Friday, December 2, 2022

Frustration as SNP narrowly fail to hold off the Labour challenge in Broxburn by-election

The Broxburn by-election yesterday was always going to be a fascinating test, because the SNP had a roughly 12.5% lead over Labour in the ward at the local elections in May, and the national swing suggested by recent polling implied that there should be something close to a dead heat this time.  So a big Labour victory might have implied that the polls are underestimating the swing, while a solid SNP win could have given us hope that the Labour surge is not all it's cracked up to be.

Broxburn, Uphall and Winchburgh by-election result on first preferences (1st December 2022): 

Labour 39.8% (+10.2) 
SNP 35.2% (-6.7) 
Conservatives 7.8% (-10.0) 
Independent - Horne 6.1% (n/a) 
Liberal Democrats 3.7% (n/c) 
Independent - Laidlaw 2.8% (n/a) 
Greens 2.7% (-1.6) 
Alba 1.8% (+0.4)

In the perpetually wacky world of STV by-elections, this is technically a Labour hold, even though Labour have overtaken the SNP on a substantial swing.

So the result is broadly in line with national polls, meaning there's no particular reason for the SNP to doubt that Labour's recovery may be a very significant obstacle to the goal of obtaining 50%+ of the vote in a Westminster election used as a de facto independence referendum.  Although the SNP-to-Labour swing will likely show up in polls for every type of election, including Holyrood elections, the point is that in a Holyrood campaign the SNP would have the means to counter the problem by stressing in TV leaders' debates and the like that they are seeking an outright mandate for independence, thus coaxing Labour-curious Yes voters back into the fold.  They will have no such means in a Westminster election, where they are likely to be crowded out of the TV coverage, which will focus mainly on the Tory-Labour horserace.

It's obviously of some concern that on this occasion, the SNP-to-Labour swing is not artificially generated solely by movement from Tory to Labour, with the SNP vote remaining more or less static.  The SNP vote has actually gone down.  However, I'd want to know more about the independent candidates before leaping to any conclusions - it may be that those individuals for some reason had greater appeal to SNP-inclined voters than to Labour-inclined voters.

As far as my own party (Alba) is concerned, this is effectively an identical result to the Linn by-election two weeks ago.  We've made some very modest progress, but still remain firmly stuck in the sub-2% zone.  I must admit I was quite surprised by the reaction of some senior Alba people to the Linn result - although it was far from a catastrophe, it seemed obvious to me that it fell short of what was being sought, and I thought that might be acknowledged.  Instead the verdict seemed to be that it was a decent enough result.  That implies that we're effectively settling for remaining in the 1-2% zone for the foreseeable future.  The combined results from both by-elections certainly put the kybosh on the narrative doing the rounds a few months ago that Alba somehow already had the level of support that would win us list seats in a Holyrood election.  In truth, if there was a Holyrood election right now, the result would almost certainly be the same as eighteen months ago - we'd take approximately 2% of the list vote and zero seats.

To be clear, we absolutely can turn things around and win list seats in 2026 - it's perfectly possible for a party to grow its vote from 2% to the required 5-6% over the course of three-and-a-half years.  But that will entail being honest with ourselves that we need a broader coalition of support, rather than sticking our heads in the sand and telling ourselves that the coalition is already there but is somehow being cunningly concealed by the minutiae of preferential voting (no, there is no reason to think somebody giving a low preference to Alba in a local election is a potential Alba list voter).  To reiterate my prescription from after the Linn result: we need to stop pandering to ethnonationalists within the party who want to restrict the voting rights of English people living in Scotland, we need to tone down the near-homicidal rage directed against Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, we need to put a stop to the dark hints that we might try to sabotage a plebiscite election conducted under first-past-the-post by standing directly against the SNP, and we should instead concentrate on our positive pitch for much more urgency on independence.  

I know some might say that the above steps would in the first instance be noticed more by committed independence supporters than by the wider public.  But I don't think it can be underestimated how much we're limiting our own appeal to committed independence supporters by not appearing to be part of the pro-indy mainstream.  If we can claim a much firmer foothold among the independence movement, wider public support might follow before too long.

(Before anyone asks, the reason I think Alba could reasonably have been expected to do better in these two by-elections is that smaller parties can compete on a much more level playing-field when they're concentrating on a single locality and can bring in activists from across the country.  I know the response will be "but the SNP did the same thing", but the point is that the SNP as a larger party are not stretched so thin in national elections, so there's no equivalent disadvantage for them to overcome.  My guess is that Alba would have been privately hoping for 4-5%+ in both Linn and Broxburn.)

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  1. I agree with you about the way forward for Alba. (Founder member here.)

  2. Agree too and im a member as well.

    Call of the dogs on Sturgeon and the trans stuff. If you want a point of difference be urgent on indy, efta membership. Be positive, not negative.
    I think they have tried that to some extent with Salmond and others but the grassroots come across as nasty.. I hate to say it.

    1. Absolutely. Positive positive positive. About what needs done, how we all benefit from it, and getting it done now.

  3. James - spot on prognosis of Alba's prospects if it doesn't work to become part of the indy mainstream. That doesn't mean agreeing wholesale with SNP or Green policy. It does mean though that certain elements of the membership need to curb the overriding hostility towards them that has seeped into discussion. Alba was founded out of anger and frustration with the SNP approach. But that does not mean it should become defined as a party by that anger and frustration.

    If it does, it will needlessly remain a small tent. Salmond's biggest successes in 2007 and 2011 were built on relentlessly positive campaigning. Campaigning for something, not against something. Certain Alba members would do very well to remember that. This shouldn't be the "Anti Nikla" party. It needs to aspire to be so much more.

  4. The turnout was very low at 27.2 down 15%. I suspect the postal votes had a higher weigh due to the low turnout. The successful candidate was a councillor before so had name recognition. Local elections can be local. Time will tell.

  5. Thank goodness for Marcia or it would be the anonymous party.

  6. Everyone who supports the de facto UKGE referendum is restricting the voting rights of EU citizens living in Scotland.

    Everyone who supports the de facto UKGE referendum is restricting the voting rights of every 16/17 year old living in Scotland.

    Everyone who supports the de facto UK GE referendum is restricting the voting rights of all the citizens who may not have acceptable photo ID.


    the bad people are only the Alba members who want to restrict the voting rights of people from England, the country that denies the people of Scotland democracy.

    1. Do you know what that sounds like? Collective punishment on the basis of ethnicity. There is no future for Alba down that path.

    2. “Planters”
      “White settlers”

    3. Anonymous, so when Sturgeon restricts voting rights it is ok and she actually has the power to do it but when others suggest mild restrictions that will never happen it is bad. The de facto UK GE referendum throws the SNPs civic nationalism right out the window. It used to be bad according to Sturgeon to contemplate a de facto referendum. Now Sturgeon says it is good all the Numpties go yes great leader brilliant idea.

      UK Election de facto referendum.
      Yes loses.
      Numpties go well done Great Leader. More more more.

    4. If we can’t get a majority of the Scottish people to support independence, *we* have lost. That’s democracy. Disenfranchising people is for dictatorships. It knows no end.

    5. Anonymous - you have gone too far calling Sturgeon a dictator.

      PS a majority of Scots did vote for independence in 2014. It was a majority of people living in Scotland at the time who did not vote for independence.

  7. James, I post as I see it and thankfully I am not restricted by membership of a party. I see no merit in giving a vote on Scottish independence to transient residents e.g. all the English university students at Edinburgh and St Andrews unis. The majority of these students will return to live in England where their democracy will not be controlled by another country but instead they will vote for political parties who will continue to restrict our basic freedoms in Scotland. It is, of course, an academic discussion as Sturgeon will just do what she wants anyway.

    Yet nobody ( well I guess I do but as an anonymite said I am irrelevant) criticises the SNP's dropping of civic nationalism and adopting the UK's own ethno nationalism - its just double standards.

    1. It would be very interesting to know just how many voters from the 2014 Scottish independence referendum are no longer living in Scotland.
      It would also be interesting to know how many of those voters who no longer live in Scotland were English people , Scottish people , people from EU , people from other parts of the U.K. etc.
      The figures will determine if its irrelevant.
      To all those who say planters , white settlers , unelectable , blood and soul nationalism I wish to point out that every country in the world restricts voting rights including U.K. , just because you live in a particular country at a time of an election does not give you the right to vote in that country you will find that to be true across the world, except Scotland for some reason, furthermore just because you live in a particular country at a particular point in time does not mean you are a National of that country , that is a fact across the world , except in Scotland where we are continually fed the nonsense that everyone living in Scotland is “ a scot “, i can assure you that they’re not and have no wish to be.
      Nearly all the English people in Scotland would not want a Scottish passport instead of an English passport.
      Being Scottish makes you different from being English I wish people would stop trying to make out they are the same they’re not.

    2. "I wish to point out that every country in the world restricts voting rights...except Scotland for some reason"

      Simply not true. New Zealand, for instance, has had non-citizen voting for decades.

    3. Happy to accept what you say about New Zealand as I am sure you are right. Pretty sure in the past you did an article on this sort of statement by anonymous. However, it is Sturgeon who is planning to restrict non citizen and citizen voting rights with her de facto UK referendum.
      Also New Zealand is an independent country which has democracy unlike Scotland which is a colony of England. I do not think New Zealand became independent with a referendum. So non citizens were never given the vote in an independence referendum. I am sure if I have got that wrong you will correct me James.

  8. I agree with what you say about Alba some of the stuff that is directed towards the First Minister is disgraceful and it only angers a lot of Independence supporters and turns people of Alba. You can't expect people to give their list vote to a party when some of Alba supporters call people sheep of worse for admiring the FM .It's counter productive There was a space for some people who want an SNP win but wanted to express a bit more weight to their support for Indy they could have done that with an Alba vote but unfortunately some Alba members presented Alba as an enemy That killed any chance of bringing some of that hard Indy support over to an vote Alba on the list
    On a Westminster election there are advantages to use a Westminster election.Brexit that is going to be a big issue .Starmer will have to up the no turning back on Brexit rhetoric to keep red wall voters on side as the Tories will play he can't be trusted on freedom of movement.This puts him on the opposite side of the of the settled will of the Scottish people.who by latest polling would vote near ,70% to rejoin the EU .
    The Tories will play up he can't be trusted on Brexit big time making him become more and more emphatic on no single market no customs Union. The only pro EU vote will be for the SNP
    Secondly the Tories will play Starmer will be soft on the Jocks .He will be firm on no referendum again playing in to the SNP hands.
    Yes we may have to face the only Labour can beat the Tories line but we can have good arguments against that line..
    This present s a problem for Alba the reality is the SNP and Greens won't work with Alex Salmond that may mean putting candidate against Alba's two MPs .If it is a plebescite Westminster election we can't lose it

  9. Rocksie 67 - yeh let's just have another 2 years of Sturgeon's timecwasting

    1. Well the SNP president, Mike Russell, fancies another 4 years of time wasting until the 2026 Holyrood election. Only numpties would accept this crap.

  10. Rocksie67 - yeh let's just have another 2 years of Sturgeon's time wasting. Sturgeon could have established the legality of Indyref2 years ago. She could have had a de facto in 2019 UKGE or de facto in May 2021 if she was genuine. When did voting SNP stop being a vote for independence - UK GE 2015 under Sturgeon. Now people like you think it is something great to vote SNP for independence in a de facto UK GE.

    You say .." we can't lose it" but you choose the worse option for a yes vote." Only a numpty would do that.

    What exactly is this disgraceful stuff you refer to Rocksie67 - you don't say- is it because James said she is a timid and cautious leader - or is it because she tried to get her pals to put Salmond away in prison - people lying in a criminal court - do you know who these people are Rocksie67? What is disgraceful is Sturgeons behaviour and the fact that so many people accept this behaviour. What is to admire about this type of behaviour? Sturgeon was the person who continually and disgracefully attacked Salmond. A FM publicly questioning the result of a jury trial that her pals have been involved in. Now that is truly disgraceful behaviour.

    A First Minister deliberately creating a new Scottish Gov procedure to specifically attack Salmond and then disrespecting the court in a judicial review and losing the court case. Now that is truly disgraceful behaviour.

    A First Minister, her advisers, her husband and government officials lying continually during a Scottish Parliament Inquiry and disrespecting the Scottish Parliament. Now that is truly disgraceful behaviour.

    1. Now some people may think that by my logic Salmond is a numpty for trusting Sturgeon and some people do say that. The difference is that there wasn't the mountain of evidence back then that proves exactly what Sturgeon is. Only numpties cannae see it now - its the size of Mount Everest.

    2. Your post is precisely why myself and many others won't vote Alba .Keep it up and you will never break the 2% barrier

    3. Hey numpty Rocksie I'm not a member of Alba.

      Keep it up and we will never get independence.

      You may choose not to see the mountain of evidence but one day you will get an awful headache when you blindly bump into the mountain.
      "Do you know who these people are? " Aye just ignore the question.
      Numpties just cannae handle the truth.

      Two votes SNP remember that - pleased with all the Britnats esconsed in Holyrood for another 5 years are you - that's Sturgeon and people like you delivering for the Britnats.

    4. The more discerning readers will note that Rocksie makes no attempt to query or dispute anything I posted but instead goes for a variation on wheest for Indy. This variation can be described as wheest for the Alba party. Rocksie makes the mistake of thinking I am a party political person and that his snidey comment will influence me.

  11. We are entitled to “rage” against Nicola Sturgeon. It isn’t blind, primordial “rage”. There are names, places and events we can cite. Some we can discuss openly (Question Time / Menthorn Media / Billy Mitchell scandal) some we can’t on pain of imprisonment.
    Restraining our “rage” may be tactically disadvantageous in the short term, but the facts surrounding Sturgeon will eventually enter the public realm. At this point our “counterproductive rage” will be the wise words of warning from the informed few.
    Churchill’s warnings against the Nazi threat were dismissed as obsessive ramblings until events proved him correct.

    1. So you're expecting her to invade Poland?

    2. Based on their hatred of Russia I would say if we were independent she would more likely want to invade Russia.

  12. I rèmember the early days of the Salmond persecution. WGD numpties were all convinced it was all a nasty plan by these nasty UK civil servants to get oor Alex and oor Nicola would eventually sort them all out especially that nasty woman Evans. As it became obvious that oor Nicola was in lockstep with Evans and the rest of them oor Alex became the nasty person. Not one of these nasty UK civil servants has been punished for their behaviour. Some have been promoted and gained financially. The most well known being Ms Evans, Sturgeons head honcho in the UK civil service who was rewarded with an extended contract and now a great big whopping lump sum payment and a whopping great annual pension amounting to more than an MPs salary.
    These UK civil servants lied at the Inquiry when they said none of Sturgeons special advisers were involved in designing the procedure to attack Salmond. Subsequent papers showed clearly that Sturgeons own Chief of Staff was involved and these highly paid UK civil servants had to subsequently admit their ' memory lapse'. As if you would forget Sturgeons chief of staff being involved. Sturgeon subsequently rewarded this Chief of Staff with promotion to a new made up position with a big salary increase.
    Some people say crime does not pay - I guess that would be WGD numpties.

  13. WGD numpty Hamish100 posts that the SNP need to call out the BBC at every opportunity. The leader of the SNP is on record as stating that the BBC, the anti independence British state propaganda broadcaster, is a key and valued institution. Ya numpty Hamish.

  14. James, you write "we need to stop pandering to ethnonationalists within the party who want to restrict the voting rights of English people living in Scotland, we need to tone down the near-homicidal rage directed against Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, we need to put a stop to the dark hints that we might try to sabotage a plebiscite election conducted under first-past-the-post by standing directly against the SNP, and we should instead concentrate on our positive pitch for much more urgency on independence."
    But surely these are the very people who drove the formation of alba and who have continued to drive its public profile. You cannot refer to SNP voters as "cult-following, carrot-chasing sheeple" and then expect them to vote for you.
    Alba was not set-up as a party of independence but as an anti-SNP one. The seeds of its demise were planted at the time of its creation and there's no changing it now.

    1. That's absolute nonsense, I would never have joined Alba if it had just been the Wings Party in all but name. It actively campaigned for an SNP constituency vote in the 2021 Holyrood election. I do think it needs to guard against the danger of gradually mutating into a de facto Wings Party over time, but I also believe that's a danger that can be averted if sensible people in the party stand up to be counted.

    2. Grendel, absolute nonsense. Salmond asked people to vote SNP on the constituency and Alba on the list in May 21. I did that and hoped the SNP would do what was best for independence. But no Sturgeon came out and violently attacked Salmond and Alba and trashed any possibility of an independence super majority with their both votes SNP. The SNP became the anti Alba party and Sturgeon showed her true character as a nasty vindictive person for whom it was more important to 'get' Salmond than to get independence.
      The SNP is the hate Alba party. The Surrendering National Party.

      SNP. The party that casually casts aside its long standing civic nationalism for political expediency. The party that wants to exclude many people from voting for independence but you hypocritically go on about excluding some English no voters.