Saturday, May 25, 2024

First YouGov subsample of the campaign shows an SNP lead

This is a very small piece of polling good news after a run of bad news, but take it with a hefty dose of salt.  Although YouGov are unlike other polling firms in that they seem to structure and weight their Scottish subsamples correctly, the size of the subsample is just 180, which means the margin of error will be very large.

GB-wide voting intentions (YouGov, 23rd-24th May 2024):

Labour 44% (-2)
Conservatives 22% (+1)
Reform UK 14% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 9% (-)
Greens 6% (-1)
SNP 3% (-)
Plaid Cymru 1% (+1)

Scottish subsample: SNP 37%, Labour 34%, Conservatives 13%, Liberal Democrats 7%, Greens 4%, Reform UK 2%

The likelihood, I'd have thought, is that Labour are still in the lead in Scotland, and the apparent SNP lead is just an illusion of the margin of error.  However, the hope must be that it's a straw in the wind suggesting that the calling of the election has focussed minds and that some people who voted SNP in 2015, 2017 and 2019 have "gone home" as a result.  Time will tell when we see some full-scale Scottish polls.

It would make such a psychological difference if the SNP could claw their way back to roughly level pegging and hold at least 20+ seats.  The jury is out on whether that is a realistic goal or not.

A response to some pleasantries

I'm well used to being trolled, but as IFS pointed out, some of the trolling that followed my article the other night seemed particularly extreme and almost had a coordinated feel to it.  

I've felt for a while that people seem to have a faulty translator chip installed that goes particularly haywire whenever Kate Forbes speaks.  She can say something totally innocuous about tidal power or pensioner poverty, but somehow people hear it as "I love conversion therapy" or "the Earth is 6000 years old".  The trolling I received gave me a little taste of a similar phenomenon, because all of it was based on the completely bogus premise that my article was some sort of attack on the SNP or was a form of 'anti-SNP spinning'. 

There's a basic failure of intelligence or at least of attention here.  Anyone who has followed this blog knows, or certainly ought to know, that I believe the future of the independence movement hinges on the SNP being successful in this election, and I've therefore been looking for any possible sign of hope.  The article reflects that and identifies John Swinney's positive approval ratings as the most optimistic indicator.  But it would have been dishonest and ridiculous of me to have totally ignored the elephant in the room, ie. that the calling of the election has coincided in a really unfortunate way with two polls showing the SNP in their worst position for a decade.

Similarly, because the article mentioned Alba, all the trolls seem to hear is "glorious Alba heading for historic triumph!", which bears no resemblance whatever to what I actually said.  One troll even left a comment on this blog that said "James, your article is ridiculous, Alba will win no seats at all", which might have been a fabulous point if it actually contradicted the text of the article in any way.  In reality, the article was decidedly downbeat about Alba's chances.  I said that by standing in so many seats they were following a "curious" strategy that risked stretching their resources too thin, and that could result in them recording a very low vote in each seat.

Another troll, using delightful language, claimed: "James so far up Salmond's a*** he can see the Rev. Stu".  Yeah, has anyone actually noticed me being particularly sycophantic towards the Alba leadership recently?  As opposed to, y'know, repeatedly pointing out how concerned I am that they're moving in the wrong direction?  That they were unwise to vote to bring down the SNP government, that their intervention in the general election is too extensive and risks doing harm, that they've become too authoritarian and too intolerant of party members' right to speak freely, etc, etc?

Incidentally, when I was asked to write the article, I was specifically asked to discuss how the SNP, the Greens and Alba were placed in the polls as the campaign got underway.  So if I hadn't mentioned Alba at all, I wouldn't have been sticking to the brief.  But the trolls seem to be triggered simply by any mention of the word "Alba" itself.  

Lastly, yet another troll furiously claimed that "equating Liz Truss and Humza Yousef (sic) as comparable unpopular leaders is absolutely barking".  That's reminiscent of just about every politician in the US complaining about the ICC "equating Israel with Hamas", because in fact I did not equate Yousaf with Truss.  I simply used Truss as an example of how the popularity of a party can be negatively impacted by a leader who has already gone.  But the fact that the trolls are so triggered by that point suggests they're in denial about just how far Yousaf fell in the public's estimation.  In the YouGov poll, his net approval rating stands at minus 40.  That's worse than Douglas Ross, is comparable with the extremely poor ratings for Alex Salmond that are always cited, and is not a million miles away from Truss-like numbers.  There is not a shred of doubt that the public have decisively concluded that Yousaf's leadership was a failure.  It's not in any way an anti-SNP statement to point that out, because Yousaf is the SNP's former leader not their current one, and I think they're in a much better place under Swinney/Forbes.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

More general election analysis

Just a quick note to let you know I have a new analysis piece on The National's website, about how the SNP, the Greens and Alba stand in the opinion polls as the general election campaign gets underway.  You can read it HERE.

Thoughts on the implications of the election timing

I doubt if Rishi Sunak was primarily thinking about Scotland or the SNP when he selected a surprisingly early election date, but on the face of it the timing couldn't be much worse.  The SNP have only just received their worst poll results since before the indyref ten years ago.  An election three months ago wouldn't have been as bad because the SNP would have gone into it level pegging with Labour, and an election in four or five months' time might not have been as bad because the chaotic end of Yousaf's leadership might have faded from voters' memories and the status quo ante in the polls might have been restored.

So on the face of it, this is the perfect storm.  The only consolation I can think of is that John Swinney seems to be enjoying some sort of honeymoon with voters, with both of the last two polls suggesting he is more popular than the other party leaders.  That may be the SNP's best hope of clawing their way back into contention.  But if the worst happens, I suppose the indy movement will just have to draw a line under it, allow Labour to own everything that goes wrong at Westminster, and use that to plot a resurgence for Yes parties in 2026.

The recognition of Palestine by three more European countries is a big moment, and is likely to create a domino effect

In the western mainstream media, one of the most common observations about the Russian aggression against Ukraine is that it backfired horribly on Putin, who was trying to stop NATO expanding to include Ukraine, but instead inadvertently caused Sweden and Finland to join NATO, which wouldn't otherwise have happened.  The reality is that Putin probably wasn't as bothered about that side-effect as was assumed, because being technically outside NATO had no effect on the fact that Sweden and Finland were already within the Euro-Atlantic orbit and both had been EU members since 1995.  Whereas Ukraine's basic orientation was and is still in dispute.

But because the "backfire" narrative was so popular, you'd think it would occur to the same media to point out that Israel's atrocities in Gaza have backfired by leading Ireland, Norway and Spain to announce today that they are recognising the State of Palestine.  Instead, the former Sky News political editor Adam Boulton moronically tweeted "terrorism works", providing one of those instant moments of clarity when you suddenly realise exactly who a person is and why they were wholly unsuited to hold the position they did.  It implies that he believes that the Palestinian people are a terrorist people or that Israel's campaign of destruction has been a proportionate response to a terrorist act.

If you insist on viewing today's decision through the prism of what "works" and what doesn't, it would be more appropriate to conclude that it shows "genocide has a penalty" or that "stoicism in the face of genocide carries a reward".  But the recognition of sovereignty and self-determination should really have nothing to do with "rewarding" Palestine or "punishing" Israel, it's simply about accepting an inalienable right of the Palestinian people which exists on an equal basis to the equivalent right of the Israeli people on their own territory.  The State of Palestine was declared in 1988, so today's three countries could have recognised it at any point since then.  Better late than never.

It's interesting that Israel is attacking the Irish decision as an assault on Israeli "sovereignty".  As I understand it, countries that recognise the State of Palestine do so on the basis that the territory covered is the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem left an open question just as recognition of Israel generally leaves West Jerusalem as an open question.  So unless Israel is claiming the West Bank and Gaza as its own sovereign possessions, what's the problem?  That's probably a question that answers itself.

Today feels like a big moment.  It increases the number of EU member states which recognise Palestine from nine to eleven, but it looks as if eight of the previous nine had made the decision prior to joining the EU, and most had done so when they were communist states.  So the number of countries that have chosen to recognise Palestine from within the EU has just trebled, and that's likely to create a domino effect.  Whenever an EU country happens to be governed by a left-wing or progressive administration, there's now a fair chance it will recognise Palestine.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Why I stay in Alba

On last night's thread, I was asked by an anonymous commenter why I stay in Alba when I have concerns about the scale of the party's intervention in a first-past-the-post general election.  Which brings to mind the Katy Perry lyric "you change your mind like a girl changes clothes".  We do not in this country have an American system of casual registration of party supporters, and therefore moving between parties is not something to be done lightly or without an exceptionally good reason.  

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a party that is a perfect fit for them.  While I disagree with the Alba leadership on some points of strategy (and indeed policy), I also still have profound disagreements with the SNP leadership.  They're in a better place under Swinney/Forbes than they were under Yousaf, but they still have no serious or credible strategy for independence.  So whichever party I was in, I would have to be getting involved and arguing for change, which of course is one of the most common and valid purposes of being in any party.  But the value of Alba is that for as long as the SNP's independence strategy remains woefully deficient, Alba could have a key role to play by winning list seats in 2026 and using that as leverage to move the SNP onto the right path.  Their ability to do that may be contingent on them avoiding doing harm in the meantime at this year's general election.

I was a bit frustrated to fall 0.5% short of being elected Alba's Membership Support Convener last December.  If I had been elected to that position, I would have had an automatic place on the NEC, where I could have argued for a more limited intervention in the general election, narrowly targeted on a few key constituencies (and thus broadly in line with what Denise Findlay said on the previous thread would have been her proposal if she had remained Organisation Convener).  I would have been heavily outvoted but at least the case would have been made and heard.  However, even having narrowly failed to get back on the NEC, I was elected a month later to the Disciplinary Committee, the Finance & Audit Committee, and the ad hoc Constitution Review Group, and I'm trying my level best to do some good on those bodies.  On the Disciplinary Committee I can try - as I promised to when I stood for election - to ensure that party members are protected from the Grouse Beater-type episodes that became far too commonplace in the SNP, with members being disciplined for 'wrongthink' rather than for genuine wrongdoing.  (Obviously I'm only one committee member out of eight, but all I can do is try my best.)  And on the Constitution Review Group, I can put forward the case for thoroughgoing democratisation of the party in the hope of putting the members firmly in charge.

So in a nutshell, my answer to the question "why do you stay in Alba?" is "because it remains the closest fit for me in an imperfect world, and because I can try to do some good within the party and push for change".  I hope that makes sense.  What I would say, though, is that I was told by a very senior person in the party just after I was voted off the NEC eighteen months ago that they would never have any problem with me expressing dissenting views in public as well as in private.  I hope that will always remain the case, because it hasn't necessarily been the experience of others recently.

Keir Starmer openly supported one of the crimes against humanity that the Israeli Prime Minister now faces an arrest warrant for

The reason the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has jurisidiction to apply for arrest warrants against leaders of both Hamas and Israel is that the State of Palestine is a sovereign state, albeit one whose territory is illegally occupied by a neighbouring state.  It has observer member status at the United Nations, it is recognised by almost three-quarters of the world's countries, and it is a state party to the ICC treaty.  Therefore, any criminal action carried out by its citizens, wherever that action occurs, falls under ICC jurisidiction (hence the Hamas warrants), and any criminal action carried out on its territory, regardless of whether the perpetrators are citizens of an ICC state or not, also falls under ICC jurisdiction (hence the Israel warrants).

There was a farcical exchange between a US government spokesman and a journalist yesterday, with the latter asking for clarification on which authority has criminal jurisdiction in Palestine if the US does not accept the ICC's jurisidiction.  The reply was that Israel has jurisidiction to investigate its own crimes, and bizarrely that the US has jurisidiction because it supplies the weapons to Israel.  That clearly made no sense, so when pressed, the spokesman rowed back and insisted that he wasn't suggesting the US had criminal jurisdiction.  He added that "long term" he wanted the Palestinians to become a state and "have the ability to make these determinations", which strongly implies that in the meantime they have no such ability and that the occupying power can act with impunity on their territory.  Biden referred to the ICC prosecutor's decision as "outrageous", but it's hard to think of anything much more outrageous than what the US wants to replace ICC jurisdiction with - ie. nothing but the Wild West.

The application for warrants is a moment of danger for Keir Starmer, because the very first crime cited in relation to Israel's leaders was the deliberate starvation of the population of Gaza.  Starmer was specifically asked in his infamous interview in October whether Israel had the right to cut off food, water and electricity to the Gazan civilian population, and he replied that "Israel does have that right", in other words he egged on Netanyahu in committing a crime against humanity.  

There's also a problem now for Luke Akehurst, Margaret Hodge and the rest of the Labour Friends of Israel mob.  We know how they operate - any person or organisation that is critical of Israel is instantly demonised as anti-semitic and Hamas-in-disguise.  But they're going to look increasingly ridiculous and beyond progressive norms if they apply that language to more and more international institutions like the ICC.  The media portrayed Margaret Hodge as the voice of the mainstream when she was abusive towards Jeremy Corbyn a few years ago, but it would be increasingly hard to do that plausibly now.

It's just ten days since Israel was allowed to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest as if everything was normal.  The way the audio was dulled to protect a genocide-committing state from being heard to be booed almost felt sinister.  Would the participation really have been sustainable if the ICC prosecutor's decision to file for a warrant against Israel's head of government had been taken before the contest?  Israel is now placed even more on the same footing as Russia, whose head of government is also the subject of an ICC warrant.  Surely now Israel must be removed from the 2025 contest, unless the Netanyahu administration leaves office and the attacks on Gaza end?

Monday, May 20, 2024

It has to be all hands to the pumps as YouGov poll shows the SNP have a 10-point deficit to overcome

Unfortunately, YouGov have confirmed the trend shown by the recent Redfield & Wilton poll, and indeed are showing a slightly bigger deficit for the SNP.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

Labour 39% (+5)
SNP 29% (-4)
Conservatives 12% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-)
Greens 7% (+3)
Reform UK 4% (-1)

It's pretty obvious that the chaos surrounding Yousaf's departure has led to a further pro-Labour swing, but the one crumb of comfort is that it's not the total meltdown suffered by the Tories during and after the Trussmageddon.  The big question now is whether it will prove to be any more reversible than the Tories' slump was.  Overcoming a 10-point deficit in a few months is a tall order, but it's not totally impossible, and for that reason I want to say something directly to my own party Alba.  As I understand it, you have now announced that you will be standing against the SNP in roughly one-third of constituencies in a first-past-the-post Westminster general election - something that no-one could or should have anticipated when you came into being as an explicitly "list-only party" three years ago.  It's highly unlikely that anyone will persuade you to stand any of those candidates down, but for pity's sake *please* don't add to them.  This is an emergency situation for the independence cause, and we in Alba should be helping to stop Labour, not busily making it easier for them to win seats.