Saturday, April 29, 2023

Twelve serious questions for Humza and his supporters about his "Eternity Game" for winning independence

There's an article linked to prominently on the BBC News homepage this morning, entitled "SNP plays longer game in bid for Scottish independence" and stating that there has been a significant shift in position since Nicola Sturgeon was leader.  In what sense this is 'news' is a complete mystery, because it was clear from the day Humza Yousaf announced his leadership campaign that this is what would happen if he was elected - he promised to abandon all plans for winning independence and that is exactly what he has done.  Nor is it newsworthy to wheel out John Curtice with approving words about the SNP climbdown on independence, because he was always a fierce critic of Ms Sturgeon's de facto referendum policy and consistently urged her to ditch it and revert to ineffectually begging for a Section 30 order.  Whatever his pedigree as a polling expert, Professor Curtice has always been as unable as any of his fellow critics of the de facto referendum to explain exactly how begging for a Section 30 order is a superior plan given that the UK Government have already decided never to grant one in any circumstances.

Nevertheless, as I know from wading through astroturf propaganda in the moderation queue of this blog on an almost daily basis, Yousaf's supporters very much want us to believe that abandoning all plans to win independence does not in fact mean that all plans to win independence have been abandoned.  And the BBC are breathlessly reporting the "plan" to build a sustained supermajority for Yes and then ask for a Section 30 order as if it's somehow a real thing rather than a cover story to keep SNP members quiet while Yousaf gets on with non-independence-related stuff for whatever time remains of his leadership.  So if even the state broadcaster want us to take the non-plan seriously, it's about time some serious questions were answered to flesh it out, make it much less vague, and expand on the underlying thinking behind it.  Let's see if any passing Humza fans can oblige (although they may need to call HQ first to get a new script).

1) Do you honestly not understand why, two-thirds of a decade after Nicola Sturgeon first announced a referendum that has yet to be delivered, people burst out laughing when you say now is the time to *start* playing a longer game on independence?

2) As we self-evidently have been playing a longer game on independence over the last two-thirds of a decade, one that was supposed to at long last reach its culmination over the next 6-18 months with either a referendum or a de facto referendum, doesn't replacing that interminably slow process with a far slower one mean that you'd be more honest in calling your new plan "the eternity game"?

3) Isn't there a contradiction in the fact that you're demanding a big increase in support for independence before a vote on independence can be called when all the evidence suggests that big swings in public opinion are far more likely to occur after a vote is called and all-out campaigning is underway?  If we learned any lesson from 2014, that's the lesson. The biggest swing to Yes occurred only around 2-4 weeks before referendum day.

4) If you're now saying that it's only appropriate to request a Section 30 order after a sustained supermajority has been attained, why the hell has Humza requested a Section 30 at least three times already in the month he's been leader?  Can you honestly not see the plot-hole here?

5) What does a 'supermajority' mean in concrete terms?  Does it mean 52%?  55%?  60%?  A well known person down south suggested to me recently in all apparent seriousness that 75% would be a perfectly reasonable target number - surely you don't mean that?  We really do need you to set an exact target number and to stick to it, because if you continue with the current vagueness, the well-founded suspicion will be that no matter how high Yes support rises, you'll just say "that isn't enough yet, we'll know what enough looks like when we see it".

6) What does 'sustained' mean in concrete terms?  Does it mean six months?  A year?  Five years?  And are you saying that if even one outlying opinion poll shows Yes below the target figure (whatever the hell the target figure is), the sustained sequence is broken and we have to start all over again?

7) When you say "the barriers to independence will melt away" as soon as Yes support rises high enough, what does that mean in concrete terms?  Does it mean the UK Government will suddenly agree to negotiate an independence settlement there and then?  Does it mean they will agree to an independence referendum?  Or does it mean something else, and if so, what?

8) Between mid-2020 and the early months of 2021, there was a sustained supermajority for independence.  Every single opinion poll conducted during that period showed a clear Yes lead, which at times rose as high as 56% or 58%.  (I remember it well, because I personally commissioned three of the polls during that long sequence, including the very first one in June 2020.)  So why didn't your prediction come true that the barriers to independence would melt away in those exact circumstances?  Why didn't it even come close to coming true?  Be careful before dismissively saying that the best part of a year is nowhere near "sustained" enough, or that 56%-58% is nowhere close enough to a "supermajority", because the implications of any such statement would be mind-boggling.

9) On what logical basis can you possibly argue that the UK Government would be more likely to agree to a Section 30 order if a sustained supermajority for Yes is established, given that they would have even less of an incentive to allow a referendum to take place once it looks unwinnable for the No side?

10) Why are you effectively contracting out Scotland's democratic voice to opinion poll firms mostly based in London?  There's no other way that a 'sustained supermajority' can be measured other than through public opinion polls, and yet London polling companies have a track record of unionist bias, unconscious or otherwise - most notably the notorious 'Kellner Correction' in the run-up to the 2014 indyref.  There's a particular question mark right now over whether weighting poll results by recalled votes in a referendum that took place a decade ago could be leading to a significant underestimate of the Yes vote.

11) If a simple 50% + 1 majority for independence is no longer sufficient for you, that means a substantial number of No voters will have to be won over.  Don't you understand, therefore, that this plan does not have a hope in hell of working until Yousaf is replaced as leader?  All of the polling evidence during the leadership election confirmed that any limited public sympathy for Yousaf is largely confined to voters in the Yes camp, and that No voters mostly loathe him.  To win over enough No voters to get a sustained supermajority, you'd need a leader like Kate Forbes, who polls showed was liked and trusted in substantial numbers across the constitutional divide.  Doesn't simple logic inexorably dictate that you're going to have to overcome your hang-ups about Forbes and unite behind her as leader sooner or later?  Always assuming, of course, that you're remotely serious about this so-called "plan to win independence" in the first place.

12) The whole reason Nicola Sturgeon promised a referendum back in 2016/17 is that Scotland was set to be dragged out of the EU against its will.  The point of the vote, therefore, was not to guarantee a Yes vote or to guarantee independence, but to guarantee the choice that Scotland was entitled to.  Are you now arguing that Nicola Sturgeon was wrong to say that Scotland had a right to choose between Brexit and EU membership as an independent country, and that we can only 'earn' that choice, very, very belatedly, if we can prove to you that we can be trusted to vote in the 'right' way?  That certainly seems to be your position, and it doesn't say much for your belief in the principle of democratic self-determination.

*  *  *

Scot Goes Pop can only continue with the help of donations from readers (and if everyone reading this today contributed £5 each, the problem would be instantly solved for another year or so, but alas, life is never quite as simple as that!)

Direct payments can be made via Paypal.  My Paypal email address is:

If you don't have a Paypal account, last year's fundraiser page is still open for donations, and can be found HERE.

Many thanks to everyone who makes, or has already made, a contribution.

Friday, April 28, 2023

The very straightforward reason why *that* YouGov subsample can be safely disregarded

If you don't know what I'm talking about, there was recently a Scottish subsample from a GB-wide YouGov poll that had the SNP in third place.  The exact figures were: Labour 35%, Conservatives 20%, SNP 19%, Greens 11%, Liberal Democrats 11%, Reform UK 1%.  Unionists have tried to put their gloating into the 'mature' context that subsamples carry a health warning and that this is merely an indication of which way the wind is blowing.  But actually it's not even that.

In other circumstances I might take a YouGov subsample a little more seriously, because unlike most other firms, YouGov seem to structure and weight their Scottish subsamples correctly, leaving the small sample size as the only remaining problem.  In the absence of full-scale Scottish polling, then, YouGov subsamples can often be the most useful straws in the wind about what is going on.  But that doesn't apply in this case, because it just so happens that YouGov conducted a full-scale Scottish poll at exactly the same time as the GB-wide poll that the subsample is taken from.  The fieldwork dates for the Scottish poll were 17th-20th April, while the GB poll was conducted on 18th-19th April.  The Scottish poll showed an SNP lead of nine percentage points on the Westminster ballot, with Labour in second place and the Tories in a distant third.  So the subsample can be safely disregarded.

In fact, even without the presence of a simultaneous full-scale Scottish poll, there would still be plenty of evidence that the subsample was a freak result caused by sampling variation.  The poll it was taken from had the SNP on just 2% of the GB-wide vote, whereas every other poll from every other firm in this calendar year (including several polls conducted after the YouGov poll) has had the SNP somewhere between 3% and 6%.

Incidentally, a certain "newspaper" has claimed that if the YouGov subsample is right, the SNP would be totally wiped out in terms of Westminster seats.  Even accepting for a moment the wildly implausible hypothetical of the SNP slumping to 19% of the vote, I don't think that would wipe them out in the real world.  It's true that they suffer from first-past-the-post due to their vote being less geographically concentrated than Labour's, and we know from past experience that it's possible for a significant share of the vote to translate into zero seats (the Scottish Tories were on 17% when they were wiped out in 1997), but in practice I think the SNP would hold onto a seat or two in Dundee, and possibly Angus MacNeil might cling on with the help of his personal vote in Na h-Eileanan an Iar, a constituency that is often wholly decoupled from mainland trends.

Of course the crisis that the SNP are engulfed in has further intensified in recent days, but my guess is that a poll right now would still show a small SNP lead.  But for the reasons I explained in my blogpost a couple of days ago, a small lead is no cause for celebration.  Given the special difficulties the SNP face as a Scotland-only party in Westminster campaigns, it's likely that a small lead a few weeks before polling day would translate into an election defeat of some description.  The SNP need to face up to that problem by addressing the current crisis.  That will require a bit of long-overdue glasnost, a bit of perestroika, and above all else a new leadership election, this time conducted fairly and without any efforts by HQ to load the dice in the continuity candidate's favour.

*  *  *

Scot Goes Pop can only continue with the help of donations from readers (and if everyone reading this today contributed £5 each, the problem would be instantly solved for another year or so, but alas, life is never quite as simple as that!)

Direct payments can be made via Paypal.  My Paypal email address is:

If you don't have a Paypal account, last year's fundraiser page is still open for donations, and can be found HERE.

Many thanks to everyone who makes, or has already made, a contribution.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

What happened to the SNP the last time they had an unpopular leader?

The SNP have been here before.  Only in one specific sense, of course - they haven't been through this kind of financial and potentially legal crisis that a minority of commentators believe to be existential in nature.  But in relatively recent history they've chosen an unsuitable leader who the public didn't take to, and they eventually had to rectify that mistake - although it took a lot longer than it perhaps should have done.

It seems like a peculiar dream in retrospect, but for four whole years between 2000 and 2004, John Swinney was leader of the SNP.  I can recall Professor John Curtice periodically going on Newsnight Scotland in the early years of devolution pointing out something that SNP members simply didn't want to hear, and in many cases refused to hear - that Swinney was holding the party back, because he was the least popular of the four main party leaders.  He was less popular than Henry McLeish and later Jack McConnell, he was less popular than Jim Wallace, and he was less popular than even David McLetchie of the Tories.  

This was a "does not compute" reality for the SNP, because they had told themselves a very plausible-sounding story of why the Swinney leadership was going to work.  He was far less divisive than his predecessor Alex Salmond and offended almost no-one.  He had a dependable bank manager air about him and thus should be reassuring to moderate voters.  He was like the gentle older brother you looked up to, and thus would be more likeable than machine politicians offered up by Labour.  All of these things ought to have been true in theory but weren't true in practice, yet the SNP clung to the "ought to be" rather than the "is", and sometimes even blamed the party's failings on insufficient unity behind the Swinney project.  There are very clear parallels with the situation under Humza Yousaf, with loyalists telling themselves "he's an excellent leader, he was great at FMQs, he hasn't put a foot wrong, he's been flawless", etc, etc, etc, etc, and refusing to take heed of polls telling the opposite story.  

There are of course key differences between then and now.  In 2000, the SNP hadn't yet broken through to become the largest party, and were still a long way behind Labour, so the potential for an unpopular leader to do damage to the party's support was much less severe.  Swinney's election as leader hadn't been by anything like such a narrow margin and hadn't taken place in such controversial circumstances.  There also wasn't an obvious Forbes equivalent in the wings, ie. a much more popular alternative leader who clearly should have been elected instead.  Nicola Sturgeon was still too inexperienced, and Alex Salmond appeared to have ruled out any comeback, meaning that anyone who succeeded Swinney might be just as unsuitable as he was.

But eventually poor election results caught up with Swinney, just the same.  Four major elections occurred during his period in office, and all of them saw the SNP going backwards - exactly as you'd expect to happen under an unpopular leader.

2001 general election:

Labour 43.9% (-1.7)
SNP 20.1% (-2.0)
Liberal Democrats 16.4% (+3.4)
Conservatives 15.6% (-1.9)

Seats: Labour 56 (-), Liberal Democrats 10 (-), SNP 5 (-1), Conservatives 1 (+1)

Although the SNP managed to restrict their losses to one seat, that was an incredibly significant one seat, because it got the Tories back into the game after their total wipeout in 1997.

2003 Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

Labour 34.6% (-4.2)
SNP 23.8% (-4.9)
Conservatives 16.6% (+1.2)
Liberal Democrats 15.4% (+1.2)

2003 Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

Labour 29.3% (-4.3)
SNP 20.9% (-6.4)
Conservatives 15.5% (+0.1)
Liberal Democrats 11.8% (-0.6)
Greens 6.9% (+3.3)
SSP 6.7% (+4.7)

Seats: Labour 50 (-6), SNP 27 (-8), Conservatives 18 (-), Liberal Democrats 17 (-), Greens 7 (+6), SSP 6 (+5), Others 4 (+3)

The 2003 Holyrood result is fascinating in retrospect, because it did see an increase in overall pro-indy representation due to the strong list showings for the Greens, the SSP, and Margo MacDonald as an independent candidate.  That arguably paved the way to some extent for Alex Salmond's triumph in 2007.  But for the SNP as an individual party, 2003 was a horror show, and that can be largely explained by the public not viewing Swinney as a credible option for First Minister.

2003 local elections:

Labour 32.6% (-3.7)
SNP 24.1% (-4.6)
Conservatives 15.1% (+1.6)
Liberal Democrats 14.5% (+1.9)

Seats: Labour 509 (-42), SNP 181 (-23), Liberal Democrats 175 (+18). Conservatives 122 (+14), Others 234 (+33)

2004 European Parliament election:

Labour 26.4% (-2.3)
SNP 19.7% (-7.5)
Conservatives 17.8% (-2.0)
Liberal Democrats 13.1% (+3.3)
Greens 6.8% (+1.0)
UKIP 6.7% (+5.4)
SSP 5.2% (+1.2)

Seats: Labour 2 (-1), SNP 2 (-), Conservatives 2 (-), Liberal Democrats 1 (-)

It was, of course, the shock of the massive 7.5-point reduction in the SNP's share of the popular vote in the Euro election that led directly to Swinney's resignation.  

So that carries two lessons for the present-day.  Firstly, there is a way in which an SNP leader can be toppled, although because it depends on the leader ultimately being self-aware enough to read the room and fall on his sword, it may be harder to dislodge the famously arrogant Humza Yousaf than it was to dislodge Swinney.  And secondly, there is such a thing as a good election to lose.  If the SNP hadn't done so poorly in 2004, they probably wouldn't have taken power in 2007, because Alex Salmond would never have returned to the helm.  

But here's the thing: the SNP were incredibly lucky to have found an election that was shocking enough to persuade Swinney to go, but that had no wider consequences.  They didn't even lose seats in the European Parliament, and if they had done, it wouldn't have mattered much in the overall scheme of things.  Losing 20, 30 or 40 Westminster seats next year certainly would matter, and would hobble any leader who replaces Yousaf.  That's why it's so important, if at all humanly possible, to dislodge Yousaf before that disaster actually occurs.

*  *  *

Scot Goes Pop relies on donations to continue:

Direct payments can be made via Paypal.  My Paypal email address is:

If you don't have a Paypal account, last year's fundraiser page is still open for donations, and can be found HERE.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

OK, so who left the stupid pills on the bottom shelf?

Many thanks (after a fashion) to 'Real Indy Loun' on Twitter for alerting me to something that I'm too blocked to otherwise be aware of, ie. that my obsessive fan in Somerset has been doing some more obsessing. (Incidentally, I have one or two suspicions about who 'Real Indy Loun' may be in real life. Beneath all the mischief-making, there's a sharp intelligence and breadth of political, cultural and historical knowledge that sets him apart from otherwise similar accounts. I may be wrong, but....hmmmm.)

The apples-and-rotavators comparison Stuart has come up with on this occasion goes like this.  Last Thursday, I mentioned in my blogpost about the new YouGov poll that 34% of respondents think Humza Yousaf will be a better First Minister than Alex Salmond, and 28% think he will be worse than Mr Salmond.  I pointed out that this six-point gap barely reaches the level of statistical significance. And a few days earlier, I pointed out that the yearly polling averages for Yes support since 2014 have varied wildly between 45% and 53%, and not "flatlined on 47%", as Stuart and his fan club have wrongly claimed again and again and again.

So is there a hilariously embarrassing contradiction, as Stuart seems to believe, between me saying that a six point gap in an individual poll barely reaches the level of statistical significance, and me saying that an eight-point gap between the yearly averages of Yes support is a wild variation?

Er, no.

The point about a six-point gap in an individual poll barely being statistically significant is just an obvious statement of fact.  The standard margin of error in a poll of 1000 people is around three percentage points, so if the 34% who think Yousaf will be better than Salmond was overestimated by three points, and if the 28% who think Yousaf will be worse than Salmond was underestimated by three points, you'd reach an exact tie of 31-31.  But yearly averages of Yes support are, by definition, not based on an individual poll of 1000 - they're based on dozens of polls which between them contain literally tens of thousands of respondents.  So, y'know, the three-point margin of error doesn't apply to the yearly averages.  Pretty straightforward point, I'd have thought, but apparently it needs to be explained to some.  The only way the error in a yearly average would approach three points would be if there was a systemic problem in polling methodology.

There's a neat little irony here, because all of this is more or less identical to the reason Stuart first blocked me on Twitter around six or seven years ago.  He kept claiming that Hillary Clinton's modest lead over Donald Trump in the polling averages meant that it was all within the margin of error and either candidate could be ahead in the popular vote.  I and several others (including some who are normally slavishly loyal to him) pointed out that the margin of error only applies to individual polls and that if Clinton was maintaining that small lead consistently across a wide range of polls, it meant she actually was ahead unless there was a systemic error in polling methodology.  (As you'll recall, Clinton went on to win the popular vote, even though she lost in the electoral college - but there was indeed a systemic polling error and her lead was overstated.)  Stuart, as is his way, refused to listen, called us all idiots, and resorted to the block button.  It seems that two-thirds of a decade later, the penny still hasn't dropped for him - but I'm afraid he's just plain wrong, and that's that.

If there are any other bleedin' obvious points I can clear up for you, Stu, be sure to give me a shout, won't you.

*  *  *

Scot Goes Pop relies on donations to continue:

Direct payments can be made via Paypal.  My Paypal email address is:

If you don't have a Paypal account, last year's fundraiser page is still open for donations, and can be found HERE.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

2017 is a warning from history for the SNP that a modest poll lead at this stage in the electoral cycle will be highly vulnerable in the 'away fixture' of a Westminster campaign - especially with the big disadvantage of an unpopular leader

Since Humza Yousaf's narrow and controversial win in the SNP leadership election, opinion polls have shown the SNP's lead over Labour in Westminster voting intentions hovering between a fragile five and nine percentage points.  In many ways that's the nightmare zone for all of us who care about independence.  If the lead was much more commanding, we could relax a bit because there would be a genuine reason for thinking the SNP might get away with having installed a very unpopular leader.  Or if Labour had taken an outright lead, something constructive would come out of it because the careerists in the SNP would go into panic mode and at least start to think about contingency planning for a change of leader.  As it is, the danger is maximised that the SNP will sleepwalk into a crushing defeat without even attempting to address the Humza problem.  The careerists (especially those who endorsed Humza and don't want to admit to themselves that they were wrong) will cling to the polls as they are right now as a very thin comfort blanket, whereas in fact a narrow SNP lead at this stage points to the likelihood of defeat.

People always underestimate the effect of the official campaign period, ie. the last few weeks before polling day when the media are giving blanket coverage to the campaign.  Long-term readers know that I despair at the "demographic drift" school of thought about patiently waiting twenty years for births and deaths to push support for independence into a sustained majority, because a glacial increase in Yes support over decades, even if it happened, could easily be dwarfed by a massive swing of opinion in the last two weeks of a referendum campaign, leaving us scratching our heads about why we'd bothered waiting so long.  The SNP are particularly vulnerable to late swings in Westminster election campaigns, because those campaigns are 'away fixtures' for the party.  The London media will portray next year's election as Sunak v Starmer, with the SNP (and the Lib Dems for that matter) as little more than irritating complications.  That's what will be beamed into Scottish homes, and to imagine it won't have an effect on Scottish voting patterns is naive.  The obvious way in which the SNP could have counteracted the problem would have been to effectively put independence on the ballot paper, but Humza has ditched all plans to win independence for an indefinite period.  So they'll be left trying to win votes with an unpopular leader and a bland pitch of "send a message to Westminster", which will impress and inspire absolutely no-one.

The classic example of the wheels coming off for the SNP during the official campaign period is the 2017 general election, and it's worth reminding ourselves of the speed and scale at which that happened.  Here is what a Survation poll showed around six weeks before the 2017 election - 

Survation poll, 18th-21st April 2017:

SNP 43%
Conservatives 28%
Labour 18%
Liberal Democrats 9%

Nothing much there to cause any alarm.  It was obvious the SNP were going to lose a few seats to the Tories, so the right-wing press were talking up the significance of that for all it was worth, but Labour's vote was way down on the previous election and it seemed a racing certainty that the SNP would remain totally dominant across the central belt in Labour's former heartlands.  However, look at the difference a few weeks of intensive campaigning had made by the eve of the election...

Survation poll, 7th June 2017:

SNP 39% (-4)
Labour 29% (+11)
Conservatives 27% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-3)

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the SNP were facing a pincer movement from both of the largest two unionist parties.  The Labour vote was no longer down from the previous election, it was up, and more importantly the SNP lead over Labour since the previous election had more than halved, putting a huge number of constituencies back into play.  That happened because the TV coverage ensured voters were exposed to Jeremy Corbyn much more than they were to the SNP, and some of them became excited about the possibility of a "real Labour government" for the first time in decades.  (I can recall overhearing conversations to that effect on the streets of Glasgow.)

In retrospect it's a minor miracle that Labour only took seven Scottish seats in 2017, even though we had initially been confident they would take only one.  For example, Labour gained just one seat in Glasgow, but from memory there were around another three or four seats in the city that were a virtual coin toss but all came down in the SNP's favour.  That pattern was replicated in some other parts of the central belt.  If the campaign had been just a couple of days longer, there could have been absolute carnage for the SNP.

A short sharp swing to Labour on a similar scale now would transform an SNP lead of around 7 points into a Labour lead of around 8 points.  First-past-the-post would magnify the effect of that lead, returning the SNP to fringe minority status at Westminster. If that's what the SNP are happy to face, by all means they should retain Humza as leader and keep doing what they're doing. 

*  *  *

As you might remember, I had intended to launch the Scot Goes Pop fundraiser for 2023 as soon as the SNP leadership election was safely out of the way.  But the sub-optimal outcome of that election, and the even more sub-optimal sequence of events in the weeks since, means that it's just about the least promising moment ever to go all guns blazing with a fundraiser launch, especially as I'm sending SNP members a message on a near-daily basis that many of them don't want to hear about the radical reversal of course that will be necessary if independence is going to be won in the foreseeable future.  Nevertheless, if anyone feels able and willing to help keep Scot Goes Pop going, donations are very much welcome.  There are three options:

Direct payments can be made via Paypal.  Those usually come through instantly and cut out the middle man.  My Paypal email address is:

Last year's fundraiser page is still open for donations and can be found HERE.  There's a small processing fee with this option.

If you prefer a bank transfer, please email me for details.  My contact email address is different from my Paypal address and can be found in the sidebar (desktop version of the site only) or on my Twitter profile.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

By just how much is Labour's lead in the Britain-wide polls shrinking?

I still live in hope that the SNP will see sense and replace the highly unpopular Humza Yousaf as leader prior to the UK general election, and if anything the chance that they'll do that is probably increasing a little.  However, there's obviously still a significant risk that they won't, and in that scenario they're going to need a huge slice of luck to avoid a landmark election defeat.  The obvious way some luck could turn up would be if the Tories mount a significant comeback at GB-wide level.  That could stall Labour's momentum in Scotland by removing their USP that they're about to turf the Tories out of government, and it could also mean that the unionist vote will be much more evenly split in Scotland, thus allowing the SNP to come through the middle and hold onto seats they would otherwise lose.

There's been a perception recently that the Tories have started to make some progress, but I wasn't sure to what extent that was true.  To find out, I've averaged the last six GB-wide polls, and compared the results to the average of the first polls of this calendar year from each of the same six firms (Omnisis, Deltapoll, Techne, YouGov, Redfield & Wilton and Savanta).

Start of 2023:

Labour 46.5%
Conservatives 26.8%



Labour 44.3%
Conservatives 29.7%


As you can see, there has indeed been a significant narrowing of the gap.  It hasn't been transformational, but around one-quarter of the Labour lead has been shaved off over the last three or four months.  There are still potentially eighteen months to go until polling day, so even if the rate of Tory recovery slows, it's looking conceivable that Sunak could at least claw his way back into hung parliament territory by then.

I was probably as guilty of anyone at the time of the Trussmageddon of jumping to the conclusion that we had just witnessed a Black Wednesday-type event that pretty much guaranteed a Labour landslide.  That assumption now looks much less sound, partly because Labour's position in the polls isn't quite as commanding as it was a year or two before the 1997 election, and partly because Starmer doesn't dominate Sunak on the preferred Prime Minister question in anything like the way Tony Blair dominated John Major.  Leadership questions in polls are often more predictive of election results than headline voting intention numbers, especially a long way out from polling day.

The pattern we're seeing potentially offers an important lesson to the SNP too.  It suggests that it's possible to recover from the mistake of selecting the wrong leader, provided the mistake is rectified long enough before an election, thus allowing voters enough time to put the episode behind them.

*  *  *

If you'd like to help Scot Goes Pop to continue, donations are welcome via direct Paypal payment. My Paypal email address is:

If you wish, you can add a note saying "for the fundraiser", although even if you don't do that, it'll be fairly obvious what the payment is for.

If you don't have a Paypal account, last year's fundraiser is still open for donations HERE.