cut out an entire paragraph, so I'll give it to you here as a sort of 'DVD extra' - 

"In fairness to Murray, being the beneficiary of tactical voting is not completely down to luck.  In some respects, Edinburgh South closely resembles East Renfrewshire - another affluent constituency which is both disproportionately anti-independence and anti-Brexit.  Indeed, Edinburgh South actually outstrips East Renfrewshire on the anti-Brexit front due to having voted Remain in the 2016 referendum by a margin of 78% to 22%, making it the ninth most pro-European constituency in the whole UK.  But in East Renfrewshire, Labour's bid for tactical anti-SNP votes had completely flopped in 2017, allowing the SNP to remain one of the two largest parties alongside the Tories and thus ideally positioned to pitch for pro-EU votes in 2019.  In contrast, Labour's far superior organisation in Edinburgh South left Murray able to tell voters in 2019 that they didn't need to choose between tactically voting against a hard Brexit and tactically voting against independence - they could do both by voting for him."

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

SNP just three points behind in Ipsos MRP poll

The first Ipsos MRP projection of the campaign is out.  It puts the SNP on 15 seats, which is at the lower end of projections from other firms, but there are some silver linings.  The range for the SNP is between 13 and 23 seats, so the central estimate is closer to the floor than to the ceiling. Additionally there are popular vote figures given for Scotland which are better for the SNP than quite a few of the online polls in this campaign.  And although the fieldwork isn't bang up to date, it's more recent than any poll we've seen apart from the Norstat one.

Labour 36%
SNP 33%
Conservatives 13%
Liberal Democrats 8%
Reform UK 5%
Greens 3%

Note that the fieldwork seems to have been conducted among the Ipsos online panel, so these numbers aren't directly comparable to the Ipsos telephone poll which had the SNP level with Labour.

A couple of other interesting points: Ipsos make clear that MRP projections are less reliable in Scotland than in England due to the gaps in Scottish census data, and the official SNP candidate is projected to be well ahead in the Western Isles even though Ipsos took the special measure of prompting for Angus MacNeil by name.

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Today is the deadline for registering to vote in the general election.  If you know any independence supporter who is not registered to vote yet, please send them HERE before midnight.

Fresh despair for Starmer as Labour's vote in Scotland SLUMPS, and support for independence SOARS to 47%

As I said yesterday, I'm a bit concerned by the number of GB-wide polls in recent days that have shown the SNP on only 2% of the vote (3% or 4% would normally be a sign that they're doing OK).  There's another one like that today.  And the latest full-scale Scottish poll from YouGov, even though it shows the Labour lead over the SNP has more than halved, does not really allay those concerns because the fieldwork is weirdly 11+ days out of date, an absolute eternity in the context of a general election campaign.  I would be interested to know what the reason for that is - did a client ask them to hold the results back for a bit?  If so, what might the agenda have been?

Scottish voting intentions for the UK general election (YouGov, 3rd-7th June 2024):

Labour 34% (-5)
SNP 30% (+1)
Conservatives 13% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-)
Reform UK 7% (+3)
Greens 6% (-1)

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 47% (+2)
No 53% (-2)

Incidentally, I was asked last night whether there was a poll showing Alba on 5% of the Holyrood list vote.  That was easy because I had already blogged about it - it was the Norstat poll that also showed Alba on 2% of the Westminster vote, down one point on the previous poll.  But this gives me an opportunity to make an important point which I think is too easily overlooked.  Norstat is the successor to Panelbase, and appears to use exactly the same methodology.  In the 2021 Holyrood election campaign, Panelbase was more favourable to Alba than any other polling firm, and often showed them as high as 6% on the list.  Because Norstat weight their results by Westminster recalled vote and not by Holyrood recalled vote, it seems very unlikely that whatever the methodological error was in 2021 has been corrected.  That means when they show Alba on 5%, it may imply that Alba are actually on roughly the same level of support as in 2021, ie. around 2%, which is not enough to win seats.

Don't shoot the messenger here, but when I was on the Alba NEC in 2021-22, I repeatedly made the point that the worst thing the party could do was squint at polls and local election results and try to convince itself that it was already on course to win list seats when it quite plainly wasn't.  Only with a proper sense of realism about the task before us will we have any chance of breaking through in 2026.

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Today is the deadline for registering to vote in the general election.  If you know any independence supporter who is not registered to vote yet, please send them HERE before midnight.

Some important information for voters: "Best For Britain" are lying to you. They're lying to you because they're a British Nationalist front organisation who want to stop Scotland from being able to choose its own governments. They don't care *how* they keep Scotland under the thumb, and if lying to voters is what it takes, they think it's fine to do that. Hold them accountable for lying to you.

Probably like a lot of you, I tend to subconsciously use my family and friends as barometers of what is going on in the heads of the electorate at large.  With that in mind, I was rather alarmed that someone asked me just after the election was called whether she was allowed to vote SNP in a UK general election - not whether it was a good idea, but whether it was even possible, because clearly the media or the Labour party or someone had been feeding her the idea that Westminster elections are straight choices between Tory and Labour.  And this is not somebody who was voting in a general election for the first time - in fact I'm fairly sure she's voted for the SNP in multiple general elections in the past, and yet she'd still half-forgotten that the SNP are an option on the ballot paper.  So that's a useful reminder that some of the misleading propaganda out there is so effective that it's worth making sure that people you know are aware of the basics.

When I spoke to her again about ten days ago, she seemed to be much more aware of the range of options at the election, but had developed a nagging worry that she might need to vote Labour if she wants to get the Tory government out, again presumably because that was what she had been told by the media or by Labour themselves.  No, I explained, we live in the Cumbernauld and Kirkintilloch constituency, which is a straightforward SNP-Labour battleground where the Tories don't even come into it.  But, she persisted, isn't Labour the better choice for getting rid of the Tories?  I shrugged and reiterated that the Tories aren't going to win Cumbernauld and Kirkintilloch!  She started to say "but" again, but then seemed to accept the inescapability of the logic.  I could tell, though, that she still had the nagging thought that there must be more to it than that, and that somehow electing a Labour MP must "get rid of the Tories" in a way that electing an SNP MP does not.

But of course it doesn't.  That's simply not the way the system works, as any constitutional expert will tell you.  In the UK the parliament is elected and the government is appointed - the King appoints the Prime Minister and then the Prime Minister appoints other ministers.  But the King has to act in accordance with constitutional convention, which states that he can only appoint a Prime Minister who commands the confidence of the House of Commons.  Not the leader of the largest single party, so there's no horse race between Labour and the Tories to win the greatest number of seats.  If the majority of MPs don't want a Tory government, the King can't appoint one, and it really is as simple as that.  Both Labour and the SNP are opposed to a Tory government, so electing a Labour MP or an SNP MP has exactly the same effect - you're voting against a Tory government.  

That means, by extension, that it's only possible to vote tactically against the Tories in seats where the Tories are actually in contention - and in the minority of Scottish seats where that's the case, it just so happens that the SNP are the Tories' main opposition, and the SNP would thus be the tactical anti-Tory choice.  But everywhere else in Scotland, it's literally impossible to vote tactically against the Tories, because they're not going to win anyway.  All you can do is decide whether you'd rather be represented in parliament by an SNP or Labour (or in some cases Liberal Democrat) MP.

A real world example may help to illustrate the point. This is the result of the 1923 election in terms of seats - 

Conservatives 258
Labour 191
Liberals 158
Others 8

If you believe the present-day propaganda, that result would have meant that the Conservatives had won the horse race with Labour, and that Liberal voters had "let the Tories back in" by not voting Labour. But nope. The King couldn't appoint a Tory government, because neither Labour nor the Liberals would accept that, and between them those two parties outnumbered the Tories by miles.  Instead, the King appointed a Labour government under Ramsay MacDonald with Liberal support.

Now, I entirely understand that it's in the cynical self-interest of Labour candidates to mislead voters into misunderstanding all of this.  But deceiving voters should be no part of the role of a "non-party", "pro-European" organisation purporting to be offering voters an "objective" guide to "tactical voting".  

And yet in one of the most disreputable stunts ever seen in a general election, "Best For Britain" have deliberately coordinated with the Labour party to try to con voters in SNP-Labour marginal seats into thinking it's somehow possible to "vote tactically against the Tories" by voting Labour. Yesterday, Labour candidates in Scotland were queueing up on social media to claim that Best For Britain had objectively determined that a vote for Labour in their constituency was the only tactical way of kicking out the Tories. But if you read the small print on the Best For Britain website (extraordinarily difficult to find), it's openly admitted that the opposite is true, that it's not possible to vote tactically against the Tories in SNP-Labour marginals, and that a Labour vote in those seats is only being recommended because the people involved in Best For Britain just personally think Scotland would be better off being represented by Labour MPs (because they are British Nationalists who oppose Scottish independence). Well, that's an interesting pro-Labour view that you can validly put to voters if you want to go out door-knocking for the Labour party, but it quite plainly has got absolutely nothing whatever to do with an "objective tactical voting guide" and you shouldn't be outrageously lying to voters by pretending that it does.

Best For Britain have just outed themseves as the polar opposite of what they have purported to be. They are not a pro-European, cross-party organisation.  They are instead a front for a single pro-Brexit party, ie. Keir Starmer's Labour party.  They should be held accountable for what amounts to an attempt to rig a general election by deception, and I urge all voters to hold them to account.

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Today is the deadline for registering to vote in the general election.  If you know any independence supporter who is not registered to vote yet, please send them HERE before midnight.

Monday, June 17, 2024

GB-wide Redfield & Wilton poll shows Reform UK level with the Tories in joint second place

The latest batch of GB-wide polls don't really confirm the impression of a few days ago that Labour were slipping back.  The new Deltapoll survey has Labour steady at 46%, while Redfield & Wilton have them up one point to 43%.  However, two of the new polls do show a very tight race between the Conservatives and Reform UK for second place, and Redfield & Wilton actually have the two parties level - 

Labour 43%
Reform UK 18%
Conservatives 18%
Liberal Democrats 12%
Greens 5%
SNP 3%
Plaid Cymru 1%

I've been just a touch concerned about the relatively high proportion of GB-wide polls over the last few days that have had the SNP on only 2%.  Obviously no individual Scottish subsample is worth much, but when it starts to become a pattern you have to wonder.  But we'll see what the next full-scale Scottish poll brings. (And of course yesterday's Norstat full-scale poll had fairly recent fieldwork and showed the SNP going slightly up, rather than down.)