Friday, September 22, 2023

Vote for pro-independence parties increases in Girvan & South Carrick by-election

Girvan & South Carrick by-election result on first preferences (21st September 2023)

Conservatives 47.5% (+19.7)
SNP 28.1% (+3.3)
Labour 18.0% (+9.2)
Liberal Democrats 3.9% (n/a)
Alba 2.5% (+1.4)

This is technically a Tory gain from the SNP, but as ever in STV by-elections, that's completely meaningless.  The popular vote in the ward last time was won by an independent candidate with 31.4% of the vote, and there was another independent who took 5.6%.  So to make sense of yesterday's result, you'd need to know which party those voters would have plumped for in the absence of independent candidates.  Assuming the answer is "the Tories", the sudden 20-point jump in the Tory vote may be largely artificial.

That said, the Tories are supposed to be struggling at the moment, so this result could be taken as an indication that, in some regions at least, the Scottish Tories can still successfully use anti-SNP sentiment as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

The crumb of comfort here is that the total vote share for pro-independence parties has increased (albeit helped by the absence of the non-partisan candidates), as has the SNP's vote share.  Alba can claim to have more than doubled their own vote share, but obviously 2.5% is not going to be any sort of game-changer for the party's credibility and looks very much like their past results throughout the country - which again poses the question of whether it would have been better for Alex Salmond to take the bull by the horns by standing in the Rutherglen parliamentary by-election himself and seeking the type of breakthrough result (10%? 20%?) that might have finally shifted the dial on how people view Alba.

Monday, September 18, 2023

An appeal for nominations for Alba's forthcoming internal elections

This is a message for readers who are members of the Alba Party.  As you may know, nominations have opened for various internal elections within the party, and I'd like to put myself forward and seek nominations for two positions - 

Membership Support Convener (this position is mostly referred to as 'Member Support Convener' in the Alba constitution, but is also referred to as 'Membership Support Convener' and elsewhere as 'Membership Convener' - it's all the same thing)


Ordinary member of the NEC (National Executive Committee)

To stand for the Membership Support Convener position I'd require nominations from twenty individual Alba members (or one Alba LACU).  To stand for an ordinary member slot on the NEC, I'd require nominations from ten individual Alba members (or one Alba LACU).  So if you do decide to nominate me, I'd be grateful if you could nominate me for both positions - although, of course, that's at your own discretion, and if you think I'm suitable for one role but not the other, you do also have the option of nominating me for just the one.

If I recall correctly from what happened in 2021, if someone is nominated for both an office bearer role and an ordinary NEC member position, the office bearer election takes place first.  If they are successful in that election, their name is then removed from the list of candidates for the ordinary NEC members.  But if they are not elected to the office bearer role, they then continue as a candidate for the ordinary NEC member election.  So that's why ideally I'm seeking to be nominated for both positions.

I've held off for a few days from putting out this call for nominations, because I had written to Alba asking for clarification on exactly how nominations should be submitted.  There hasn't been a reply yet, so I think the time has now come to get cracking.  I'll just have to give you my best guess on how the nominations process works.  It looks like it's probably the same system that was used in 2021 (but not in 2022), ie. that members should send an email to the Alba conference address with details of the person(s) they wish to nominate and the positions they wish to nominate them for.  The email address to send nominations to is listed on the Alba website as:

[Update: The first person who attempted to nominate me said the above email address was not recognised.  I've just sent a test message to the address myself, and so far I haven't received an error message, so I'm still assuming the address is active, but if you run into any problems let me know as soon as possible and I'll query it as a matter of urgency.]

Once you've emailed Alba with your nominations, I'd be grateful if you'd then also email me letting me know you've nominated me, and also whether you've nominated me for both positions or just one.  Apologies for doubling your trouble in this way, but there are two important reasons for asking you to do this: a) so I can judge how near or far away I am from the thresholds of ten and twenty nominations, and b) just in case I've misinterpreted how nominations are supposed to be submitted (for example if I find out at the last minute I was supposed to send over a list of names myself).  My own email address is:

Nominations are open until 6th October.  Many thanks in advance to any members who do decide to nominate me, and the best of luck to anyone else throwing their hat into the ring for these internal elections.

What would happen in the Rutherglen by-election if the YouGov poll is exactly right?

Last week's YouGov poll was the first relatively good poll for the SNP for several months, although the reporting of it was accompanied by a flat statement from John Curtice that the swing back to the SNP wouldn't be enough for them to hold the Rutherglen & Hamilton West constituency in the forthcoming by-election.  Although that's true, it doesn't tell the full story. 

The 11-point national lead for the SNP in the YouGov poll suggests there has been approximately a 7.5 point swing from SNP to Labour since the 2019 general election.  If that swing is applied to the Rutherglen seat, it's enough to put Labour ahead, but only by around five points.  In other words, if the YouGov poll is exactly right, Labour should be regarded as favourites in Rutherglen, but the contest should also be regarded as competitive.

Now in practice I would expect Labour to win the by-election by more than five points.  The YouGov poll may well flatter the SNP a bit, because it's out of line with what other polls have shown recently.  And there are difficult local circumstances for the SNP - they stupidly participated in the prolonged demonisation of their former MP Margaret Ferrier, thus grotesquely allowing sleaze-ridden Labour to present themselves as a new broom.  Labour's status as an opposition party in both Holyrood and Westminster makes it a lot simpler for them to attract protest votes.  And there have been other miscellaneous problems for the SNP such as the paid leafleters story.

But nevertheless, the YouGov poll is the closest thing the SNP have had to a genuine glimmer of hope since the sorry saga of this by-election started.