Saturday, December 14, 2019

Miscellaneous election stuff

So a few miscellaneous things.  I have an article in The National about what the polls got right and wrong in Scotland over the last few weeks.  You can read it HERE.

I was interviewed yesterday about the election for an article on the Al Jazeera website by Alasdair Soussi, entitled 'SNP victory puts Scottish independence back in the spotlight'.  You can read it HERE.

I was also interviewed on Radio Sputnik yesterday, and I was asked about Jo Swinson's claim in her concession speech that "nationalism" is on the march on both sides of the border.  That gave me a rather enjoyable opportunity to call the Liberal Democrats "the quintessential nationalists" of this campaign, who "out-Toried the Tories" and are "obsessed with the British state". I haven't found a catch-up link for the interview, but if one appears I'll post it here later.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Video: Reaction to Jo Swinson's defeat

Yes, I know I forgot to turn the lights on, but I'm much too tired to record the video again!

UPDATE: The final result of the general election in Scotland -

SNP 48 (+13)
Conservatives 6 (-7)
Liberal Democrats 4 (n/c)
Labour 1 (-6)

Of course the SNP will immediately reduce themselves to 47 by depriving Neale Hanvey of the whip, but hopefully common sense will prevail and that state of affairs won't last for too long.  If the people of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath think that Mr Hanvey is a fit and proper person to be their MP, it would be rather bizarre if the SNP conclude that he isn't even fit to be a party member.

There was a frustrating run of narrow defeats towards the end of the night that just barely spared the waters of Loch Ness from a frightening ordeal, but really, it was incredible how close the SNP came to gaining seats like West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine and Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross - those weren't even on my radar a few weeks ago.  The failure to gain Moray and Banff & Buchan shouldn't have been a surprise, because the Leave vote was stronger in those two seats and the outcome tonight is linked to the trend in Leave areas south of the border.

The fact that the Liberal Democrats delivered the goods in four of the five seats they were competing for makes Jo Swinson's defeat look like a very personal one.  If you lose your seat for the specific reason that your own constituents dislike you as a person, it's safe to assume you don't have much of a future as party leader.  I would guess it's only a matter of hours before she formally resigns.  The Lib Dems must wish that Vince Cable had stayed on for a few more months.  Ironically, if he had, Jo Swinson herself might still be an MP.

That said, it's blindingly obvious that the Lib Dems owe their narrow gain in North-East Fife to a massive anti-SNP tactical vote by Tory supporters.  There was a very clear correlation between the drop in the Tory vote and the increase in the Lib Dem vote.

The overall Scottish outcome will hopefully kill forever the idea that the SNP cannot confront the electorate with the issue of independence if they want to win elections.  They shied away from making the case in 2017, but went in all guns blazing in 2019, and the contrast between the two results tells us all we need to know.  Safety-first and blandness don't inspire anyone.

Nicola Sturgeon has really got to use the tremendous moral mandate she now has to push relentlessly for an independence referendum to actually take place - a Westminster veto simply can't be accepted, even tacitly.  In the long run it's not defeats you rue - it's squandered opportunities at moments of triumph, and we can't afford to let this opportunity slip through our fingers.

With three results to go, it looks arithmetically certain that the SNP's share of the popular vote in Scotland (45%) is going to slightly exceed the Tories' share of the UK vote (currently 43.6%).  I'm sure that point will be made repeatedly, because if Johnson is claiming a mandate to deliver Brexit on his terms, it's very hard to see how the SNP don't have a watertight mandate to hold an independence referendum.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Exit Poll Sensation: It could be 2015 all over again as SNP projected to win 55 seats

Exit Poll:

Conservatives 368
Labour 191
SNP 55
Liberal Democrats 13

Thoughts on the upcoming exit poll

Based on experience in the last few elections, we can say a few things about the upcoming exit poll, which will be theatrically announced by the broadcasters at the stroke of 10pm.  It's likely to be highly accurate, it's likely to contain some sort of surprise, and there's a 50% chance we won't like that surprise.  If the worst comes to the worst and the projected number of seats for the SNP is a lot lower than we're expecting, the only slight consolation is that the margin of error may effectively be higher in Scotland due to the large number of ultra-marginal seats.  Even an exceptionally accurate exit poll can't be expected to correctly call races that are within 1% or 2%.

While we're waiting for the moment of torture, just a quick punt for my last three constituency previews in The National - Perth and North Perthshire, Glasgow South-West and Glasgow North-West.  I've now covered all 59 constituencies - it's been an epic undertaking, so I hope you've found them interesting and useful.  But actually, come to think of it, rather than reading the last batch I'd prefer you to ring round your family and friends and make sure they've all voted SNP, or will do by 10pm.  Let's not allow this one to slip through our fingers.

VIDEO: Anti-Brexit tactical voting guide for Scotland

Do you have a pro-European voter in your life who lives in either a Scottish Tory seat or a Scottish Tory target seat?  Are they not especially party political but very keen on doing whatever they can to stop Brexit?  If so, I've made this video just for them, so please feel free to pass it on.  It's a guide to anti-Brexit tactical voting in Scotland.

Unfortunately the figures for the Survation poll I tentatively reported in my previous post did turn out to be too good to be true, although it's still a very good poll for the SNP - significantly better than the Panelbase polls, for example.  Here are the correct numbers -

SNP 43%
Conservatives 28%
Labour 20%
Liberal Democrats 7%

Seats projection: SNP 47, Conservatives 8, Liberal Democrats 3, Labour 1

Labour will be breathing a sigh of relief this morning, but the Lib Dems must be horrified - if Survation are right they're back to the share of the vote they started with in 2017.

There's also some very good news on the independence question...

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 49%
No 51%

This is sensational if true: Survation's full-scale Scottish poll appears to give SNP a mammoth 19% lead. Now only one question remains: CAN WE ACTUALLY GET THE VOTE OUT?

Survation, who used to regularly conduct Scottish polls but haven't done so for quite a while, have released their final GB-wide poll of the campaign.  They announced that the Scottish sample was going to be a full 1000-strong and would be conducted as a full-scale, properly-weighted Scottish poll before being integrated into the GB poll as a subsample.  We were supposed to see the full-scale Scottish numbers at some point tonight - so far that hasn't happened, but the subsample percentages have appeared in the datasets of the GB-wide poll.  Unless I'm missing something, these figures will be identical to the Scottish poll, because I can't see why there would be any point in reweighting them.  If I'm wrong I apologise in advance for getting people's hopes up, because the numbers are nothing short of incredible for an eve-of-election poll.

Scottish voting intentions for the general election (Survation, 10th-11th December):

SNP 46% (+5)
Conservatives 27% (+3)
Labour 15% (-7)
Liberal Democrats 10% (+2)

Seats projection (Electoral Calculus model): SNP 47 (+12), Conservatives 6 (-7), Liberal Democrats 4 (n/c), Labour 2 (-5)

The percentage changes are measured from the last full-scale Survation poll in April, so are only of limited use in judging the effect of the campaign.  For example, April was before the Lib Dem surge really got underway.  But Labour don't have any obvious alibi for these figures - Survation have been a particularly favourable pollster for them in the recent past.  It's really surprising to see them performing 5% worse than in the YouGov MRP (particularly as the MRP suggested they had been gaining ground over the campaign).

I'm far, far more sceptical about what this poll is suggesting in respect of the SNP-Tory contest, because there's such a long history of polls overestimating the SNP's position in relation to the Tories.  And by long history I mean even back into my childhood - in the 1992 election, every poll suggested that the SNP would finish second and the Tories third, but every poll was wrong.  In 2017, Survation did a better job of picking up the late anti-SNP swing than any other pollster, but their final poll still overestimated the SNP's lead over the Tories by a couple of points.

The main thing that went wrong in 2017 is that people who would have voted SNP simply didn't make it to the polling stations, while Tory voters did.  We've got to move heaven and earth tomorrow to make sure that doesn't happen again, no matter how cold or wet the weather is.  No stone left unturned.  Come on, let's do this.  In 19 hours from now it'll be too late.

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UPDATE: In my excitement, I missed a very obvious point here - this poll was conducted by telephone rather than the more common online method, so that might explain why the figures seem so surprising. Of course in the old days we would have automatically assumed that telephone polls are more accurate, but that question has been less clear-cut since 2016, because online polls actually performed better in the EU referendum.

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UPDATE II: Unfortunately the Survation numbers reported above did prove to be inaccurate, although it's still a very good poll for the SNP.  You can find the correct numbers in a fresh blogpost HERE.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

On the subject of postal votes...

I've been receiving quite a few emails from readers over the course of the campaign, so apologies if there are one or two I haven't replied to yet, because I've been up to my neck with various things. As postal votes are in the news today, I thought this might be a good moment to show you an email from a week or so ago about that subject, and let you make up your own mind. I agree with most of this, apart from the suggestion that the problems "at source" are only minor - I do think the system has been abused more often than we'd like to believe. Part of me thinks we'd be better off going back to the old system where you needed to have a good reason to apply for a postal vote.

"Feels like I've been a subscriber since SGP first started, and as always you come into your own during election campaigns.

But one thing is missing, and it's something that gives the Tories a serious head start at every campaign - their hard core postal vote.

That has to change if we are going to remove the likes of Mundell and Carlaw from Westminster and Holyrood, and the likes of Carruthers, Drysedale, and Nairn (just three of the Tory Councillors in D&G) who rely primarily on postal votes to get elected.

The percentage of voters using PVs in rural areas is around 21%, and my own estimates (based on the 2017 local and GE results) give Tory candidates 80% of that 21%.
For example, Ian Carruthers - a Tory councillor in my own ward - received just over 1,600 first choice votes and reached quota at the first round. 600+ of those votes were postals.
The figures were even higher in a neighbouring ward.

It's the soul destroying part of any count down here. We may look like we're almost there …. then they bring in the postals.

After 2014 I made a point of looking closely at the conspiracy theories surrounding voting at the referendum.
It took me around 30 minutes to comprehensively debunk every piece of outrageous nonsense I found on FB, YouTube, and other platforms.

But by then it was too late - the damage had been done, and it's still being done today.

I keep asking folk if they've ever wondered why so many Unionist media outlets gave so much coverage to those claims of 'massive' electoral fraud - invariably committed by MI5, every postie in Scotland, and the 45% of staff working at counts all over Scotland who claimed to be Yes supporters/SNP members, but were actually Illuminati sleeper agents.
They haven't, but occasionally a wee light goes on when they realise what I'm suggesting.

I've been to every count down here since 2011.
I've attended the last 3 postal vote verification sessions - talked to the staff, had the system explained to me in great detail, and been told repeatedly that many of our own get more than a bit angry when an ignorant zoomer claims they're all working for MI5 or 'Westminster'.
Basically, the PV system is 100% foolproof - with the exception of 'at source' - places like care homes.
But that exception can only affect a tiny number of votes - and what kind of loon is going to risk a very good, very secure job for a few more Tory votes ?

In a nutshell, the folk who believe the nonsense have no idea how the PV system operates, and they've certainly never worked as Count or Polling Agents.
Nor have they spent a few days in the middle of a PV verification where we actually take part in the process !!
In fact I'll bet the zoomers don't even know we have people at every count watching the entire thing happen, and can stop the count if we suspect something's wrong.
I've stopped a count before, and I was right to do so.
I was thanked by an Electoral Commission (Scot) observer afterwards as he'd also missed what I'd spotted.

Perhaps, once the current election is done and dusted, you can start looking at postal votes - the numbers, where they are highest, how they can create a built-in Tory majority, and how there's not a single shred of credible evidence supporting the nonsense stories that cost us dearly at every election?

The only way we can counter the situation is by getting as many of our supporters to apply and use PVs.

I did the data transfer from the Marked Register a couple of years ago and was shocked by what I saw. Our vote didn't turn out. It was raining. Folk were tired after work. There was something unmissable on TV etc etc.

The reasons don't matter, but the result down here meant Mundell had effectively been elected before the Polling Stations opened.

And it's all down to the ignorant zoomers who found it easier to blame electoral fraud rather than the real reasons we lost (media, the 'Vow', currency, and allowing the opposition to dictate the debate).

We need to change minds before the next referendum."

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I have three more constituency previews in today's edition of The National - this time it's Ochil & South Perthshire, Airdrie & Shotts and Kilmarnock & Loudoun.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

SNP projected to win 41 seats in new YouGov MRP data

YouGov MRP seats projection:

Conservatives 339 (-20) 
Labour 231 (+20) 
SNP 41 (-2) 
Liberal Democrats 15 (+2) 
Plaid Cymru 4 (n/c) 
Greens 1 (n/c)

Obviously the change figures in brackets are measured from the last update, not from the last election.  The SNP's 41 seats would actually be a gain of six.

One of the SNP's two net 'losses' since the last update can be accounted for very simply by the self-inflicted wound in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, where Labour are estimated to now be eight points ahead.

The Tories are estimated to have moved very slightly ahead in Lanark and Hamilton East, which would explain their excitement about that constituency.  But it's essentially a dead heat and doesn't look like the foregone conclusion that some people have been trying to portray.

YouGov agree with Focaldata in suggesting that the SNP have moved very slightly ahead in Angus, which contradicts the narrative in certain quarters that the north-east is a lost cause for the party.

Unfortunately the slight lead for the SNP in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross in the last update has been reversed, and the Lib Dems now have a bit of a cushion.  But Focaldata still has that seat pencilled in as an SNP gain.

Unlike Focaldata, the YouGov projection has the SNP gaining Glasgow North-East, but it does look very tight, which might explain the noises about Labour becoming "increasingly confident" about holding seats of that sort.  (With the propaganda stripped out, that might be code for "we're back in with a chance".)

Jo Swinson's chances in East Dunbartonshire appear to have strengthened, but only very slightly - she's now estimated to be 7% ahead.  (Focaldata have her only 1% ahead.)

Moray is shown as a tie, incredibly.  Aberdeen South and Banff & Buchan are also essentially coin tosses, albeit with the Tories fractionally ahead.  The SNP are slightly ahead in Gordon and East Renfrewshire.

Philippa Whitford's seat of Central Ayrshire is too close to call, but she is estimated to still have a modest lead over the Tories.

The seats that the SNP were hoping to take from Labour all look very tight, and in some cases Labour have moved into the lead (or stayed in the lead).  So that will increase fears of a 2017-style result due to a mini-recovery from Labour, and would explain the SNP's apparent tactical shift of moving resources to a defensive operation in current SNP seats.  This certainly represents a change of mood, because the feedback I was hearing until very recently was that canvass returns for the SNP were exceptionally good.  But the crucial point about this YouGov projection is that the SNP are implied to be offsetting any failures against Labour with a more competitive performance in Tory-held seats than has been widely billed of late.  Let's hope that's right, otherwise there's a danger of a 2017-style result (or worse).  YouGov's MRP did overestimate the SNP last time, but with a bit of luck they'll have changed their methodology to correct for that.  Winning back seats like Angus and Moray would be an incredible boost.  Too good to be true?  Feel free to share your canvassing experiences in the comments section below.

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UPDATE: From a rough average it looks like the SNP are on around 41% of the national vote, which would be the same as the last update.  Obviously an average might be misleading because two constituencies are much smaller than the others, but the SNP are strong in one of those two and weak in the other, so they should even themselves out.  I haven't worked out averages for the other parties yet - I don't know if anyone wants to take the task on!

UPDATE II:  The seat numbers for Scotland are..

SNP 41
Conservatives 9
Labour 5
Liberal Democrats 4

It's Tuesday, so it must be MRP day

If memory serves me right, YouGov's projection model was updated every day during the 2017 general election campaign, but this time we've only seen one set of figures so far and the next update will be at 10pm tonight.  It'll be a nerve-wracking moment, because the most recent full-scale Scottish poll was completed on Friday, and four days is an eternity at the end of a campaign.  Who knows what might have changed.  Remember that the rigged BBC debate took place on Friday evening.

In the meantime, we already have the updated MRP figures from Remain United, although I'm not sure how credible their projection is for Scotland, because they seem to have based their calculations on a single GB-wide ComRes poll and a few Deltapoll constituency polls in England.  On the face of it, that means the Scottish projection is derived purely from a subsample (albeit a larger than usual one), and thus shouldn't be regarded as reliable.  However, for what little it's worth, the numbers are favourable for the SNP...

Seats projection (Remain United):

Conservatives 340
Labour 233
SNP 45
Liberal Democrats 11
DUP 10
Sinn Fein 6
Plaid Cymru 2
Greens 1

There are also three seats (Aberdeen South, Angus and  Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock) where the SNP are estimated to be just behind the Conservatives and could win with the help of a small amount of tactical voting.

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I have three new constituency previews in today's edition of The National - this time it's Edinburgh South, Motherwell & Wishaw and Midlothian.

Monday, December 9, 2019

More information about the YouGov independence poll

So the mystery of the YouGov independence poll has been solved - it wasn't the same poll that gave the SNP a 44% to 28% lead over the Tories.  It was, as Britain Elects said, a later poll that was conducted between the 3rd and 6th of this month.  The headline voting intention numbers have been blanked out in the datasets, but the unweighted numbers are there, and don't look radically different from the earlier poll in respect of the SNP v Tory battle. 347 unweighted respondents back the SNP in the new poll, compared to 359 in the earlier one.  The number of unweighted respondents backing the Tories has only increased to 215 to 228.  So if I was going to hazard a guess, it would be that the weighted numbers will show the SNP lead has fallen by somewhere between two and four percentage points, which would still leave them with a decent enough lead of 12-14%.  However, there may have been a significant Labour recovery - the number of unweighted respondents backing Labour has jumped from 107 to 159.

Gina Miller blasts Mike Smithson's letter-writing antics for the Lib Dems as "extraordinarily scandalous"

More details have been coming to light of the downright lies that the Liberal Democrats have been telling Scottish voters in highly deceptive "letters" that were supposedly written by self-styled "polling and elections expert" Mike Smithson (in reality a former Lib Dem county councillor and a former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate).  Here are some of the gems -

"The election in Edinburgh South is between the SNP and the Liberal Democrats."

REALLY?  Edinburgh South is held by Labour, and is the safest seat in the whole of Scotland.  The SNP were in second place last time, the Tories were third, and the Lib Dems were in a distant fourth with a miserable 3% of the vote.  The YouGov projection model suggests that the Lib Dems will finish fourth again this time.  Even if Smithson thinks YouGov have got it wrong, his claim that Labour won't even be in the running looks risible.

"The majority of voters in Scotland want the UK to remain in Europe and want Scotland to remain in the UK."

No, they don't.  It doesn't work that way for the simple reason that Remain voters are disproportionately likely to be pro-independence, and Leave voters are disproportionately likely to be anti-independence.  Only a minority of voters take a dual pro-Europe, anti-independence position - a significant minority, admittedly, but a minority nonetheless.

"Support for Labour and the Conservatives has nosedived in Scotland."

Labour, yes, but support for the Conservatives appears to be roughly where it was two years ago - at most there has been a drop of three percentage points, which is scarcely a nosedive.

"Support for the Liberal Democrats is growing in Scotland."

No, it isn't.  Polls show their support has slipped over the course of the campaign.

"Only the Liberal Democrats can gain seats from the SNP in Scotland."

"Seats"?  Seats plural?  We know that North East Fife is a possibility, but what other seats are they going to gain?

"In constituencies right across Scotland the only way to stop the SNP winning is for Conservative and Labour voters to vote tactically for the Scottish Liberal Democrats to stop the SNP."

Rubbish.  Of the 59 Scottish constituencies, there are five, or perhaps six at the most, where the Lib Dems are likely to be the SNP's main opponents.  If the Lib Dems want to encourage unionist voters to throw their votes away in the other 53 or 54 seats, we should probably just let them get on with it.  But the snag is that they're sending very similar letters to pro-European voters in Tory-Labour battleground seats, making the bogus claim that the local battle is between the Tories and the Lib Dems.  That's a classic case of putting party before country, because splitting the Remain vote in those crucial seats could help Boris Johnson be re-elected with a thumping majority.  It's no exaggeration to say that Smithson, ostensibly a lifelong Europhile, could end up being responsible for a Hard Brexit if he succeeds in deceiving people.  It's little wonder that Remain activist Gina Miller blasted his letter-writing antics as "extraordinarily scandalous and misleading to the public".

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I have three new constituency previews in today's edition of The National - this time it's Moray, West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine, and Rutherglen & Hamilton West.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Video: SNP on course for major gains in Scotland

Here's the third in my series of short pre-election videos, this time focusing on the two newest full-scale Scottish polls from YouGov and Panelbase.  I can neither confirm nor deny rumours that the improvement in picture quality is due to the person known in certain quarters as the "Random Totty From Freedom Square" very kindly lending me her camera for a few days.

Up-to-date Panelbase poll suggests the SNP are still on course for significant gains

I wondered after the new independence figures from YouGov whether we'd see a corresponding drop in support for the SNP, and now we're some way towards answering that question.  A new Panelbase poll has been released with fieldwork dates that are identical to the ones that Britain Elects claimed for the YouGov poll (although I'm wondering if that might have been a mix-up) and show only statistically insignificant changes within the margin of error.

Scottish voting intentions (Panelbase):

SNP 39% (-1)
Conservatives 29% (+1)
Labour 21% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 10% (-1)

Seats projection: SNP 40 (+5), Conservatives 12 (-1), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1), Labour 2 (-5)

I know people's reactions to this will differ, and some will think it looks too close to the 2017 result for comfort.  But it's really important to remember that Panelbase are typically the least SNP-friendly pollster, and that YouGov tend to report SNP vote shares that are a few percentage points higher.  Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that Panelbase are wrong or that YouGov are right, but we can't possibly know the answer to that until election night.  Until then what matters is the trend, and we're entitled to a sigh of relief that there's no clear trend against the SNP in this bang-up-to-date poll.  Even if Panelbase are absolutely correct, the SNP would gain Stirling from the Tories and win most of Labour's seats.  The Lib Dems must also be alarmed to see their vote gradually drift closer to the 7% they received last time.

Panelbase agree with YouGov that there's been a drop in support for Yes, but the change is much more modest in the Panelbase poll.  That leads me to wonder if YouGov have slightly exaggerated the trend due to the margin of error or some other factor.  We'll have to wait for future polls to know for sure.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 47% (-2)
No 53% (+2)

In fact this means that Panelbase are saying that the recent Yes surge has not been fully reversed - if it had been, the Yes vote would be back to somewhere in the region of 43-45%.