Friday, January 27, 2017

If the next No campaign targets lower-income voters with an anti-immigration pitch, it could backfire

I've been asked to cast my eye over YouGov's latest Brown-esque "interventions" in the independence debate.  First of all, as you may have seen on Twitter, they're currently running an "independence poll" that uses the mind-bogglingly ludicrous question "Should Scotland remain a member of the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom?".  That's identical to the question that BMG were rightly castigated for using a few months ago, and which they thankfully abandoned in their most recent poll.  It's depressing to have to point this out yet again, but the reason the question is ludicrous is that the United Kingdom is a unitary state, rather than an organisation with "members" (as amply demonstrated by the Supreme Court only the other day), and "leaving the United Kingdom" is not synonymous with independence - Scotland could leave the UK to become part of another state, for example.

I see no reason to suppose that the next indyref will ask a question other than "Should Scotland be an independent country?", which was after all the Electoral Commission's own suggestion in the first place.  However, even if there were much chance of a change, there is no way on God's Earth that the Electoral Commission would ever approve the "leave the United Kingdom" question that London pollsters seem to be hankering after, because a) it's inaccurate, b) it's misleading, c) it's biased, and d) it lacks clarity.

It's important not to jump to the conclusion that YouGov's poll is intended for publication, though - it might just be an internal testing poll (although even that would raise troubling questions about the firm's prejudices on this subject).  Alternatively, they may have been commissioned by a partisan client who insisted upon that question for propaganda purposes.

Separately, YouGov have today released an aggregate of their internal polling on independence between late August and mid-December (using the correct question, I'm glad to say).  The results show a modest swing to Yes since the first indyref : Yes 46% (+1), No 54% (-1).  The point made in the analysis is that the Yes camp would have made more progress by now if it hadn't been for a significant minority of Brexit supporters switching sides from Yes to No.  I've been a bit sceptical about that argument when it's been made in the past, because even before the EU referendum there had been a degree of movement in both directions.  However, the YouGov aggregate does show that 25% of people who voted Yes in 2014 and Leave in 2016 have switched to the No camp.  I'd suggest that's actually quite encouraging, because I suspect the next Yes campaign is not going to be relentlessly about Europe, and there may well be ways of bringing those former Yes supporters "back home" - which would nudge us closer to the 50% mark.

How would the No campaign counter that?  Are they going to run a really nasty campaign based on fear of immigration from EU countries, and possibly Turkey?  Maybe they will (Blair McDougall seemed to be hinting at that the other day), but if they do, they'll risk losing middle-class pro-European voters.  A particularly high 14% of the people who voted No in 2014 and Remain in 2016 say they don't know how they would vote in the next indyref, so there's a lot at stake here.  Remember that affluent voters are more likely to turn out, so if No become more reliant on lower-income voters without a university degree, that could easily work against them.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Kalamity Kez Krushed in Kilmarnock as SNP win by-election on 9% swing

Tonight's by-election triumph for the SNP on East Ayrshire Council is a seemingly quite rare example  under the STV system of a 'hold' both in theory and in practice - the vacancy was caused by the death of an SNP councillor, and the SNP also won the popular vote in the word last time.  However, the result in 2012 was about as near as you can get to a dead heat (Labour trailed by only 0.7%), so the fact that the SNP are now almost 20% clear tells its own story.

Kilmarnock East & Hurlford by-election result (26th January 2017) :

SNP 48.7% (+2.0)
Labour 29.4% (-16.6)
Conservatives 20.1% (+12.7)
Libertarian 1.8% (n/a)

As usual, the numbers above are based on my own calculation, and differ a little from the ones posted on the Britain Elects Twitter account (which as far as I can see are very slightly inaccurate).

On the face of it, this looks not much better than a 'no change' result for the SNP, with the real movement being between Labour and Tory.  However, appearances may well be deceptive - there could easily have been substantial movement from Labour to the SNP which was partly offset by ex-SNP No voters switching to the Tories.

If repeated across the country in May, a 2% net boost in the SNP vote would arguably be a tad underwhelming - it would only put them in the mid-30s.  However, we always have to bear in mind that local by-elections tend to have low turnouts (27% in this case) and that Tory supporters are typically more motivated to go out and vote when others don't bother.  The limited opinion poll evidence we have suggests that the SNP are continuing to do much better than mid-30s - although the prevalence of independent candidates in rural areas may mean that they won't do quite as well in local elections as they would in other types of election.

Whatever we may think of the SNP's result tonight, there's not even any room for discussion that this is another catastrophe for Labour, which leads me to wonder if there's just as outside chance that Kezia Dugdale might fall on her sword after May.  An obvious comparison would be John Swinney's sudden decision to resign as SNP leader after his party did worse than expected in the relatively unimportant 2004 European Parliament elections.  But there's the rub - is it actually possible for Labour to fare worse than expected?  Most of the losses are already psychologically factored in.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Apparently, the Supreme Court DON'T think Scotland has "the most powerful devolved parliament in the world"

Well, you're spoilt for choice as far as 'just a little note' is concerned this afternoon.  I have a reaction piece in the International Business Times about the Supreme Court effectively ruling that "The Vow" was a sham, and the Tories' irrationally jubilant reaction to that news.  You can read it HERE.

And I also have an article on the TalkRadio website about what the rogue Trident missile may have been trying to tell us when it went off on its hols to America.  You can read that one HERE.

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