Saturday, November 23, 2019

Seat projection suggests SNP landslide and Lib Dem meltdown

Are we going to get through yet another Saturday night without a full-scale Scottish poll?  Well, the night is young, maybe something will appear at midnight.  What we do have is a UK-wide seat projection based upon 270,000 YouGov interviews, of which presumably around 20,000 will have been in Scotland.  So although the model is untested (it's not the official YouGov projection model that proved reasonably accurate in 2017), it deserves to be taken seriously, and it offers good news for the SNP.

Conservatives 349 
Labour 213 
SNP 49
Liberal Democrats 14
Plaid Cymru 5 
Greens 1

If that turned out to be the final result, it would be an absolute catastrophe for the Liberal Democrats - they'd be six down on their pre-election tally, and only two up on their 2017 showing.  I would guess that around 4 of their 14 seats would be in Scotland, but if they're really underperforming badly, perhaps I shouldn't even make that assumption.  But let's say four Scottish Lib Dems for the sake of argument, and Ian Murray holding Edinburgh South for Labour.  That would only leave space for five Scottish Tory seats, a drop of eight.  In psychological terms that would be a really dramatic step forward for the pro-independence movement.

It's striking that the Tories are only projected to have a middling overall majority of 48, in spite of their double-digit GB-wide lead.  That suggests they could possibly be denied a majority if their lead is cut to six or seven percentage points - but time is running out for that to happen.  A large number of postal votes will be cast in the near future.

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UPDATE: We may get more information soon on an exact forecast for Scotland, because details for individual seats are being mentioned.  For example, this tweet from Tim Shipman -

"Some good news for the LibDems, Datapraxis model has Jo Swinson holding a 4 point lead over the SNP and likely to benefit from any pro unionist tactical voting"

I'm not sure on what planet the Lib Dems only being 4 points ahead in their leader's seat is supposed to be good news for them - I would have expected it to be far higher than that.  That's a drop of 6 points on her lead in 2017.  Perhaps it's 4 points before tactical voting is taken into account, that would make more sense. 

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I have two more constituency previews in today's edition of The National - this time it's Lanark & Hamilton East and East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow.

Friday, November 22, 2019

How could you, Keith? You're Cullen my dreams...

Apologies for the uncharacteristically negative headline, but I couldn't resist. It was perhaps inevitable that with five Scottish by-elections taking place in the space of a week, one would prove to be less wonderful for the SNP than the other four. However, this isn't as bad a result as it looks, for reasons I shall explain in a moment.

Keith & Cullen by-election result (Moray Council):

Conservatives 41.5% (+8.8)
SNP 38.1% (-1.6)
Independent - Rob Barsby 12.7% (+3.1)
Liberal Democrats 7.7% (n/a)

The sizeable increase in the Tory vote should be taken with a pinch of salt, because the overall vote for independent candidates dropped sharply from around 28% to 13%.  Moray is one of the parts of Scotland where the independent vote is often pretty much interchangeable with the Tory vote, so in theory that could explain the entire Tory increase.  However, there's no equivalent alibi for the slight fall in SNP support, and this is obviously a sub-optimal result given that Moray is one of the Tory seats that the SNP are targeting in the general election.

On the other hand, it's dangerous to extrapolate from a low-turnout (34%) local by-election result to a general election - it may be that SNP supporters in Moray will be far more motivated to turn out for the latter.  It should also be remembered that Moray is one of the most Brexit-friendly constituencies in the whole of Scotland, so even if the Tories do cling on to it, that doesn't necessarily mean the SNP won't gain other Tory seats where the conditions are far more favourable.  For example, East Renfrewshire and Stirling both had very high Remain votes in 2016.

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I have two more constituency previews in today's edition of The National - this time it's Falkirk and Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk.

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Click here for a handy list of SNP election crowdfunders.

Aberdonian agony for luckless Leonard as super SNP sail serenely on

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm waiting with bated breath for the first polls with post-Tuesday fieldwork to see if the rigged ITV debate has had any impact on the SNP's showing.  Nothing so far, but what we do have are real votes cast in real ballot boxes yesterday in two Scottish local by-elections.  Only one declaration is in so far, but the numbers are extremely encouraging.

Torry/Ferryhill by-election result (Aberdeen City Council):

SNP 43.2% (+11.8) 
Conservatives 26.0% (+2.1) 
Labour 10.6% (-12.8) 
Liberal Democrats 8.4% (+3.3) 
Greens 8.1% (+3.3) 
Independent 2.3% 
UKIP 1.4% (+0.5)

The percentage changes are uncannily similar to last week's three by-elections - the SNP are up, the Tories are up but not by as much, and Labour are down.  It looks like voters are highly motivated to turn out for the SNP, which hopefully makes it less likely that the opinion polls will overestimate the SNP's general election support this time.  I don't think we should jump to the conclusion that the Tories' vote is likely to increase from 2017 - they tend to benefit from differential turnout in local by-elections, and a drop in the Independent vote may also have been a factor.

Bear in mind that not all of the votes in Torry/Ferryhill were cast after the rigged debate - most postal votes will have been completed before then.  But it's a highly reassuring result all the same.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The new West Lothian Question is how badly Labour are going to do in West Lothian

So a few miscellaneous things.  Firstly, I have two new constituency previews in The National, this time about constituencies either wholly or partly in West Lothian - Livingston and Linlithgow & East Falkirk.

Secondly, I was asked to comment about Alex Salmond for an article on the Al Jazeera website by Alasdair Soussi.  I did my best to put the situation in its correct perspective.  You can read it HERE.

Finally, and on the same topic, could I please ask again that people in the comments section of this blog avoid any discussion of the details of the Alex Salmond trial.  Obviously I'm not a legal expert, but as I understand it, all speculation about the facts of the case is strictly forbidden.  So I'm having to be ruthless and delete comments of that sort when I see them. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Can the SNP prevent a nuclear holocaust by beating Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire?

Just by coincidence, one of my two constituency previews in today's edition of The National is Jo Swinson's seat of East Dunbartonshire. So can the SNP save the world from nuclear annihilation by getting the leader of the "Liberal Democrats" out of parliament? Find out HERE. The other profile is Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, currently held by Shadow Scottish Secretary Lesley Laird - you can read that one HERE.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

"Brazen, indefensible": The night ITV lost the trust of Scottish viewers forever

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Click here for a handy list of SNP election crowdfunders.

Latest YouGov average suggests the SNP are on course for twelve seat gains

It's truly astonishing - we're three weeks into this campaign and we still haven't had a full-scale Scottish poll (apart from an out-of-date one from YouGov).  Until that changes, I'm going to keep posting averages from the five most recent Scottish subsamples conducted by YouGov, because that's the best available substitute.  Unlike Scottish subsamples from other firms, YouGov's appear to be correctly structured and weighted - which means the only problem with them is the large margin of error caused by the small sample size.

YouGov subsample average:

SNP 43.2%
Conservatives 25.6%
Labour 12.6%
Liberal Democrats 11.2%
Brexit Party 3.8%
Greens 3.4%

The most discernible trend over the course of the campaign has been a Tory recovery, but that's been at the expense of the Brexit Party and possibly the Liberal Democrats, rather than the SNP.  It's actually quite impressive how well the SNP vote is holding up at a time when their main opponent is gaining ground.  But the big concern is that the rigged TV debates could lead to a repeat of the 2017 scenario where the Tory surge didn't seem to be the end of the world until the SNP suddenly had to fight on a second front due to the late Labour comeback.

Note that the Tory recovery isn't completely factored in to the average yet, because two of the five subsamples were conducted before Farage decided not to contest Tory seats.  In today's subsample, the Tories are on 28% of the vote, which almost takes them back to where they were in 2017.  But because the SNP vote is higher than it was two years ago, a uniform swing would still result in the Tories losing seats to the SNP.  The seats projection from the average, based on the Electoral Calculus model, is -

SNP 47 (+12), Conservatives 7 (-6), Liberal Democrats 4 (n/c), Labour 1 (-6)

Incidentally, today's YouGov poll bucks the recent trend across the polling industry by showing Labour eating into the GB-wide Tory lead a little.  But that may be just a reversion to the mean, because the last poll was particularly favourable for the Tories, putting them on 45% - which would be the highest share of the vote for any party in a UK general election since the 1970s.

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Click here for a handy list of SNP election crowdfunders.

Don't forget, folks, it's Scotland v Kazakhstan at 7.45 tonight...

...and the half-time analysis looks set to be particularly gripping.

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I have another two constituency previews in The National today - this time it's Paisley & Renfrewshire North and Paisley & Renfrewshire South.

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Click here for a handy list of SNP election crowdfunders.

Monday, November 18, 2019

UK "democracy" proved to be a sham as London court backs ITV bid to rig the general election

I'm not surprised that the SNP and Liberal Democrats have lost their challenge to ITV's rigged leaders' debate tomorrow night, but this is a dark day for what purports to be "British democracy", and make no mistake - this will distort the outcome of the election.  The only question remaining is how severe that impact will be.  I'm not sure the SNP's position will be dramatically worsened in relation to the Tories, because people thinking of voting Tory to "stop Indyref 2" are unlikely to be SNP-Tory floating voters anyway.  The much bigger danger to the SNP is in seats where Labour are their main opponents.  Traditionally there has been considerable overlap between the SNP and Labour support, with a large number of voters open-minded about voting for either party.  If ITV succeed in presenting Jeremy Corbyn as the only alternative to a Tory government, Labour could start to come back from the dead in a number of Scottish constituencies, most obviously the six marginals they currently hold.

Subject to legal advice, I hope the SNP are at least still considering their options about challenging the BBC and Sky debates.  On the face of it, they ought to have a better case against Sky, who are planning to exclude the third-largest party but include the fourth-largest party.  But as far as ITV are concerned, we'll just have to get our prayer mats out and hope that this shameful attempt to stitch up the general election has a relatively limited effect.

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Lib Dem ransom demand may ensure the SNP take the BBC to court

The Liberal Democrats have become noticeably less frosty today about the SNP joining them in challenging ITV's rigged leaders' debate in court.  It's unlikely that they're being friendlier out of the sheer kindness of their hearts, so I can think of two possible explanations: a) their lawyers have told them there's a better chance of success if the case doesn't seem to be motivated by narrow self-interest, or b) their double-standards in saying that the SNP should be excluded has led to negative responses in focus groups or internal polling.

The courts tend to be conservative with a small 'c', so I think we have to presume that the balance of probability is that today's challenge will fail.  But let's suppose for the purposes of speculation that the court thinks the arguments on each side are finely-balanced.  If so, it could be that we've been very unlucky that the ITV format has had to be challenged first, because it seems to me that ITV's defence of what they're doing is slightly less weak than the BBC's or Sky's.  They've got an interview-based programme scheduled for after the debate on Tuesday night, featuring leaders of the excluded parties but not Labour or the Tories.  That was clearly a wheeze dreamed up with the specific aim of making the debate court-proof, and it might just work.  But as far as I'm aware, the BBC and Sky have no such programme planned, so even if the ITV debate is upheld, it's still possible that the BBC and Sky debates might be shown the red card if the SNP launch further legal challenges later on.  Would they, though?  Or would they be demoralised by a first defeat and think there is little point in taking the matter further?

What might tip the balance in favour of them fighting to the end is an extraordinary letter the Liberal Democrats have sent to the BBC, which almost reads like a ransom demand -

"In light of all of the above you are now required to confirm, by 5pm on Wednesday November 20, 2019, that Jo Swinson will be invited to take part in any ‘leaders’ debate’ to be broadcast by BBC during the current General Election campaign."

If the Lib Dems are determined to take the BBC to court, come what may, I would guess the SNP will feel they have to be there as well to protect their own interests.  Because the one thing that would be even worse than a two-way debate excluding the SNP is a three-way debate excluding the SNP.

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I have another couple of constituency previews in today's edition of The National - this time it's Edinburgh East and Argyll & Bute.