Saturday, November 29, 2014

What impact (if any) will the Smith report have on the SNP's enormous opinion poll lead?

Since it became clear in the immediate post-referendum period that the SNP had racked up a huge and unprecedented lead in Westminster voting intentions, there have been two future events we've been looking ahead to which have the potential to change things.  One is the TV leaders' debates (if they go ahead, and especially if they go ahead in the proposed rigged format).  And the other is the moment we've just arrived at - the publication of the Smith recommendations.  Predictably, the last 48 hours have seen a determined and coordinated effort between unionist parties and the media to use Smith to change the public's perception that they were conned by the No campaign.  We've been treated to a glossy Hollywood production which has taken the pathetic re-hash of the Calman proposals and somehow presented it as "radical" and "far-reaching". Will this gain any traction?  There were one or two worrying signs in the vox pops on Scotland 2014 the other night that people had indeed been hoodwinked - in particular, there was one young woman who was almost word-perfect as she unwittingly read from the planned script of "oh, we're so grateful for these SURPRISE new powers, now let's all get back in our box".  I almost expected her to say "I never thought in my wildest dreams that we'd get control of ROAD SIGNS!"

However, we all know that vox pops can be unrepresentative, so what we really need is hard polling evidence.  As of this moment (late afternoon on Saturday), all we have to go on is subsample information from two GB-wide polls, both of which were conducted on Wednesday and Thursday, meaning that only part of the fieldwork took place after the Smith announcement (although of course quite a bit had been leaked even by Wednesday morning).  One was a YouGov poll, in which the Scottish subsample had the SNP in a 44% to 23% lead over Labour.  That's within the normal range of the last few weeks, albeit with a slightly higher-than-average SNP lead.  By complete contrast, the Scottish subsample from the poll conducted by Populus had Labour ahead of the SNP by a wafer-thin 32% to 30% margin.  But again, that's within the normal range for Populus, who are the one and only firm to have produced subsamples putting Labour ahead of the SNP since the referendum.  I'm losing track, but I think this may be the fifth time they've done it (it's at least the fourth).  To put in perspective just how far out of line Populus are with the others, YouGov conduct five polls every week, and yet in the two-and-a-bit months since the referendum they've failed to produce a single Scottish subsample showing anything other than an SNP lead.

So as things stand there's no evidence of any change in public opinion yet, but we'll have to see if that still holds true when the Sunday polls (in particular the regular YouGov poll for the Sunday Times) are published.

*  *  *

Two more hammerblows for the Kenny Farquharson/Murdo Fraser worldview of "Scottish public opinion is more or less the same as public opinion in the rest of the UK".  Firstly, a ComRes poll reveals a huge disparity between Scottish and UK voting intentions for David Cameron's proposed in/out referendum on Europe -

If a referendum were held tomorrow on whether or not the UK should stay in or leave the European Union, how would you vote?

Respondents in Scotland -

Remain in the EU : 55%
Leave the EU : 45%

Respondents throughout Britain -

Remain in the EU : 40%
Leave the EU : 60%

The scenario of Scotland becoming independent over the next few years in order to avoid being forced out of the EU against its will becomes ever more plausible.

Secondly, a bombshell YouGov poll reveals that Scottish respondents are considerably more likely to believe that Jesus would want the railways to be taken back into public ownership...

Percentage who think Jesus would support the renationalisation of the railways :

London : 35%
South excluding London : 38%
Wales and English Midlands : 38%
North of England : 37%
Scotland : 44%

You see, Murdo?  Even Jesus is more left-wing in Scotland.

*  *  *


Today's update of the Poll of Polls is based on just five Scottish subsamples from GB-wide polls (four from YouGov and one from Populus), and therefore should be treated with even more caution than usual.

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

SNP 38.6% (-4.0)
Labour 27.6% (+0.8)
Conservatives 19.6% (+1.6)
Liberal Democrats 5.2% (-0.3)
Greens 4.4% (+0.8)
UKIP 3.6% (+0.6)

(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.)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thoughts on Smith

I'm in a mad rush at the moment, but I'll jot down my thoughts on the Smith recommendations as and when I have time..

* I was spitting fury last night when Claire Stewart claimed on Twitter that there had been a U-turn on abortion law, which would remain reserved to Westminster.  Fortunately, that turns out not to be true, and the report makes clear that the parties are minded to devolve abortion law, subject to further investigation.  The cover story for this slight cop-out is that "women's groups" (code for groups with links to Labour) have expressed concerns.

Those "concerns" are completely absurd - they remind me of the Chinese government saying in relation to Hong Kong that they don't disapprove of democracy in principle, as long as they know the results of any election in advance.  The overwhelming probability is that the Scottish Parliament would either keep abortion law as it is, or move it slightly more towards a "pro-choice" position.  But in a parliamentary democracy, you shouldn't actually need to know that for sure - you just need to trust the voters and their representatives to make the right decision.

I'm not remotely squeamish about this, and I can't understand why any "devolutionist" in Labour would be.  Abortion is a grown-up subject, and that's exactly why it should be devolved to the grown-up parliament we're supposed to have.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Jackanory Jim's reaction when someone points out that it's going to be December soon

Hi, I'm Sarah Smith, and THIS is Murphy 2014.  Joining me tonight is Scottish Labour leader Jim...sorry, leadership candidate Jim Murphy.  Mr Murphy, you're very welcome to Murphy 2014.

Thanks for having me, Sarah, and hello to all the boys and girls at home.  I'm a big fan of the show, by the way, it's one of the very best Murphy programmes on the box.

You're too kind.  Let's cut to the chase, Mr Murphy - is there any truth in the suggestion that you've only agreed that it will be December next week because someone gave you a calendar and pointed out it was going to happen anyway?

Look, this is new politics, Sarah.  In May 2007, the voters tapped us on the shoulder and said "it's not November anymore, guys".  And we didn't listen.  In May 2011, the voters obliterated our innards with a radioactive dirty bomb - something I thoroughly approve of, by the way - and screamed "IT'S NOT BLOODY NOVEMBER ANYMORE!!!!"  And we just carried on regardless.  That's got to change.  Isn't that right, boys and girls?

But isn't it true that you were vociferously opposed to December only last week?

Last week is old politics, Sarah.  Consistency is old politics.  Sticking to your principles and being held to account for them is old politics.  Let's leave all that stuff to the SNP.  I stand for new politics.  The Labour party always stands for change.  It never stands for the status quo.

I gather that you're not just in favour of December now, but that you actually want to use December to bring about social justice.  Is this a sign that Stephen Daisley was onto something yesterday when he said that Blairism is just a cunning plan to introduce Marxism by stealth?

Well, I think this is something the boys and girls at home can understand.  What we need to do is take all the pocket-money that the boys and girls can afford, put it in a big pot, and then work out what would be a fair amount for every boy and girl to have.  Then we need to forget about all that and spend all the money on thermonuclear weapons instead.  That seems fair to me, and more importantly it's what the Labour party is all about.  As my good friend Tom Harris always says, we're not a f****** charity.

And what about Stephen Daisley's other suggestion - that when your opponents in the SNP say how irritating you are, and that they despise everything you stand for, what they actually mean is that they 'fear' you?

Look, Sarah, there are ninety-seven outstanding candidates for the Rose of Tralee, and I'm only one of them.  I hope I'm not being immodest by saying I'm one of those outstanding candidates!  That's for others to judge, but whoever wins is going to be too sexy for their shirt, so sexy it hurts, and the SNP are right to be scared.

Jim Murphy, thank you very much. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

15% of British voters would prefer the SNP as a coalition partner at Westminster

I overlooked a fascinating supplementary question in one of the two Britain-wide YouGov polls on Sunday. Respondents were asked which one of six possible coalitions they would prefer in the event of a hung parliament. Although that sort of question has been asked many times before, this is the first time I can remember permutations involving the SNP being offered among the list of options. It seems that the London media/polling establishment is beginning to wake up to the pivotal role the SNP could play if, as the current polls predict, they become the third-largest party in the new House of Commons.

Unsurprisingly, Nicola Sturgeon's party is by far the most popular of the three possible junior coalition partners among respondents in Scotland. Indeed, I suspect this number would be higher still if it wasn't for some SNP voters recoiling against the idea of their party being directly involved in government at Westminster.

Preferred junior coalition partner (respondents in Scotland) :

SNP 47%
Liberal Democrats 27%

But even among respondents across Britain, the SNP attracts 15% support as the preferred junior coalition partner. When you consider that the party is largely ignored in the London media, and that when it isn't ignored it's demonised in a cartoonish way, that's a pretty impressive finding.

Preferred junior coalition partner (respondents across Britain) :

Liberal Democrats 35%
UKIP 30%
SNP 15%

Presumably the explanation is that some voters south of the border (perhaps grudgingly, perhaps enthusiastically) have recognised that the SNP represent the only realistic hope for progressive governance.

* * *


For the first time in several weeks, the new Poll of Polls update includes one subsample that has Labour ahead of the SNP. However, as with all of the other post-referendum subsamples that have shown the same thing, it comes from a Populus poll, and the result can therefore probably be explained by that firm's illogical party ID weighting procedure. None of the other subsamples in this update (including another one from Populus) have Labour even close to the SNP.

Eight subsamples are taken into account - five from YouGov, two from Populus and one from Ashcroft. I've had to exclude the recent Opinium poll, because details of the Scottish subsample were not published.

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

SNP 42.6% (-1.5)
Labour 26.8% (+2.0)
Conservatives 18.0% (+1.3)
Liberal Democrats 5.5% (-0.8)
Greens 3.6%
UKIP 3.0%

(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 24, 2014

An incomplete list?

Perhaps to prove to myself that the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup weren't the only chances to see top-class international sport in this country, I spent the day at the Scottish Open badminton yesterday.  Mind you, if I'd known Gordon Matheson and Craig Reedie were going to be given starring roles, I might have thought better of it.  Luckily, Matheson was kept well away from the microphone (to the relief of all cats and dogs within a five-mile radius), but I was still presented with a huge dilemma when we were more or less instructed to give Reedie a rapturous round of applause for "everything he's done for the sport in Scotland".  I mean, for pity's sake, isn't the knighthood and the vice-presidency of the IOC enough for the man?  I decided to sit on my hands, because far from being a hero of Scottish sport, Reedie is notorious for strongly implying during the referendum campaign that he would wreak revenge on his own country if it voted Yes, by doing his level best to ensure that Scottish athletes would not be able to compete in Rio under their new flag.

My only previous exposure to badminton has been during the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, so I must admit that I didn't realise until yesterday that it's one of the sports in which Scotland generally competes as a nation in its own right (Reedie must have bloody hated that when he was a player).  I said after the referendum that we had just (unthinkingly) voted to continue subsuming ourselves within a straitjacketed Great Britain identity in the vast majority of sports, but on reflection I may have been overstating the case slightly - GB representation is certainly the norm, but there are a reasonably significant number of exceptions.  Here is the list of sports I can think of in which Scotland competes as a country - feel free to add to it if you know of any others...

Rugby Union
Rugby League

Interestingly, there are a few sports on that list in which Scottish representation is a relatively recent innovation (ie. within the last few decades), so it just goes to show that these things aren't necessarily set in stone for as long as we're part of the UK - perhaps with Devo Max we might be able to make the case for representation in more sports.

And I'm certainly not going to give up on the Eurovision Song Contest, because the vaguely comparable Miss World (yes, it's still going, believe it or not) eventually saw the light in 1999.  Fighting for world peace and kittens on our behalf this year is Ellie McKeating.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The National

As I'm sure everyone and his auntie knows by now, tomorrow (Monday) will see the launch of The National, which to the best of my knowledge will be the first daily pro-independence newspaper since the Scottish Sun was instructed to embrace Blairism in 1996/97.  The new publication is only being given a trial run of five days, so obviously sales figures are going to be very important.  It's possible to subscribe to the digital edition for the whole week for £1.50, by texting the word AYE, followed by a space, followed by your email address, to 80360.  But even more important will be to buy hard copies from your local newsagent or supermarket (at a price of 50p).  We're not short of pro-independence commentary on the internet, but what this country desperately needs is a viable pro-independence print newspaper that can reach out to the substantial minority of the population who are still reliant on the traditional media.

UPDATE : There seems to be some doubt over whether the subscribe-by-text option is still open - see the comments section below.

*  *  *

There's a bizarre story in the Herald about how Labour MPs are apparently predicting that the SNP will withdraw from the Smith Commission process at the eleventh hour. It seems Labour can't get their heads around how the SNP will be able to put their name to the Smith blueprint while at the same time arguing that The Vow has been broken and campaigning at the general election for full Devo Max.

It just goes to prove what I've always said - Labour have got no imagination.  In all likelihood, the SNP will say something like this : "What has been agreed today is inadequate and falls well short of what was solemnly promised by the No campaign and the UK government.  However, as Scotland's party we have a duty to ensure that Scotland is not left with nothing at all, and therefore we will be supporting these proposals as far as they go.  We will of course campaign at the general election for the package to be built upon and brought fully into line with The Vow before it is finally implemented."

Pretty simple really.