Saturday, January 31, 2015

SNP draw level with the Liberal Democrats across Britain in historic poll from Opinium

This weekend's Opinium numbers...

Britain-wide voting intentions (Opinium) :

Labour 33% (n/c)
Conservatives 32% (+4)
UKIP 18% (-2)
Greens 6% (n/c)
SNP 5% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 5% (-2)

Martin Kettle's sick and twisted worldview

See if you can spot the odd one out among this list -

* Engaging with Europe.

* Being tolerant of immigrants.

* Wasting billions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction, the sole purpose of which is to indiscriminately mass-murder hundreds of millions of innocent civilians in other countries.

No, you're wrong, actually.  According to The Guardian's Martin Kettle, there is no odd one out.  All three are equally necessary to prevent Britain becoming "isolationist", or a country that "pulls the duvet over its head".

So now I know where I've been going wrong all these years - the constant threat of genocide is, it seems, a prerequisite to being considered "sociable".  Silly old me.

Plaid Cymru's Dafydd Wigley was quite right in what he said the other day, of course - if Trident was ever used, it would kill far more people within the space of one hour than the 1.5 million who are estimated to have perished at Auschwitz over a period of years.  The fact that it was taken as read that Wigley had to apologise for his comment, even by many who oppose nuclear weapons, illustrates how we like to emotionally distance ourselves from the full horror of the thing we're opposing.  Understandable, but unhealthy.

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Equally bonkers (albeit marginally less offensive) is a comment on Political Betting from the "senior figure in the Thatcher/Major government" who goes by the pseudonym of JackW, and who constantly delights the Tory regulars with his "hilarious" claims to be 107 years old and a Jacobite.  When taken to task today on the embarrassing predictions that the No campaign would win the referendum by a margin of 20%, he brazenly claimed that they hadn't been particularly inaccurate...

"However the final outcome was not in doubt - Somewhat like positing a rugby victory of 20:0 and eventually winning 10:0 where the opposition were damn lucky to get nil."

So a two-horse election in which the losing side got 45% of the vote, having been ahead in two public polls within the last two weeks of the campaign (plus at least one private poll), is the equivalent of a rugby match in which the loser is "damn lucky to get nil".

Oh-kaaaay. I'll have some of whatever he's having.

Friday, January 30, 2015

My appearance on Independence Live

A few hours ago, I was whisked off to a top secret location in the arctic tundra (or, by the wonders of modern technology, "Glasgow") to be interviewed by the brilliant Vince Docherty for Independence Live's Thursday Conversations series.  You can see most of it HERE - the first few minutes are missing due to a technical hitch, but the full recording will apparently appear on YouTube in a couple of weeks.  The discussion mostly focused on polls, but it also briefly covered the impact of Syriza's triumph in Greece.

In the interests of sheer vanity, by the way, can I just point out that my hair loss is not quite as severe as it appears in the video - the light was catching me at a very unfortunate angle!

Apparently it's a weekly tradition that they finish the evening by having soup, which I can report was absolutely delicious.  A post-soup group photo may well be appearing on Facebook, I gather.

And earlier in the day, I went to see First Minister's Questions for the first time.  Our local MSP Jamie Hepburn had reserved some tickets for SNP members, so I thought I might as well take the opportunity to go.  He also very kindly arranged a tour of the building, which was excellent, but left me more confused than ever about the "hidden meanings" of some of the architectural features.  Is it really possible for something to be simultaneously a hammer and a curtain?  (Or a leaf and an upturned boat?)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Alex Salmond's love of Blighty, and why nobody would notice if Ed Miliband was replaced by a bacon sandwich

You might be interested to know that the International Business Times have done an interview with Alex Salmond.  It sounds like they're going to run more than one piece about it, but you can read the first one HERE.

UPDATE : And more of the interview can be read HERE.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The media again claim that a deal has been "ruled out" when no such thing has happened

On this occasion, the mainstream media do at least have an alibi for their grossly misleading claim that Ed Balls has "categorically ruled out" a post-election deal with the SNP, because it's true that he did reply to a question (asking if Labour would consider such a deal) with the word "no". The snag is that he then want on to clarify what that reply meant, and it was not in fact the conventional meaning of the word "no", but instead the little-known alternative meaning "Labour would like to win a majority". It's rather like asking me if I would consider staying in my current place of abode, and getting the answer "No, I'm hoping to win the lottery."

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Absolutely nothing should be read into the drop in the SNP lead in this update of the Poll of Polls - it's just a quirk caused by the previous update having taken account of two full-scale Scottish polls, including the famous Ipsos-Mori poll.  Those two polls have now dropped out, leaving a sample entirely comprised of Scottish subsamples from GB-wide polls (four from YouGov, two from Populus, one from Ashcroft, one from Survation and one from ComRes).  That works against the SNP because YouGov and Populus typically downweight the party sharply in their GB-wide polls, thanks to the use of Westminster-centric party ID weightings.

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

SNP 41.3% (-5.8)
Labour 28.2% (+2.6)
Conservatives 16.9% (+2.6)
Liberal Democrats 4.9% (-0.6)
UKIP 4.6% (+2.1)
Greens 3.8% (+0.1)

(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.)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sizzling Syriza surge to historic Hellenic haul

I think the last time I mentioned Syriza on this blog was during the Greek election three years ago, when I felt moved to point out that, contrary to the claim of one particularly excitable journalist, the said election was not the most important in the whole of human history.  Given that a German election in the 1930s brought Hitler to power and led to the deaths of sixty million people, there's some pretty tough competition on that front.

I don't think today's election was the most important in human history either, but it certainly has the potential to be a crucial turning point in the history of Europe.  At some point after the end of the Cold War, democracy essentially withered - you could have any government you liked, as long as it was neoliberal-flavoured (or as long as it "lived in the real world", as Tony Blair liked to put it).  At long last, big ideas and real electoral choices are back on the menu - and Scotland has played as much of a part in bringing that about as Greece.

I've been pondering whether Syriza's triumph could be of any help to the Scottish independence movement, and I think there's one sense in which it might.  If there's a snowball effect leading to a Podemos victory in Spain later this year, that could clear the path for an official Catalan independence referendum.  And the fates of Catalonia and Scotland do seem to have become entwined somehow.

The cost of spurning an electoral pact?

I was asked today whether it would be possible, even very speculatively, to estimate what the electoral cost to the SNP might be of deciding not to pursue a full-blown Home Rule Alliance with the Greens, SSP and other non-party groups.  I don't think it is possible, because those of us who supported an alliance weren't hoping to merely "tack on" the small Green vote to the SNP tally, in order to get us over the line in a few constituencies.  That was part of the idea, to be sure, but it wasn't the primary motivation.  (A bigger red herring was the claim that an alliance could only be of any value if it could be demonstrated that there is at least one constituency which the Greens or SSP are better-placed to win than the SNP.  There is of course no such constituency, but that simply isn't the point.)

The real hope was that an alliance would be greater than the sum of its parts, as the SDP-Liberal Alliance was in the 1980s, and indeed as the Yes movement was last year.  We thought it might help to attract traditional Labour voters who still nurse hang-ups about the SNP, and perhaps also some of the semi-mythical "missing million" who wouldn't otherwise turn out to vote.  By definition, the extent to which any of that would have happened will always remain unquantifiable.

In any case, the debate over a potential alliance mostly took place before the SNP surge in the polls became fully established.  It's possible that we overestimated the hang-ups that Labour people have (and Nicola Sturgeon's leadership may be helping on that score as well).  It's also conceivable that the SNP's "brand identity" is so strong that the party is actually faring better on its own than a new political force with an unfamiliar name would have done.

Basically, we'll never know for sure.

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Today's Scottish subsample from YouGov shows an SNP lead of 43% to 25%.  Friday's result was very similar.  So the little flurry of narrower gaps that we saw a few days ago does look like a blip.