Saturday, November 8, 2014

OK, this is merely the second-best comedy moment of the year

I haven't laughed so much since...oooh, since the last time Political Betting delighted us all by imparting their "wisdom" on Scottish politics.  Today, Mike "can't be arsed" Smithson picks up on a speculative piece in the Mail about Alex Salmond possibly standing against Danny Alexander in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey next year.  That's fair enough as far as it goes, because Smithson lets the story speak for itself and doesn't add any comment to it (he probably couldn't be arsed), but the comedy lies in this immediate response from his sycophantic second-in-command TSE...

"Interesting that Salmond took your advice and decided not to stand in Gordon"

Now, TSE is admittedly a self-styled wit, but this does appear to be genuinely intended as a serious comment.  Where to begin?  Why not with the bleedin' obvious - the Mail story is wildly speculative, and is not a sign that Salmond has "decided" anything at all.  I actually think Inverness would be a good choice for him, but it certainly wouldn't be in line with the signals he's been sending - he's repeatedly stated that he will continue to serve "the people of the north-east of Scotland", and to the best of my knowledge Inverness does not fall within anyone's definition of the north-east.

But as for Salmond taking Smithson's advice...words fail me.  If you recall, that advice (which was embarrassingly issued just one day before an Ipsos-Mori poll was published showing the SNP on course for a landslide next year) was that Salmond shouldn't stand in Gordon because he was a washed-up politician, yesterday's man, and the SNP couldn't possibly hope to knock off the mighty Lib Dems in a heartland seat.  So presumably TSE is now implying that Smithson sensed that, for some unspecified reason, the no-hoper Salmond would have a slightly better chance of winning if he instead stood in another Lib Dem-held seat in which the SNP are starting from even further behind?

Well, that was a brave call, Mike.  Is there no end to your crazy-paving genius?

Back in the real world, of course, Salmond would be a near-certainty to win Gordon, and that's why he may be considering helping his party out by transferring his personal vote to a slightly tougher seat.  The emphasis is very much on the word "slightly", though, and unfortunately the Lib Dem source quoted by the Mail doesn't seem to have got that memo -

"We haven't heard anything officially, but we're expecting Salmond to make an announcement any day. But we're confident we can beat him – he's not as popular as he was in 2011 and the referendum saw a 60 per cent No vote in this area. People used to see him as invincible, but that's not the case now. He's something of a spent force."

It's fascinating to ponder whether this is just bravado intended for public consumption, or whether the Lib Dems have retreated so far into the bunker that they genuinely believe this stuff.  Let's get real here - if Salmond doesn't stand in Inverness, the only parties that will have a realistic chance of winning the constituency are the SNP and Labour.  If Salmond is the candidate, soft Labour voters will realise he's the man to humiliate Alexander, and will flock behind him.

The "60 per cent No vote in this area" (which seems to apply to Gordon rather than Alexander's seat) is, as we all know, a red herring - opinion polls show that many No voters now wish they had voted Yes, and many No voters who haven't changed their minds are planning to vote SNP next year.  In any case, there are an awful lot of otherwise intelligent people (including Alex Massie, for example) who seem to have completely lost sight of the fact that we're now reverting to FPTP - it's perfectly possible for the SNP to win many seats on a minority vote based on the people who actually voted Yes.  As Smithson himself points out, the predecessor seat to Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey was once won on just 26% of the vote.

By the way, here's another gem of a comment from PB -

"Hmmm The Highlands voted NO by a surprisingly large amount. 53:47. IIRC it was expected to be a lot closer."

Just how much closer than 53-47 was "expected"?  At this rate they're going to start redefining Bush v Gore as a landslide in order to make it consistent with their insistence that the referendum was not a narrow result.

Friday, November 7, 2014

SNP lead by 18% in new Scot Goes Pop Poll of Polls

You might remember I said the other day that the SNP's lead in the next Poll of Polls update was almost certainly going to be down, simply as a result of the Ipsos-Mori poll dropping out of the sample.  Well, that's happened, but the extent of the change is much less than I anticipated - the lead has only slipped from 20.6% to 18.2%.  The most noticeable change is actually to be found among the smaller parties - UKIP and the Greens have swapped over to take up fourth and sixth place respectively, with the Lib Dems sandwiched between them in fifth, on a truly dismal 4.3% of the vote.  Don't take the Greens' apparent plight too seriously - it only comes about because the new Panelbase poll puts them on an unusually low 1%, and that poll now makes up two-thirds of the sample.

Apart from the Panelbase/Wings poll, five Scottish subsamples from GB-wide polls are also taken into account - three from YouGov, one from Ashcroft and one from Populus.

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

SNP 45.2% (-0.8)
Labour 27.0% (+1.6)
Conservatives 15.6% (+1.7)
UKIP 5.9% (+2.0)
Liberal Democrats 4.3% (-1.0)
Greens 2.0% (-2.6)

(The Poll of Polls uses the Scottish subsamples from all GB-wide polls that have been conducted entirely within the last seven days and for which datasets have been provided, and also all full-scale Scottish polls that have been conducted at least partly within the last seven days. Full-scale polls are given ten times the weighting of subsamples.)

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A few days ago, a member of the Panelbase panel ("the Panelbase panel" sounds faintly silly but I can't think of a better way of phrasing it) gave me a sneak preview of the questions that had been asked in the firm's latest poll, which had obviously been commissioned by a pro-independence client.  There were some real crackers in there, and I was excited to see the outcome - but I was also a bit nervous, because it could have backfired if the questions on Europe had gone the "wrong" way.  As it turns out, the results were very close, but in both cases they went the way we would have hoped.

There may be a referendum in 2017 on the UK’s membership of the European Union. If there is, which way do you currently think you’d vote?

Stay in the EU : 41%
Leave the EU : 38%

Imagine that Scotland voted to stay in the EU, but was outvoted by the rest of the UK choosing to leave. In those circumstances, would a second Scottish independence referendum be justified, so that Scotland wasn’t forced out of the EU against its will?

Yes, it would be justified : 45%
No, we should accept the UK-wide result : 41%

The closeness on the latter question probably shouldn't be of too much concern, because one of the most fascinating findings of the Ipsos-Mori poll was that people were even more likely to support an early second referendum for its own sake than they were for any specific reason that was suggested.  If that's correct, it may be that some of the 41% of people who told Panelbase that they wouldn't support a second referendum in the event of an EU exit were not actually opposed to another referendum, but simply thought that an enforced EU exit was not a good enough reason in itself.

In any case, we know how bad people are at answering hypothetical questions, and I suspect the shock of the impending loss of EU citizenship and freedom of movement would be much greater than people imagine when they fill in online surveys right now.

As for the first question, the Murdo Frasers and Kenny Farquharsons of this world might be tempted to leap on the results and claim them as "proof" that Scottish opinion on the EU isn't all that different from opinion in the rest of the UK - and they'd be fools to do so.  The more pro-European slant in Scottish opinion is pretty well established across the polling industry, and what this poll says to me is that if Panelbase had run the same question throughout the whole of Great Britain on the same dates, they'd have found a solid majority for leaving the EU.  That may have come about because of the recent spat over the bill of £1.7 billion that David "Colonel Mustard" Cameron was presented with by Brussels.

So if anything, the state of play indicated by this poll increases the chances of Scotland being ejected from the EU against its will, together with all of the interesting potential side-effects that may flow from that.

The finding that Yes voters in the independence referendum are solidly pro-EU, while No voters break the other way, shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.  And yet it still blows an enormous hole in one of the No campaign's most treasured fictions - namely that British unionism is all about nations coming together in a vague, fuzzy, feel-good, happy-clappy "why build another wall?" sort of way.  It turns out that the isolationists were mostly to be found in the anti-independence camp.  With UKIP and the BNP firmly inside Alistair Darling's big tent, who'd ever have thunk it?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A third full-scale poll shows the SNP with a commanding Westminster lead

For the first time, we have the opportunity to make a direct comparison between two full-scale post-referendum polls from the same company, helping us to judge whether there has been any movement in opinion over the last few weeks.  On the face of it, the message from the new Panelbase poll commissioned by Wings Over Scotland couldn't be much clearer -

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

SNP 45% (+11)
Labour 28% (-4)
Conservatives 15% (-3)
UKIP 7% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 3% (-2)
Greens 1%

However, the percentage changes listed above are only meaningful if Panelbase have stuck with the bizarre decision they made last time to weight their Westminster results - and only their Westminster results - by 2010 past vote recall, which we know tends to be less reliable than 2011 recall.  That led to people who recalled voting SNP being downweighted by an extreme amount.  The fact that the new poll has reported such a huge swing suggests to me that the methodology may well have been (very sensibly) changed, and that will presumably become clear when the datasets are released.

[UPDATE : RevStu has let me know that the figures were weighted by 2011 vote recall, so the percentage changes are not meaningful.  This does of course illustrate how the last Panelbase poll was a hell of a lot better for the SNP than it appeared at first glance.]

These numbers are very strikingly in line with the YouGov poll which merely showed a very large SNP lead, rather than the Ipsos-Mori poll which showed a bloody enormous SNP lead.  However, as Panelbase and YouGov are both online pollsters and Ipsos-Mori is a telephone pollster, it's still too early to conclude that the Ipsos-Mori poll must be an outlier.  The other thing that sets Ipsos-Mori apart is that they're the only firm that don't weight by past vote recall at all.

The other headline finding from the poll that has been released so far is on the subject of independence -

Knowing what you know now, if the independence referendum was tomorrow how would you vote?

Yes 51% (+6)
No 49% (-6)

(Percentage changes are from the actual referendum result.)

This is the second published post-referendum poll to ask about independence, and both have shown a Yes lead. However, I'm sure Professor Curtice will be making the point that this poll differs from the YouGov poll in that it doesn't ask an identical question to the pre-referendum polls, and therefore the results can't be considered directly comparable. Nevertheless, this is only the second published Panelbase poll in history to show a majority for independence (the previous one was in September of last year, and ended up being largely discounted because of an unusual question sequence).

Does Miliband's pickle leave Jackanory Jim with another dilemma?

As I'm sure David "Colonel Mustard" Cameron would tell you, there'll be no need for a Cluedo set to work out what has happened if Ed Miliband suddenly steps down over the next few weeks on the grounds of hay-fever.  The chances are it won't come to that, though - Labour notoriously lack the Tories' ruthlessness in dispensing with hopeless leaders.  Even in the winter/spring of 1983, when every piece of logic was screaming at them to replace Michael Foot with Denis Healey in time for the June election, they still held back and suffered the consequences.  And at least in those days there was an obvious replacement who could have restored their fortunes.  At the moment, Yvette Cooper is the very slight favourite to succeed Miliband, and in some ways she wouldn't be such a bad choice - but given her husband's ego, would she even be "allowed" to stand?

So my guess is that Miliband will cling on, and for the avoidance of doubt, that's something we should warmly welcome.  If Johann Lamont was a liability for Scottish Labour, Miliband is a liability-on-steroids - today's YouGov poll shows that people IN SCOTLAND prefer Cameron to Miliband by a margin of 31% to 15%.

But just supposing he does go.  One thing that has become clear over the last couple of weeks is that "Jackanory Jim" Murphy himself, Murphy's Tory-funded disciples such as Blair McDougall and Rob "I still have a mortgage to pay" Shorthouse, and Murphy's awestruck groupies in the media, see the current frontrunner for the Scottish Labour "leadership" as a Messiah-type figure who would be running for President of the United States if only he hadn't been born in the wrong continent.  So surely if a vacancy in the UK party leadership did occur, the only possible conclusion to draw is that Murphy would have a duty to forget about the piffling affairs of Scotland, and to "save" London Labour instead?  That would throw the Scottish leadership contest into absolute chaos.

It might be as well to have some "standby popcorn" to hand - you know, just in case.

The people of East Sussex use fireworks to blow effigy of Alex Salmond "to smithereens" - while the media are busy telling everyone it wasn't being burnt after all

I don't want to jump to conclusions here, but I'm finding it very, very hard not to think that certain people in East Sussex (possibly including the police themselves) set out to make complete fools of the media last night, and succeeded. You might have seen the BBC (along with countless other media outlets) claiming that "Sussex Police said the effigies of Mr Salmond would not now be set alight", but if you look carefully at the form of words used by the police spokesperson quoted in the Daily Record, the only assurance given was a load of patronising drivel about how Alex Salmond himself wouldn't actually be burned to death. It's little wonder that words were being chosen so carefully, because there's now compelling evidence from social media (including photographic evidence) that the organisers ignored the enormous offence they were causing, and proceeded to blow up at least one of the two effigies in exactly the way they had always planned. Not that you'd be aware of any of this from the mainstream media, even now.

Despite the controversy, Alex Salmond went up tonight. #LewesBonfire #ilovemytown

They didn't burn it, no... just stuffed it full of fireworks and blew the s*** out of it (like they always do)

see reply to other tweets. I saw it blown to smithereens with my own soft southern eyes.

Yep, blew its head clean off. Beeb reports missed the angle. Effigies are never put on bonfire, just blown up

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And in case you haven't seen it yet, here is the entirely non-racist, "just-a-bit-of-harmless-fun-what-is-everyone-whingeing-about" effigy of Angela Merkel they blew the s*** out of a couple of years back.  No wonder they #lovetheirtown...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Academically speaking, it's the blunt truth

London School of Economics academic John Kay, quoted in the Scotsman after making the snide claim that Scotland doesn't need to worry about the devolution of welfare leading to "benefit tourism", because we won't have the money to increase benefits anyway...

"Bluntly at the moment there is a great deal of discussion of people wanting more powers in Scotland when what they really mean is they want more money for the powers that Scotland in large part already has. And bluntly that money isn’t coming either from a block grant or from taxes."

Bluntly, if Scotland was given control over its own natural resources, as it bluntly would be perfectly possible to do within a devolved system, it bluntly seems obvious that we would have more money to spend on welfare if we so chose. But bluntly, we know that we'll be getting income tax powers anyway, and to be blunt, that means it will be possible to tax the wealthy more and redistribute that money to the poorest via the benefits system. Let's be blunt, Professor Kay - for you to pretend that won't be possible, and to claim that our desire for democratic self-government is just a disguised squeal for extra cash, makes you look, bluntly, like a bit of a Thatcherite ideologue. Particularly as your sole reason for all this bluntness is to prevent welfare being devolved, which is bluntly a rather transparent agenda.

Many thanks to Tory-controlled East Sussex County Council for helping bring the date of Scottish independence forward again

I literally cannot believe what I've just seen on Twitter.  At first I thought the suggestions that East Sussex County Council (run by a minority Tory administration) were planning to burn a giant effigy of Alex Salmond tonight for Bonfire Night were just the result of a piece of spectacularly ill-judged humour.  But the photographic evidence, in which the effigy is sporting the words "Yes" and "45%" on his person, suggests otherwise.  In other words, the Tory party are not only symbolically burning one of Scotland's two most popular politicians, but are also burning the 45% of the entire Scottish electorate who voted for independence (and presumably by extension the majority of the population who at least seriously considered voting for independence).

I initially thought Tommy Sheridan's suggestion of a second independence referendum as early as 2020 was a bit fanciful (barring a British withdrawal from the EU).  With every passing day, I'm becoming less sure if that's true.

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4.30pm : Update from Twitter as the Tories panic...

East Sussex County Council : Please note that the Alex Salmond and Nessie models were created by Waterloo Bonfire Society #LewesBonfire and have NO connection to ESCC

Scott Macdonald : Very well - it doesn't belong to you. Take down your tweet, and apologise for offence caused at the least. #socialmedia101

(The original tweet from the council read "A sneak preview of Alex Salmond and Nessie ahead of tonight's bonfire in Lewes - it just rolled up at County Hall", and was then followed by a photo of the giant effigy.)

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UPDATE II : As a small minority of people are trying to defend the indefensible on Twitter, it might be worth pointing out that Carlisle council reversed their original plan to burn an effigy of Mary, Queen of Scots in their annual bonfire on Saturday night.  Commenting on the change of heart, a Tory member of the council wisely noted -

"It comes at a time when we've just had a referendum on whether Scotland wished to leave the union or not. I don't think there would have been ever a good time to burn an effigy of Mary, Queen of Scots."

Given that burning an effigy of the living political leader of Scotland is about a thousand times more offensive in these circumstances than burning an effigy of our long-dead queen, you'd think that wise heads might have similarly prevailed in East Sussex.  But apparently not.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Now this one's beyond belief : SNP lead by 34% in new Holyrood poll from Ipsos-Mori

The Holyrood figures from last week's astounding Ipsos-Mori poll have been belatedly released, and if you thought there was some kind of law of physics that would prevent the SNP's lead for Holyrood being even bigger than their humongous 29-point Westminster lead, you were wrong.

Holyrood constituency vote :

SNP 57%
Labour 23%
Conservatives 8%
Liberal Democrats 6%
Greens 4%

Holyrood list vote : 

SNP 50%
Labour 23%
Greens 10%
Conservatives 8%
Liberal Democrats 6%
SSP 1%

So it appears that the traditional differential between Westminster and Holyrood voting remains in place, but simply with the SNP operating at a much higher level than before.  That said, the SNP's lead on the list is actually slightly smaller than their Westminster lead, probably because a chunk of their support is drifting to the Greens (and to a much lesser extent to the SSP) on that ballot.  Of course, at the 2011 election, it was on the list vote that the SNP were significantly underestimated in the polls, with people proving much more likely to vote for the same party twice when they were actually faced with a real ballot paper.

One little problem with this poll is that the Greens are on 4% on the constituency ballot, even though on past form the party is likely to sit out most constituency contests altogether.  So it's interesting to ponder where those votes would really go.  Even if they broke 50/50 between the SNP and other parties, that would suggest a true SNP figure of 59%.

As noted last week, this poll was conducted between the 22nd and 29th of October, which means it spans three distinct periods - the three days prior to Johann Lamont resigning, a brief period when the media were claiming that either Gordon Brown or Jim Murphy might be taking over, and then a longer period when it was clear that Jim Murphy was the sole frontrunner.  So a decent chunk of the respondents to this poll were giving the SNP an enormous lead in the full knowledge that Murphy was the Labour leader-in-waiting they were probably rejecting.

By the way, am I the only person who is dumbfounded that Murphy has given a huge hostage to fortune by repeatedly claiming that Labour will hold every single one of their Scottish seats at next year's UK general election?  He's even taken personal responsibility for that prediction by stating that he knows how to make it happen.  Now I do appreciate that there are plenty of pessimists/realists about the SNP's prospects of holding on to their current lead, but from Labour's point of view you'd still have to be a super-optimist not to think you're in major trouble in at least a handful of particularly vulnerable seats, such as Falkirk and Ochil & South Perthshire.

Not that it will be at all funny to see Murphy having his words played back to him next May, or anything like that.

SNP extend lead in Scot Goes Pop Poll of Polls to 20.6%

There have been four new Scottish subsamples published since the last Poll of Polls update, showing SNP leads over Labour ranging from 6% to (ahem) 41%.  The latter was recorded in yesterday's Ashcroft poll, although believe it or not the SNP's 56% share of the vote in that poll isn't a post-referendum record - they broke the 60% barrier once.

Today's update takes account of one full-scale poll from Ipsos-Mori, one full scale poll from YouGov, four subsamples from YouGov, two subsamples from Populus and one subsample from Ashcroft.  Enjoy these numbers while they last, because by the next update the Ipsos-Mori poll will have dropped out of the sample, almost certainly meaning that the SNP lead will decrease by a few points.

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

SNP 46.0% (+0.2)
Labour 25.4% (-0.2)
Conservatives 13.9% (+0.1)
Liberal Democrats 5.3% (+0.3)
Greens 4.6% (-0.1)
UKIP 3.9% (-0.2)

(The Poll of Polls uses the Scottish subsamples from all GB-wide polls that have been conducted entirely within the last seven days and for which datasets have been provided, and also all full-scale Scottish polls that have been conducted at least partly within the last seven days. Full-scale polls are given ten times the weighting of subsamples.)

Monday, November 3, 2014

A rare opportunity for me to #VoteBlue

Of course the whole "45" thing is a none-too-subtle way of saying "don't blame me, I voted Yes", so in anticipation of tomorrow night's likely results across the pond, allow me to just say this - don't blame me, I voted Democrat.  Or strictly speaking, I voted Democrat and also for a range of left-wing parties and candidates in some of the lesser contests.

Voting in American elections always feels like quite an alien process, mainly because I actually have to make an active decision every single time - it's not like here, where I ritualistically vote for the same party I've voted for since I was 18 (albeit things have become slightly more interesting in Scotland since STV was introduced for local government elections).    I always think I should try to apply some kind of logical consistency to how I make the decision - for example, vote tactically for a centrist mainstream candidate in circumstance A, but stick to principle by voting for a no-hoper left-wing candidate in circumstance B.  But I've realised it's hopeless trying to come up with a set of rules that cover every occasion, so I just go by what 'feels right' and hope for the best.

With this being the first time I've voted in a US election since the independence referendum, it suddenly occurred to me just how murderously hard I will find it to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 if she's a presidential candidate, simply because of the disgraceful remarks she made about Scotland, telling a London interviewer she would "hate to see you lose Scotland".  You?  Lose?  OK, Obama made some thoroughly reprehensible comments as well, but at least he didn't imply that Scotland was a possession to be kept or lost, nothing more than a trophy that conferred status on our "owners".

Mind you, the dilemma will probably be solved for me, because if at all possible I try not to vote for candidates who support the death penalty, and the last time I checked Clinton still does.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's official - the SNP are projected to be the third-largest party in the next House of Commons. The broadcasters' plan to exclude them from the leaders' debates is now utterly untenable.

Here is the current forecast for next year's general election result from the UK-Elect website -

Labour 291
Conservatives 265
SNP 38
Liberal Democrats 23
Sinn Féin 5
Plaid Cymru 3
Greens 3
Others 2

This not only means that the SNP are expected to be comfortably the third-largest party in the next House of Commons, but also that they are predicted to hold the balance of power.  Realistically, the only game in town would be a coalition or deal between Labour and the SNP, because neither a Labour/Lib Dem nor a Tory/Lib Dem coalition would be able to command a majority.

Now, of course, there are various forecasting models, and the above numbers are only derived from one.  But based on the current information from polls, there is absolutely no credible model out there that would not have the SNP in third place.  38 is actually quite a conservative projection for the SNP's haul of seats - the Ipsos-Mori poll suggested they would have 54.

A UK general election is a parliamentary election - it's first and foremost a race to win the greatest number of seats in parliament.  So how on Earth can any public service broadcaster propose to hold leaders' debates during such an election that include the parties that are projected to win the fourth and fifth largest number of seats, but totally exclude the party that is projected to win the third largest number of seats?  How can it do so especially given that it knows that in all probability its decision will directly lead to the eventual result of that election being completely different from what it would have been if nature had been allowed to take its course?  Just where do the broadcasters get the extraordinary self-confidence to set themselves up as the Gods of the electoral process in this way, with the freedom to make utterly arbitrary decisions that determine who governs us and the laws we must obey?  Doesn't it trouble them, even for a moment, that they are tarnishing the UK's status as an advanced democracy capable of holding free and fair elections?

The BBC in particular have been resorting to desperately weak circular logic to justify the unjustifiable.  The SNP are projected to be the third largest party, ahead of the Liberal Democrats and UKIP?  Oh well, we don't only look at the current projections, we also have to look at the strength of each party at the last election.  But at the last election, the SNP won six seats, and UKIP won zero?  Oh well, we also have to take the polls into account.  But it's precisely those polls that have given rise to the projections putting the SNP in third place?  Oh well, we can't just look at one or two individual polls, we also have to look at the longer-term polling trend.  But there has never been a time when the polling average hasn't suggested that UKIP would finish with fewer seats than the SNP?  Oh stop being so bloody difficult will you, we're paid good money to come up with convincing excuses for the decision we've made on a whim to include Farage and exclude Sturgeon, and you're not making this easy for us!

By all means let's make sure it's not easy for them.  In an effort to look reasonable and open-minded while not actually budging an inch, a spokesperson mentioned yesterday that a BBC Trust consultation would shortly get underway on the guidelines that will cover the debates.  The SNP cleverly leaped on that announcement and praised it to the skies, leading rather amusingly to a different spokesperson having to backtrack furiously because it had become clear that expectations for the impact of the consultation were running out of the BBC's control.  It turns out that it's just a generic consultation for the guidelines that will cover the election period as a whole, and not specifically the leaders' debates.  But as far as I can see the debates will still fall within the remit of the consultation, so there's nothing to stop us sending in a tonne of submissions that basically say : "The main flaw in the proposed guidelines is that they do not address the need to ensure that the party projected to finish third in the general election is treated with due fairness, and is included in any leaders' debates alongside the parties that are projected to finish fourth and fifth."

We'll have to keep our eyes peeled for the start of this consultation.