Thursday, January 26, 2023

Has the Philosopher-Tory successfully philosophised his way out of his most cynical lie? (Spoiler: no, he hasn't.)

He's Ready for Rishi.  Potty for Penny.  Batty for Badenoch.  Rabid for Raab.  Yup, the Scottish political world is still reeling from the former pro-independence blogger Stuart Campbell's shock announcement that he is backing the Tories at the next general election, although the man himself and one or two of his fans seem to be mostly furious with me for bringing the news to slightly wider public attention.  Which is odd, in a way - if he's concluded that voting Tory is morally justifiable and strategically wise from the point of view of whatever the hell his current objectives are, you'd think he'd be keen for as many people to know as possible.  

As per usual, the main outlet for the anger against me is an attempt at amateur psychoanalysis, with the burning question of the day being *why* I started my much-requested Wings-Watch fact-checking service.  They haven't as of yet considered the most obvious and straightforward possibility, namely that Campbell writes a very prominent blog which has a notoriously strained relationship with the truth, and that a fact-checking service will thus remain necessary until he stops regularly lying to his readers.  (Of course all bloggers and journalists make the occasional inadvertent factual blunder, but that's not the sort of thing we're talking about here.)

Instead, they ascribe Wings-Watch to two main factors.  Firstly, the old favourite that I or anyone else who disagrees with the great man must somehow be "deranged".  (If Campbell still owns a paperback thesaurus, you can be sure that the one page that has long since fallen out due to extreme overuse is the one containing synonyms for "mentally ill".)  But their second explanation is much more interesting, because although it's hopelessly misconceived, it's unwittingly quite revealing.

Since I started Wings-Watch, the lie I've had to correct by far the most often is Campbell's dodgy graph purporting to show that support for independence has remained absolutely static at 47% every year since either 2015 or 2016 (depending on which version of the graph is being used on any given day).  By this stage, Campbell knows the graph is a lie, I know it's a lie, you know it's a lie, even the dogs on the street know it's a lie, and the only people who don't know it's a lie are the unfortunate souls who never step outside the Wings bubble and are naive enough to believe that everything Campbell tells them is honest.  However, I think we may now have stumbled on how he philosophically justifies that lie to himself.  Although he knows the graph itself is fraudulent, it may be that he genuinely thinks it's a lie that contains a 'poetic truth' because he's labouring under the misapprehension that the standard 3% margin of error in polling renders the increase in independence support we've seen over the last few years statistically meaningless.

To be clear, though, he has no excuse for that erroneous belief.  As long ago as 2016, when I was still on good terms with him, I and a number of others (including Dr Morag Kerr, who is normally one of his stoutest defenders) pointed out to him where he was going wrong about the margin of error in polls.  He had been repeatedly insisting that there was no systemic error in the polling for the Trump v Clinton presidential election, which on average showed a 4-point lead for Clinton.  If that had been the actual result on the popular vote, it almost certainly would have translated into a Clinton win in the electoral college, and Trump would never have become president.  Instead, Clinton's real lead was only two points, and we all know what the consequences of that proved to be.  But Campbell was adamant that the polls had not been wrong, because a 4-point Clinton lead was "within the margin of error" of a 2-point Clinton lead.

The problem is that the margin of error only applies to each individual poll.  If individual polls are only slightly inaccurate due to normal sampling variation and not because of methodological failings, you'd expect the errors to be randomly distributed - in other words you'd expect roughly as many polls to underestimate the Clinton lead as to overestimate it, and for the average error in all of the polls to be far less than 3%.  That simply didn't happen - the vast majority of polls in fact overestimated the Clinton lead.

Similarly, if Campbell is correct in his belief that Scottish independence support has remained static at around 48% for several years and only the margin of error has been masking that, we should see in any calendar year with a large number of polls that roughly as many polls have Yes above 48% as have Yes below that figure, and that the annual average should always work out at pretty close to bang on 48%.  Is that what's happened?  Let's remind ourselves yet again of the real numbers.

Yearly support for Scottish independence in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey:

2014:  33%

2016 (a):  39%

2016 (b):  46%

2018:  45%

2020:  51%

2021:  52%

Average yearly support for independence in conventional opinion polling:

2016:  47.7%

2017:  45.3%

2018:  45.5%
2019:  47.6%

2020:  53.0%

2021:  49.6%

2022:  49.8%

Presumably even Campbell would have to acknowledge that if the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey is right, there has been a massive increase in support for independence since 2014 - so presumably we must infer that he thinks those figures are not valid for some unspecified reason.  (Which again is distinctly odd, because another of his dodgy graphs blatantly depends on the use of a cherrypicked figure for independence support from the 2007 Social Attitudes Survey.)

Let's turn instead, then, to the averages from conventional polling.  Even leaving aside what Campbell dismisses as merely a "Covid blip" in 2020 (something that lasted for almost a year is quite some "blip" by any standards), you can see for yourself that the Yes average was as low as 45% (after rounding) in 2017, which is three points lower than what Campbell claims to have been the constant underlying Yes figure.  It was as high as 50% after rounding in both 2021 and 2022, which is two points higher than Campbell's claimed steady figure.  Given the sheer number of polls that were conducted in all of those years, the changes simply can't be explained by random sampling variation.  Unless there is some reason to believe that there was some systemic error in the polls in 2017 that does not apply now, or vice versa, the only conclusion it is possible to draw is that Yes support was substantially higher in 2021 and 2022 than it was in 2017.  And no, a four or five point increase cannot be dismissed as trivial or underwhelming, given that the Yes vote recorded in the 2014 referendum was only five-and-a-bit points shy of victory.

Incidentally, it might amuse you to discover that Campbell did not exactly make an effort to listen and learn when we tried to politely explain where he was going wrong about Clinton v Trump in 2016.  His reaction instead was to angrily insta-block me, thus automatically placing me on the block-list he exported to hundreds of his fans.  Some things never change....


  1. Stuart Campbell and the Tories are more than welcome to each other.

  2. "He's Ready for Rishi. Potty for Penny. Batty for Badenoch. Rabid for Raab."

    Randy for Ross?

    I'll get me coat.

    1. Crabbit for Cleverly

    2. Doting for Davidson
      Tender for Tomkins

  3. Are you going to be starting a new fundraiser for 2023, James? Your excellent output has been fairly continuous over the last few months, I hope you haven't been left out of pocket.

  4. RevStu is an intensely boring man. More power to your elbow, James

  5. My fondest hope is that your Wings Watch feature continues long enough that we can all celebrate its fifth anniversary together in 2027. (Or, even more ideally, that Wings itself has been closed by then, but that may be too much to hope for.)

  6. Meester Campbell, now zat you have joined zee Conservative Party, I demand that you apologise for zee POLL TAX.

  7. Campbell has lived in England for 30 years, that's longer than around half the population of Scotland have been alive, and only returned to Scotland to face court appearances, even Michael Gove has been in Scotland on more occasions than Stuart Campbell and nobody pays any attention to what that pretend Scotsman says

    If you live in the sewer you become a rat

  8. Another superb post, James. It's a relief to find at least one blogger with the correct sense of priorities. Put simply, Wings is an enormous site which has gone unionist. All we can do as a movement is unite to defeat Campbell. No more distractions, no more silly in-fighting, just total unity and a laser-like focus on defeating Campbell and other unionists.

  9. It's so refreshing to see a blogger willing to call this popinjay out. I stopped reading his blog around 2019/2020. I began to recognise the tonal shift in WOS a few years earlier, but out of some misplaced sense of naivety and loyalty, I convinced myself for far too long that he'd eventually come back round.

    But your mention of his poor Clinton vs Trump analysis piqued my interest about what his commentary was like for the November 2020 election, so I took a peek to see what he had to say.

    Surprise, surprise, early in the morning after election night, long before postal votes were counted, the Reverend seems to have gotten himself terribly excited about the fact that Trump might win. He mischaracterised Trump's improved numbers with women and minorities vs 2016 as meaning that if Biden eventually won the presidency (only ARITHMETICALLY possible, he hastened to add!), it would effectively mean white men overturning the desires of women and people of colour for a second Trump term. Naturally, he ignored the graphs provided in his own blogpost showing that although Trump's numbers improved across the board with everyone besides white men, they were so dire with people of colour in 2016 that the eventual Biden victory didn't even come close to constituting "the votes of white men overturning those of women and people of colour".

    It seems he was too busy licking his lips at the prospect of another Trump term to allow anything approximating truth to get in the way. No, no, you see, the Reverend was prematurely primed to breathlessly inform us all that leftist wokeratti Kingpin Joe Biden (chortle) had recklessly and "criminally" alienated 70% of the population and was surely on course for defeat!

    Unsurprisingly, no mention was subsequently made of the 2020 election result.

    He did, however, pop by again a few months later for a brief mention of the Capitol riots. He called out trans activists for making it all about themselves. Fair enough! But since he himself had precisely nothing else to say on the violent insurrectionists storming the Capitol besides "trans activists bad", it ends up more than a little pot-meet-kettle. It doesn't much help his case that the comments of that article are filled with weird speculative fantasies about the impending violent coup, organised by - you guessed it, "the Murrells" - for the moment in March 2021 when the Ministerial code will inevitably found in tatters at Sturgeon's feet (again, chortle).

    And since Indy for Scotland likes to regale us with all of the nonsense churned out on WGD, it's worth noting that even in 2020, the Wings BTL comments were of a far, far whackier nature. A brief skim through those 2020 election posts from November turns up all manner of cranks, including but not limited to: the usual non-sequiturs from the Reverend himself about 1984 and Benjamin Franklin; calls to abolish women's abortion rights; demands for a return to the state rights philosophy that was once used to justify segregation and slavery; rants about Marxist leftism and the degradation of Western society; and one especially peculiar commenter who appeared to be pinning the West's supposed moral slide on secularisation of all things! I ask you, who needs Joseph Ratzinger when you have the BTL comments on Wings?

  10. Campbell is a wrecker then feeds of the wreckage, a human vulture

  11. I get the impression from 'Wings Watch' posts that he still has readers - who actually reads his stuff... and why ?

    1. My biggest impression from the wonderful 'Wings Watch' posts are that 'Independence for Scotland', usually the most prolific commenter on James's blog, seems to either pull his punches, or steer clear entirely when Campbell has said something quite indefensible. He hasn't commented for days now...a first in months, if not years. Why? Because James has rightly got his eye trained on Stuart Campbell.

      It's quite interesting that Independence for Scotland will critique other indy bloggers at the drop of a hat, often totally unprompted. But the moment Saint Reverend of Stuart is mentioned, Independence for Scotland adopts total radio silence.

      Very interesting indeed...

  12. I wonder if the likes of Kevin McKenna or Peter A.Bell still consider Wings credible?

  13. Jeez, ANOTHER post on Wings today about the trans issue? I make that the TENTH in a row? This stuff just makes him look daft. Totally obsessed beyond all reason.

  14. I supported WOS for several years bought the badges contributed money spread the word the blue book the black book but then …..his legal case against “ SHE “ of Labour fame , was lost and the whole taste of WOS became bitter , then twisted , crazies were attracted , hatred intensified , discussion was lost , you either had to agree with the hatred or you were banned .
    I’ve been banned , it made me feel good , banned for disagreeing with their hatred of Nicola Sturgeon and SNP.
    Disagreement is part of discussion if it wasn’t we would all be yes men or yes women controlled by something we don’t believe in , discussion , debate , arguing , is all essential even crucial if we are to have something we truly believe in and we without doubt need something we believe in if we are form a new independent Scotland.
    Mr Terry Callachan Dundee age 66