Sunday, November 1, 2009

'Game over', take 43?

My old sparring partner from, the Aberdeenshire Conservative activist ChristinaD (aka Fitalass) has been busy over at SNP Tactical Voting in response to the YouGov poll for the Greens which, in utterly devastating news for the SNP puts, three points ahead of Labour on the constituency vote. The poll does however show a tie between the two parties on the list vote, and because that ballot is more important to the SNP than to Labour the projections are that it would lead to a narrow Labour win in terms of seats. Christina has for weeks been flogging the line that the SNP's 'lurch to the left' and 'obsession with independence' would cost them votes, and is now triumphantly saying "I told you so". (All we need now is for SU to briefly come out of retirement and run a 'game over' headline and the entertainment for the day would be complete.) I'm slightly confused by Jeff's own stance on this, though - in his main post he takes issue with the Herald's reporting of the poll as good for Labour, but as soon as Christina pops up, he agrees with almost everything she says and reverts to the worry that we've seen from him before that the SNP have suffered a "spectacular fall" from the giddy heights of previous polls. Jeff of course laudably takes great pains to "give credit where it is due" to political opponents, but I think in his eagerness to do so this time he may have fallen headlong into a trap laid by someone who for a while now has been relentlessly disseminating anti-SNP propaganda on an industrial scale to anyone who will listen (and quite a few who won't). Christina will now undoubtedly add this poll to the list of 'predictions she has got right' that she routinely trots out when anyone dares to question her absolute infallibility on all matters Scottish political. In reality of course, she only gets away with this because nobody bothers to keep track of all the predictions she gets wrong - so perhaps now is the time to start. She has, for instance, repeatedly said she is 'more sure than ever' that Gordon Brown will go before the general election - hmmm, let's see.

In truth this is a decent enough (if unspectacular) poll for the SNP, and is strikingly similar to some of the lower-end results they were getting in the run-up to the 2007 election. What the seat projections do bring home is the huge element of luck that is involved in the outcome of very close elections - if, for instance, the Greens and far-left parties had performed more strongly in 2007, the SNP's narrow lead over Labour would not have been sufficient for victory.

As for Christina professing herself "genuinely surprised" (ahem - see previous post) at the supposed recent ideological repositioning of the SNP...well, it's hardly a shock that a Conservative activist would be instinctively dismayed at a party asserting its centre-left identity, even if she "removes her Tory bonnet" for the occasion. Her final point is - "I know that the independence issue is first and foremost in the minds of SNP activists, but it isn't for the majority." This is true. Neither are the majority particularly exercised about the "integrity and unity of our United Kingdom, the most successful political union this planet has ever seen", which is all the Tories seem to bang on about half the time. But the SNP are a nationalist party, and the Tories are an ultra-Unionist party, and for better or worse both parties must be true to their natures otherwise the voters will see through them in a trice. The important thing is, in addition to the constitutional issue, to address the everyday concerns of the majority - which in Scotland means a party positioning itself firmly in the centre-left. Nobody ever won an election here on a Thatcherite prospectus.


  1. James, as I just posted at Jeff's, the problem with this poll (and every poll until 2011) is that we don't know if it's based on an election taking place tomorrow - in which case it would do so under the current boundaries - or based on the next election - by which time the new ones will be fully in place.

    The Weber Shandwick analysis only holds if it's the 'election tomorrow' question, as that uses the current boundaries. If it's the 'next election', that will use the new ones, so the WS data is out of date.

    By my reckoning, this poll under the new boundaries gives SNP 43, Labour 42, Con 21, LD 18, Green 4, Margo MacDonald 1. Almost a carbon copy of the last election, with the SNP ahead by one seat and the only viable coalition (though maybe not so viable these days) being a SNP-LD-Green tie-up with a combined total of 65.

    Labour, however, have the 'eighth seat' in Lothian so might theoretically benefit if Margo stood down, but even then, it's likely that many of her votes would revert to the SNP anyway, making it more likely to be SNP 44 Labour 42.

    And even my projections are based on proposals which haven't yet become law.

    Basically, my advice is to treat any seat projections as garbage until the Boundary Review takes effect.

  2. Ezio Auditore da FirenzeNovember 1, 2009 at 8:05 PM

    A great post, James!

    Nice to see ToryTinaD taken to task! As a fellow insomniac I enjoy your JOUSTS on pb, even though I seem to be banned!

    Keep it up!

  3. Well, first of all I wouldn't let someone get under your skin so much. Of course people, Fitalass included seemingly, like to indulge in a little boasting if they think they got something correct and often overstate their case.

    In terms of eagerness to indulge the opposition? Maybe there's been a little of that but I'm not so sure I've fallen into any sort of 'trap'.

    The SNP has been up at 40+% in the constituency and regional vote fairly recently. To be now down at 34 and 29 is a bit of a crash in my eyes and a clear sign that something's gone wrong. I've bristled at some of the language that Salmond's used recently and Fitalass has noticed it too. Obviously her conerns have been more vocal than mine but fair play to her, I reckon she's called it right. I still take umbrage at the reporting of the story though as the SNP are still ahead, just not as far ahead as they probably should be.

    But I don't think Labour have it in them to win the 2011 election which is probably why I feel confident enough to allow a little indulgence to other parties' supporters here and there.

    If the SNP were behind by 3% I reckon my partisan streak would have burned a little brighter. However, as you suggest, if the SNP stick to the centre-left platform, they'll probably do just fine.

  4. Jeff, don't worry, I've got under Christina's skin a fair few times as well (she'd deny it, mind you) so I think we're fairly even on that score! What language from Salmond was it that bothered you - was it the 'hung by a Scottish rope' line? I appreciate that sort of thing isn't everyone's cup of tea, but colourful imagery has always been one of his trademarks. In fact, he first used that line for the close-fought 1992 election, so in a sense he was just giving an 'old classic' a spin!

    Even when they poll very well, the SNP tend to be considerably lower on the list vote, so if they ever have reached 40 on the list it can't have been very often. They have of course been as high as 40 on the constituency vote, but even there it's hardly been a regular occurrence. My own reading would be - 29% on the list vote is a bit below par, but 34% on the constituency vote is actually pretty good.

    NOOOO! How can Ezio Auditore di Firenze be banned? You didn't do a Martin Day, did you?

  5. Ezio Auditore da FirenzeNovember 2, 2009 at 12:26 AM

    James, Mike seems to have let a few of EZIO's posts through today.

    And no, whilst Martin Day was accepted back with open arms after wishing for genocide, I am shunned for having the audacity to insult the site's darling, Mr Sean Thomas!

  6. Don't worry, Ezio, all will be forgiven once you've been sent on your ideological correction course. Birdsong will be played every time Sean's face appears on the screen, and electrical charges will surge through your feet every time the words 'Tim' and 'Gabble' are mentioned. You'll be right as rain in no time.

  7. Ezio Auditore da FirenzeNovember 2, 2009 at 1:16 AM

    Lefties = LOL

    Cameron = Titan of the political stage.

    Do you think that will get me back on?!

  8. Ah, might be best to add the odd "Nick Clegg = Neil Kinnock" and "the Liberal Democrats are doomed - DOOMED at the next election!" to be on the safe side. Mind you, that's probably something we can all say with conviction!

  9. The Rt Hon Ezio Auditore da Firenze MP MSPNovember 2, 2009 at 1:33 AM

    I think we can, after this weekend, safely say "Tavish Scott = LOL".