This may seem an odd thing to say just hours after a telephone poll showed Thursday's election to be seemingly heading towards a virtual dead heat, but people who move in certain circles seem to have suddenly reached a turning-point where they feel able to start congratulating themselves on an impending landslide Tory triumph. As far as I can see, there are three main reasons for this bizarre phenomenon -
1) A new article has appeared on the Labour Uncut website claiming that Labour's canvass returns are wildly out of line with the opinion polls, and that the true state of affairs is that the party is facing a "nuclear winter" outside of London.
2) Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are both making campaign appearances in what ought to be safe Labour seats, rather than in what would be battleground seats if there was the remotest chance of a hung parliament.
3) There is no sign of "panic" in the Tory high command.
The last of those three reasons is by the far the silliest, because I'm not sure any of us can even say for sure what Tory panic would look like if it was happening - there are a number of different ways in which it might manifest itself. For example, Scottish Labour reacted to their 2015 crisis mainly by going into a state of deep denial and just doing the same things over and over again in the hope they might suddenly start working. That wasn't a sign of inner peace. Proper insights into the current thinking of the campaigns will probably not be on offer until after the election is over.
The list of campaign stops for the leaders may tell us something important, but the electoral realignment caused by Brexit makes that sort of thing harder to read - it's possible that Labour's woes in Leave-voting heartland seats may be at least partly offset elsewhere. In any case, what should we have taken from the fact that Hillary Clinton didn't pay much attention to the Rust Belt states that cost her the US presidential election? Ultimately, all it proved is that her campaign was totally clueless about what was actually happening on the ground.
The only truly compelling reason for Tory supporters' cockiness is the information about Labour canvass returns, although some caution is warranted even on that front - Labour Uncut is a rabidly anti-Corbyn website which undoubtedly would like to see Labour lose this election badly so the 'rebuilding' process can start under a Blairite leader. The new article was written by Atul Hatwal, who notoriously predicted that Jeremy Corbyn would finish a distant fourth in the 2015 leadership contest at a time when it was already blindingly obvious to almost everyone else that Corbyn had a very good chance of winning outright. However, that dud prediction was of the "it's true because I say it has to be" variety, whereas Hatwal's claims about canvass returns seem much more credibly supported. The extreme negativity in the article about Labour's prospects is probably exaggerated, but nevertheless there does seem to be more than a grain of truth in the contention that the party's candidates and foot-soldiers at least believe they are heading for a worse drubbing than the current polling average would suggest.
That belief doesn't in itself prove anything. In 2015, the Liberal Democrats firmly believed they were on course to hold dozens of seats, and they were wrong. In 2010 the Tories expected to secure a majority and in 2015 they expected to fall short - weirdly they were wrong on both occasions. Canvass data and internal polling does seem to have its limitations.
However, let's say for the sake of argument that the theory is correct and Labour is about to significantly underperform its polling yet again. What would that mean from a pro-independence perspective? Basically it would ensure that we're going to get a handsome Tory victory at UK-wide level coupled with seat losses in Scotland (we don't know exactly how many) for the SNP - not an especially appetising combination. But the silver lining is that Labour's recent recovery in Scotland is directly linked to the party's surge throughout Britain, and if that surge proves to be a mirage on one side of the border, it's reasonable to suspect it may prove to be a mirage on the other side as well.
Why is that important? Mainly because it would remove the risk, however small, that the SNP might not come out of this election with a majority of Scottish seats. Yes, it would still be possible that if the polls are overestimating the SNP there could be some shock Tory gains in long-shot seats that will leave us traumatised for months. But no matter how long you spend totting up the constituencies that are theoretically just about within range for the Tories and Lib Dems, you simply won't find a scenario in which the SNP can be reduced below thirty seats without a major contribution from Labour.
The saving grace of Labour's "nuclear winter" from our point of view would thus be the guarantee of a further five years of SNP majority representation at Westminster (barring more snap elections), and the completion of the 'triple-lock' mandate for an independence referendum.
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Both the Tories and the Lib Dems ought to be careful what they wish for. If the Tories get their hearts' desire and dislodge Angus Robertson in Moray, it's just conceivable that Theresa May could find herself facing Alex Salmond at Prime Minister's Questions. It's perhaps not likely that Salmond would want to resume a leadership role at this stage in his career, but it wouldn't be the first time he's made an unexpected comeback. And if the Lib Dems do as well in Scotland as they hope, the predicted losses in England could see them being led by Alistair Carmichael or Christine Jardine before the summer is out. The mind boggles.