Friday, November 6, 2020

Day of despair for Douglas Ross as the Tories go backwards in Aberdeen by-election, and are on course to lose TWELVE SEATS in next year's Holyrood vote

I didn't get round to updating my post about the Survation poll yesterday, so for the sake of completeness here are the party political voting intention numbers, with more good news for the SNP and the Yes movement.

Scottish voting intentions for Westminster: 

SNP 52% (+1) 
Labour 20% (-1) 
Conservatives 18% (-2) 
Liberal Democrats 8% (+2) 

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 54% (+1) 
Conservatives 19% (-1) 
Labour 18% (-) 
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1) 

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 43% (+2) 
Labour 19% (+1) 
Conservatives 17% (-1) 
Greens 10% (-) 
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1) 
Brexit Party 2% (-) 
UKIP 1% (-) 

Holyrood seats projection (with changes from 2016 result): SNP 69 (+6), Labour 25 (+1), Conservatives 19 (-12), Greens 11 (+5), Liberal Democrats 5 (n/c)

For anyone who still doubts that the list vote is generally the more important ballot, please note that the Tories are in second place in the constituency ballot, Labour are in second place in the list ballot, and that translates firmly into Labour being in second place in the seats projection.  The exact reverse occurred in 2016 - Labour clung onto second place in the constituencies, but were pushed into third place in terms of seats due to what happened on the list.  

The phenomenon of the Tories' status as the largest opposition party being seriously threatened should perhaps be seen as a 'house effect' of Survation's methodology, because the last Survation poll showed something similar, but other firms have not corroborated those findings in the meantime.  That said, there's no doubt that the Tories are now performing much more poorly than at the peak of the revival under Ruth Davidson.  The new leader Douglas Ross must take his share of the blame for that, because the position seems to have worsened slightly since he took over, and that's coincided with dire personal ratings for him being reported in a couple of polls.

The situation the Tories now find themselves in is arguably reminiscent of where the SNP were just after they elected John Swinney as leader twenty years ago.  They had it all worked out - Alex Salmond, for all his qualities, had supposedly been too abrasive to make the ultimate breakthrough, whereas John Swinney was more like a friendly older brother, impossible to dislike, a bit of a reassuring bank manager figure in the mould of John Smith.  There was just one snag - the voters didn't react to him in the way they were supposed to react, and polls consistently showed that he commanded less confidence than all three of the other main party leaders.  The SNP weren't deterred - they thought the public just hadn't had enough of a chance to get to know Swinney, and he would become popular with time.  But after four years they finally had to admit to themselves that the dial wasn't moving, resulting in the unexpected comeback for Alex Salmond that changed Scottish politics forever.

Same story with Douglas Ross - the public are supposed to like him, but the public haven't read the script provided for them, and my suspicion is they won't change their minds.  How long will it take for the penny to drop?

More evidence that the tide has gone out on the Conservatives can be found in the result of the Kincorth, Nigg & Cove by-election, which although a routine SNP hold, showed a swing of approximately 4% from Tory to SNP.

Kincorth, Nigg & Cove by-election result (first preferences):

SNP 47.4% (+6.7) 
Conservatives 20.2% (-1.3) 
Labour 12.2% (-5.3) 
Independent - Finlayson 10.5% (-0.4)
Liberal Democrats 3.6% (-1.6)

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Sparkling Survation survey sustains the sequence: eleventh poll in a row to show pro-independence majority

Survation have traditionally been one of the most Yes-friendly pollsters, but oddly that hasn't really been the case during the current spell of sustained pro-independence majorities - they haven't been showing a Yes vote even higher than that reported by other firms (in the way that Ipsos-Mori did, for example).

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 54% (+1)
No 46% (-1)

54% does equal the all-time high for Yes with Survation - but that high was previously recorded long before this year.

In some quarters you'll see this being billed as the twelfth Yes majority in a row, but in my view it's the eleventh - I think to be consistent you really need to only include polls that ask the standard question.

More to follow...

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Biden: never in doubt (much)

So my winning track record on political betting remains intact - an hour or two ago, I cashed out my bet on Biden for a decent profit, although I must admit it was a rollercoaster ride to get to that point, and I almost lost my nerve at one stage.  Even though Biden was very much a value bet before the results started to come in, probably the optimum time to bet on him would have been at around 2am, when incredibly the odds implied that Trump had more than a 75% chance of winning.  I couldn't make head nor tail of that, because at the time Biden had built up decent leads in Ohio and North Carolina - states he didn't even need to win.  My best guess was that punters had massively overreacted to Trump holding Florida against expectations.  

But of course, a couple of hours later, the tables had turned.  Trump had not only secured a comeback win in Ohio and taken what looked like a decisive lead in North Carolina, he had also rapidly built up what looked like telling leads in states that were actually much more vital to Biden's chances, namely Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  The experts repeatedly cautioned that those numbers might well be misleading due to the order in which different types of votes were being counted, but I remembered waiting for a Clinton comeback in those states in 2016 that never materialised, so I started to wonder if the sensible thing to do would be to cash out at a loss.  I decided to risk seeing if anything had changed after a few hours sleep, and by the time I woke up, as if by magic, Biden had the upper hand in Michigan and Wisconsin.  Although the margin in each case is narrow, those in the know are convinced it won't be overturned, meaning that Biden is assured of a majority in the electoral college unless Trump can overturn his narrow deficit in Nevada, which by all accounts is also unlikely.  And even if an improbable comeback does occur somewhere, it still might not be enough if Biden squeezes out a win in Georgia, which is considered perfectly possible.

I would guess at this stage that Trump's main hope will be that Biden ends up owing his electoral college majority to a narrow win in a single state - that would at least give the appearance of reasonableness to any legal challenge.  But if Trump needs the courts to alter the results in two or three states, his efforts to stay in office are going to look a bit desperate.

I don't actually think it'll take the army to remove him from the White House in January, but ideally he'll want to spin this out for as long as possible to build up a victim/conspiracy narrative, possibly with a view to another tilt at the presidency in 2024.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Pool and share, Yookay-style

Just a quick note to let you know that I've written today's online-only 'National Extra' piece, about how wonderfully convenient it is that the extension of furlough suddenly became possible when the south of England faced lockdown.  You can read it HERE.

The case for backing Craig Murray as SNP President

The honorary role of SNP President has in some ways just as impressive a pedigree as the position of party leader.  The legendary Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (aka Don Roberto) was President but never leader, and the same was true of Roland Muirhead, Donald Stewart and Winnie Ewing.  Both positions were held by Robert McIntyre and William Wolfe.  In a more rational world, the presidency would have been the natural role for Alex Salmond to take on if he had been welcomed back into the SNP fold after his acquittal - imagine the barnstorming speeches he could have given to finish conference every year, sending the membership off with a spring in their step.  In the absence of such rationality, though, Mike Russell is probably the next-best candidate for the job, and there's no real doubt at all that he will get it.

First of all, though, he faces a challenge from Craig Murray, who is using the contest to make the case for much greater urgency in the quest for independence.  I must say I'm very disappointed in the scathing reaction from certain quarters to Craig's decision to throw his hat into the ring.  Presumably the most faithful leadership loyalists believe, as I do, that people should stick with the SNP and not flirt with no-hoper splinter parties.  That being the case, it inescapably follows that the SNP must remain a broad church and that dissenting voices must be heard.  Craig is doing absolutely the right thing - staying in the party, fighting his corner, making his case, and giving the members (or rather the delegates) a meaningful choice between two competing visions and strategies.  He will, presumably, define success not as victory but the securing of a substantial minority vote to demonstrate to the leadership the depth of feeling about the need for a route-map to independence that does not accept the validity of a Westminster veto.

To me, that looks like a highly desirable outcome - the current popular leadership still firmly in charge, but pushed by members towards considering a more realistic and effective strategy.  So I've nominated Craig for the role of President, and I'd urge you to do the same if you're a member of the SNP and agree with me about the need for a Plan B.  You can nominate him by logging in to your SNP member account, then clicking on "elections" and then "nominations".  Don't be deterred by the customary attempts to deligitimise Craig as a "crank conspiracy theorist", because this isn't actually about Craig Murray anyway.  Mike Russell will be the President - this is about seizing an opportunity to make our voices heard at a conference which isn't even being permitted a direct vote on Plan B.  

Oh, and as for the synthetic outrage at Craig's rather imaginative wheeze of running an advert in support of his campaign in The National, I'd have to ask - have these people never seen a paid advert before?!