I wouldn't normally pay as much attention as this to the betting markets, because they tend to be less reliable (or "efficient" or whatever the jargon is) on political matters than on sport. But in the absence of post-Trussmageddon polling of Tory members, they may be the best guide on offer at the moment.
A pro-independence blog by James Kelly - voted one of Scotland's top 10 political websites.
Saturday, October 22, 2022
Sunak and Johnson tighten on the betting markets, while Mordaunt drifts out of contention
Friday, October 21, 2022
Sensation as traditionally No-friendly pollster YouGov shows dramatic increase in support for independence
Thanks to Marcia for pointing me in the direction of fresh independence numbers from YouGov, although the fieldwork took place a few weeks ago. It seems to be from their most recent Scottish poll that we've already seen results from, so either the independence numbers must have been withheld at the time of publication, or they passed under the radar somehow. I'm not sure exactly when they finally emerged into the light.
Should Scotland be an independent country? (YouGov, 30th September - 4th October 2022)
Indy-swimming in innuendo: no, Scot Goes Pop and Alba are not the only clients that have commissioned polls with favourable Alba results
With methodology and wording from Alba? Odd that the best polls for Alba are the ones commissioned by ScotGoesPop/James Kelly and the Alba Party themselves. 🤔— indy swim 🏴 (@indy_swim) October 20, 2022
Jesus, man, you're repeating yourself from yesterday? I've already pointed out to you that the client makes no difference to the result. What precisely are you accusing me of doing to rig these polls? Drop the innuendo - let's have specifics.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) October 20, 2022
"He didn't answer" as Nick Robinson would say, except in this case he really didn't answer. And it's no wonder, because the guy hasn't got a leg to stand on. I really do take exception to this guff, especially as it's been trotted out twice in the space of 48 hours by someone who isn't even attempting to substantiate his innuendo. His profile bio gives the game away: "Unintentionally annoying British nationalists since 2019 & Alba supporters since 2021." It would appear that he gives parity of esteem to his loathing of unionists and his loathing of fellow independence supporters.
Here are the facts about the opinion polls I've commissioned. There have been six, but four of those were conducted before Alba even existed (meaning that I was still a member of the SNP at the time). Of the remaining two, only one actually produced favourable results for Alba. That was a Panelbase poll conducted during the 2021 Holyrood election campaign, between the 21st and 26th of April. It showed Alba on 6% - but that was identical to the Alba figure from the previous Panelbase poll, commissioned by Believe in Scotland, and conducted around two weeks earlier. Believe in Scotland, I think it's fair to say, are broadly supportive of the SNP and the Greens, and have little or no sympathy for Alba. But it doesn't stop there, because the Panelbase poll before the one for Believe in Scotland also showed Alba on 6% - and that was commissioned by a unionist client, the Sunday Times.
None of this should be a surprise, because as far as voting intention questions are concerned, pollsters do not change their question wording or methodology from one poll to the next to suit a particular client. It's true that clients have lots of influence on the supplementary questions that are asked in any poll, but that has literally zero effect on the voting intention results because supplementary questions are generally asked later in the question sequence. So no matter whether their client is an Alba member like myself, an SNP-supporting group such as Believe in Scotland, or an anti-independence newspaper like the Sunday Times, Panelbase ask exactly the same voting intention questions and use exactly the same methodology. Little wonder, then, that the results produced in the 2021 campaign were so stable.
Of course Panelbase were consistently producing better results for Alba than any other pollster in 2021, so the one way in which an Alba-supporting client could hope to indirectly influence the result of a poll would be by deliberately selecting the firm that they thought would produce the best numbers. Is that what I did in April 2021? Simple answer: no.
When I started commissioning polls in 2020, I didn't contact Panelbase to begin with, because they've conducted many polls for Wings Over Scotland and I thought a touch of pluralism might be no bad thing. But after contacting five or six other firms, I felt like I was hitting a brick wall - one or two didn't reply at all, one wasn't able to help within the desired timescale, one suddenly stopped replying midway through the process, one would have charged an astronomical amount, etc, etc. So I then turned to Panelbase and the whole thing was sorted out within 24 hours. That, I think, is the real reason why so many pro-indy clients have generally commissioned Panelbase rather than other firms. Panelbase have experience of dealing with alternative media clients, and it just seems to be a much smoother process. And of course once you've had a good experience with a firm, you tend to stick with them.
I did commission a Survation poll in January 2021, but that was because Panelbase weren't able to help that month for contractual reasons. However, I mentioned to Panelbase at that point that I still hoped to go back to them for a poll during the Holyrood campaign, and they said with a bit of notice they could make sure they fitted it in. So the whole thing was agreed in principle months before I even knew that there was going to be any such thing as an Alba Party. In fact, I think by that point I was starting to give up hope of an Alex Salmond-led list-only party, and I was more or less expecting to be "both votes SNP" myself.
As far as my most recent poll is concerned, that showed Alba on 2% of the first preference vote for the local elections (which, as it turned out, was bang on the money in the wards where Alba stood). No Holyrood question was asked. There was a Westminster question, but Alba weren't even included as an option. I had no influence over that decision, and frankly I wasn't remotely bothered by it, because as has been well-rehearsed over recent days, I think Alba would be extraordinarily foolish to split the pro-indy vote by standing in a Westminster election conducted by first-past-the-post, except possibly in the two constituencies where they have the incumbent MPs.
So, in a nutshell, Indy Swim, I don't know what the hell you think you're talking about, and to be honest I don't think you do either.
Thursday, October 20, 2022
Who do the betting markets say will be the next Prime Minister?
The entire premise of my previous post was rendered redundant by the fact that I'd misconstrued the voting system for the upcoming Tory leadership election - which I see Wikipedia are calling the "October 2022 Conservative leadership election" to helpfully distinguish it from the "Summer 2022 Conservative leadership election". We're making progress, because apparently Tory leadership elections can now be safely named after months rather than seasons.
The immediate cause of my schoolboy blunder was that - weirdly - I spent the afternoon watching the Alec Guinness version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy rather than hanging on Graham Brady's every word. Political nerd I may be, but you can tell that even my enthusiasm is flagging a bit after four months of this circus. Anyway, maybe the betting markets can make it simple for us and tell us who the new Prime Minister will be...
VICTORY FOR THE LETTUCE as the independence movement asks itself: are we #ReadyForRishi?
The lettuce is victorious. pic.twitter.com/azUSdkYTbN— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) October 20, 2022
HUGE day for George Canning.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) October 20, 2022
When the Prime Minister resigned in 1990, it was like the whole world had stopped. Nowadays you just shrug and think "well it's Thursday, right enough".— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) October 20, 2022
It turns out that the Liberal Democrats' sleeper agents are just as rubbish as the rest of the party.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) October 20, 2022
Wednesday, October 19, 2022
Some progress on those reflections...
So here's an irony for you - I deliberately didn't include any fundraising link in my previous post, because if there was a chance that I would be taking a prolonged break from blogging, it obviously wasn't appropriate to be crowdfunding anymore. But three people spontaneously hunted down the link, and a total of £170 was donated as a result - which I'm pretty sure is the biggest amount in a single day for several months! Although that isn't a silver bullet, it's obviously a bit difficult for me to completely vanish after that sort of money has been donated. And of course I've read all your encouraging comments on the previous thread, and I took representations from The Random Totty From Freedom Square (always by far the most important part of the process). I think what I might do is occasionally keep the blog ticking over, with posts whenever there's some big polling news or something like that. In your comments yesterday, most of you seemed to value the polling analysis above all else, so there probably isn't that much of a need to "fill in the gaps" between polls anyway - although doubtless I'll still feel the burning desire to sound off about some random issue now and again.
At the bottom of each post from now on, there'll be an unobtrusive link to the general fundraiser only (I think part of the problem has been that the polling fundraiser has overshadowed the general fundraiser). Please ignore it if you've already donated or if things are tight. And if you do decide to donate, bear in mind that I'm not promising to post very often, so think more in terms of "buy me a coffee" or "buy me a croissant" rather than "buy me a luxury yacht" or "buy me a 15th Century castle like what Chris Law has got". The next Scot Goes Pop poll will be along at some point, but I can't put any sort of timetable on it - just whenever the funds are 100% nailed down.
As for the second part of the equation, namely my involvement with the Alba Party, I've had a chance to think about that too. In the previous post, I set out my three options: a) continue standing in internal Alba elections in the future, b) take the opportunity to revert to being a truly independent pro-independence blogger who doesn't have to self-censor, or c) have my cake and eat it by doing both. I'm coming round to the idea that I'll probably attempt option c). If it works the same way as last year, I presume there'll be elections to the non-NEC committees at some point over the next few weeks. For the life of me, I can't remember what the nomination requirements are for those elections, but if it's feasible for me to get nominated, I'll try standing for at least one or two of those committees.
If I was under any lingering illusions about how difficult it's going to be for someone with my views to succeed in internal Alba elections in the future, the outcome of the NEC election a few days ago completely dispelled them. (In a nutshell, my views are that Alba should not indulge in self-harm or harm to the independence cause by splitting the pro-indy vote at a UK general election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system - with the possible exception of the two constituencies currently held by Alba, because it's not unreasonable for incumbent MPs to seek re-election if they wish to do so.) But Alba will not survive, let alone thrive, as a narrow sect. Any prospering party will have to be a broad church to some extent. So for as long as moderates like myself remain in the party, it's incumbent on us to keep plugging away by putting ourselves forward, regardless of the chances of success.
Over the last eighteen months, an unofficial 'in-house Alba media' has taken shape, consisting of both blog content and regular video content. Frequent appearances from leading figures in the party have lended it legitimacy, and a very large proportion of the general 'chatter' in Alba circles is related in some way or other to that content. In some ways it's a good thing that it exists, because it boosts morale and keeps members' focus on Alba talking points that the mainstream media ignores. But there is also a downside, because it's created a sort of hermetically-sealed "Alba world" that has drifted away from the rest of the independence movement and also from undecided voters. When Alba people are mostly listening and talking to each other, a reinforcement process takes place and it becomes increasingly easy to lose an instinct for how the rhetoric would sound to an outsider. Here are a few examples of stuff that has become perfectly sayable in Alba circles but is going to (rightly) look a bit extreme to other people, including to the bulk of Yes supporters.
"We're only going to win a referendum if we stop English immigrants from voting."
"Covid outbreaks in Scotland are caused by English tourists."
"Remembering the victims of 300 years of the Union."
In fairness, the latter example is partly justified by the historical facts, because the Highland Clearances are recognised in many quarters as a form of genocide. But most people in Scotland do not know their history, and if voters start laughing at you when you're making what you think is a deadly serious point, you've got a major problem. For as long as I'm part of Alba, one of my aims will be to try to inject a touch of realism about what will and will not get us a hearing from the wider Scotland out there.
And I won't be self-censoring in future, or becoming part of an incestuous in-house media that reproduces press releases word-for-word and stays within the comfort zone of party messaging. To be clear, this problem is not a figment of my imagination - when I was on the NEC, there were at least two occasions when it was indicated to me that I couldn't or shouldn't blog about certain topics or certain views that I held. I wasn't entirely sure about the logic for that, because if you look at ruling bodies in other parties (most obviously Labour), they're often quite factional and disagreement is not in any way swept under the carpet. But initially I could understand the view that there's a trade-off at play - an elected NEC member has the privileged opportunity to influence the direction of the party in private, even if they have to be circumspect about what they say in public. Over time, though, I became less convinced that the relatively limited scope to express dissenting views in private was really sufficient to justify that trade-off, and now that I've come out of the other end of the tunnel (so to speak) I'm even less convinced. So if I get the chance to stand in internal elections in future, it'll be firmly on the basis of "I'm an independently-minded blogger and freelance writer, I don't self-censor, take me or leave me as I am". People may very well say "in that case I'll leave you", and that'll be absolutely fine.
I'd also just like to make the point that I still believe that the electorate for these internal votes is far too narrow - two or three hundred conference delegates for NEC elections, and maybe 100 or so for other committees elected at National Council. My view is that all positions of significance should be elected by the whole party membership, and the fact that doesn't happen can probably be seen as an unfortunate carryover from the culture of the SNP, which has a long tradition of election-by-delegate - it wasn't all that many years ago that the general membership of the SNP weren't even allowed to choose their own leader. And remember that Alba conference "delegates" aren't even actually delegates in the true sense - they're in fact the small minority of members who have essentially paid a premium to get voting rights. I'm not sure that's a sustainable system in the long term. All members of the party have a stake in choosing the people who make important decisions. However, the rules are the rules, and until they're changed we'll have to work within them.
Lastly, if anyone has complained to IPSO about the Express article, could you let me know? If by tomorrow I haven't heard that at least one person has done it, I might bite the bullet and do it myself.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Alba NEC results, and the future of Scot Goes Pop
At this time last year, I received a friendly rap over the knuckles from Alex Salmond for accidentally revealing who had been elected to the Alba NEC before a public announcement was made. (And it was a genuine accident - I thought the results email had been sent out to the whole Alba membership, whereas in fact it had only been sent to the candidates.) This time, I'm not totally sure whether a public announcement has been made yet, but hopefully I'm not revealing any state secrets if I simply say that I personally haven't been re-elected, as long as I don't mention anyone else's results. I'd like to warmly congratulate the eight people who have made the cut, and to wish them a successful year ahead. I'd also like to thank the people who elected me twelve months ago and gave me the opportunity to experience the political world from a totally different perspective over the last year - it's been fascinating, and a genuine honour.
In terms of the meaning of my result this time, I think there are three possible interpretations, and there may be a bit of truth in all three. Firstly, the new people who are coming on to the NEC are highly regarded - I don't know them personally, but I've heard Alba members speak very warmly of them. So it may simply be that I've lost out due to a positive vote for high-quality candidates. Secondly, I wasn't able to attend conference this year, because I live with a vulnerable person and still have to take the Covid risk seriously - 95% of the world (including, frankly, the Alba Party) may be pretending we live in a 'post-pandemic era', but I and many others can't afford to do that for the time being, and judging from the ONS infection estimates I won't be able to for quite some time to come. I do have a sneaking suspicion that not being there in person was a significant disadvantage, because there were one or two other candidates who I believe also weren't at conference and who didn't poll anything like as strongly as I expected them to. And thirdly, there's no getting away from the fact that I've been troubled by one or two aspects of Alba's direction of travel over the last few months, and in speaking up about that I was bound to lessen my chances of re-election. I said to a family member in July or August that I felt like I was practically campaigning to not be elected, because I was saying a lot of things that many Alba conference delegates (the true core of the party who get to elect the NEC) might not want to hear. It wasn't that I didn't want to be re-elected - I very much did. But my first loyalty is to the cause of independence, and I just wouldn't have been able to look myself in the mirror if I'd kept my head down for personal advantage and not said the things that I knew needed to be said. If you win election by saying things you don't believe, and then use your election to rubberstamp things you don't believe in, it's a completely futile exercise.
My departure from the NEC is a natural crossroads for me. I've thought quite a bit in recent weeks about what I would do in this scenario, without actually coming to any firm conclusions. On the one hand I've enjoyed being part of Alba's internal structures and I'm half-tempted to maybe stand for one or two of the other committees, or to become more involved at LACU level. But on the other hand this may be a very obvious opportunity for me to become a truly independent pro-independence blogger once again - because, with the best will in the world, I've had to self-censor to at least some extent as an NEC member. Or I could try to have my cake and eat it by speaking more freely while also remaining active in Alba. But an additional complication is that speaking freely as an independent blogger implies the continuation of this blog, and I'm not sure that's actually a sustainable option anymore.
It probably hasn't gone unnoticed that until recently I was blitzing the blog with details of the ongoing fundraiser to see if I could make it work. There have been a number of very generous donations in recent weeks, but it's been a trickle not a flood, and as of this moment I can't really see a way of carrying on as I have been for many years - ie. treating this blog as the equivalent of a very time-consuming part-time job. One or two people have suggested moving to Patreon to give myself a more reliable income, but my strong suspicion is that it wouldn't work there either. Scot Goes Pop actually still has extremely healthy readership numbers - as even Stuart Campbell himself has conceded, it remains one of the six most-read pro-indy blogs in Scotland, roughly on a par with Barrhead Boy, and at least vaguely in the same ballpark as the likes of Bella Caledonia and Wee Ginger Dug. The problem is probably more to do with the cost of living crisis, with donations to blogs now being a luxury that people very understandably just can't afford.
And sadly, I have my own personalised cost of living crisis too. One of my main sources of income (which had nothing to do with writing or politics) came to a complete stop in 2020 because of the Covid problem, while I've also almost certainly been punished for switching to Alba by a lack of external writing commissions over the last year or so - they haven't completely dried up, but they've been much, much thinner on the ground than in previous years, and that makes the blogging life even less viable. The bottom line is that I now have a straight choice: to double down and go into absolute overdrive trying to make the blog financially sustainable, or to pack it in and find something completely different to do. And, to be clear, I haven't forgotten that I've fundraised for another Scot Goes Pop opinion poll and raised a significant amount towards that - by hook or by crook I'll get it done eventually, and even if I stop blogging I'll come back especially for that, as soon as I figure out a way of bridging the shortfall of funds. Please just be patient, because it may take a little while yet - and rest assured that anything I haven't used from the general fundraiser will also go towards the poll.
Whatever decisions I make, though, I do have one red line. I'm not going to censor myself on one particularly important point, and if that turns out to be incompatible with an involvement in Alba's internal structures, then I'll be sad about that but I'll just have to live with it. I really am becoming extremely concerned that in one specific way, Alba are in danger of drifting much too far from their original stated purpose. Whatever my scepticism about the 'supermajority' concept, Alba were nevertheless presenting the electorate with an honest proposition in May 2021, because it's perfectly possible for a party with significant support on the Holyrood list ballot to gain seats without doing any harm to overall pro-independence representation in the Scottish Parliament. That was the contract Alba were offering to voters - they weren't trying to destroy or damage the SNP, they were instead trying to augment pro-indy representation and make it more pluricentric. But implicit in such a contract is that you don't, for the most part, stand in first-past-the-post elections, because it's impossible to do that without harming the SNP and thus risking a reduction in pro-indy seats. Even Stuart Campbell recognised that truth - when challenged, he was adamant that if his proposed Wings party came into being, it would be a list-only outfit and would never stand against the SNP under first-past-the-post. (Whether he would have stuck to that is another matter, but the fact that he felt the need to give the assurance is telling.)
Whereas now, expectations that Alba will be challenging the SNP across the board at the next Westminster general election, even if that election is a plebiscite election, have been deliberately allowed to build sky-high. I'm not breaking any confidentiality rules in saying what I'm about to say, because what I've heard in private has not cleared the mists for me any more than what I've heard in public. I simply haven't been able to fathom what the objective is in allowing those expectations to run so far out of control - do Alba actually intend to stand lots of candidates at the general election? If so, that's a suicide mission, both for the party and for the independence movement. Or is it a bluff that is merely intended to win some leverage? If so, that may not be quite so irresponsible, but it's still a strategic mistake in my view, because a) it's poisoning relationships with the rest of the independence movement who view it as a petulant threat to burn the house down as an act of revenge, and b) there's no leverage to be gained from it anyway, because we as Alba don't currently have enough to bring to the table. If we'd taken 6% of the vote in the Holyrood election or in the local elections this year, it would be a different story, but as it is the SNP are likely to calculate that they can afford to just try to bulldoze their way through if Alba stand in their way. There's also the problem that many Alba members are likely to quickly become disillusioned if the threat of taking on the SNP at Westminster turns out to be a bluff - a danger that could have been very easily averted by being upfront and consistent that Alba intended to stick with its original contract with voters by only standing in elections conducted under proportional representation voting systems (with the possible exceptions of the two Alba-held seats at Westminster, which of course are in a special category).
I don't feel politically homeless, but a combination of my despair over the course charted by the SNP, and my misgivings over Alba's attitude to a potential plebiscite election held under first-past-the-post, mean that my home is a bit harder to locate at the moment. If I was still in the SNP I'd be on the radical wing of the party to such an extent that I'd be practically hanging out of the windows. Whereas in Alba I'm firmly on the moderate wing, and I do find that to be the more comfortable option because - as the recent conference has demonstrated - Alba allow far more scope for open debate and dissent than the SNP currently do. However, almost every political party has a rule stating that members can't express support for candidates standing in direct opposition to the party in an election. I really, fervently hope that Alba do not put members like me in an impossible position by launching a widescale intervention at the next general election, because as a blogger I cannot in good conscience advise pro-indy voters to take a course of action that I know perfectly well would make independence less likely.
For now I'm going to take a break from blogging to try it on for size, and to give myself a chance to reflect. (Sturgeonite word, I know, but in this case I mean it sincerely.) I may be back very, very soon, or I may be gone for a prolonged period. If the latter, though, I do have one last request to make of Scot Goes Pop readers. If the Express don't correct the lie in their article about Panelbase putting No on 52% (it's actually 51%), could people please report them to the press regulator IPSO? It's high time we took a proper and sustained stand against outright lies in the unionist media's coverage of Scottish independence polling.
Monday, October 17, 2022
How unionist MSPs and the Express made idiots of themselves last night by celebrating FICTIONAL poll numbers on independence: what we know so far
Sunday, October 16, 2022
Can anyone solve the mystery of the phantom Panelbase poll on independence? Has some random bloke on Twitter decided to change the result by giving No an extra 1% and everyone is just accepting that and saying "sounds legit"?
You know this Yes 48%, No 52% Panelbase poll that unionists are crowing about? Does anyone know if it's the Alba-commissioned poll, or is there another one? Because I think there may be a discrepancy in the numbers.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) October 16, 2022
According to Wikipedia it's the Alba-commissioned poll (yes 46%, no 49% before DKs removed). Another one commissioned by Business for Scotland had both tied on 45% each.— Mike Auld (@mikeinsdevon) October 16, 2022
If this is true, I've seen the data tables of the Alba-commissioned poll and the figures are Yes 49%, No 51%. So unless Panelbase have had to revise the numbers for some reason, it looks like people are lying about it.https://t.co/yI03cWlbPG— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) October 16, 2022
October 16, 2022
What the...? Had some random guy on Twitter unilaterally decided to change the published numbers? Has the Express based their entire article on that? Have four unionist politicians gone orgasmic just because of that? This is nuts.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) October 16, 2022
The only other explanation I can think of, and I hope it's the correct one because if it's not we're going to have to fire off more complaints to IPSO, is that there's been a third Panelbase independence poll this week that took place more or less simultaneously with the Alba-commissioned one. But I've got the data tables of the Alba poll right in front of me, and I can tell you they undoubtedly show Yes 49%, No 51%. I've checked the raw numbers and they are correctly rounded to those percentages. (After weighting, 407 respondents were Yes voters and 431 were No, which works out as Yes 48.6%, No 51.4%.)
In relation to my three previous tweets, I don't think I can adequately convey how bizarre and extraordinary this is. It really does look like some guy has changed the results of a poll on a whim, the Express have reported it, and unionist politicians are celebrating it. Insane.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) October 16, 2022