Saturday, June 1, 2024

A further twist in the Craig Murray story

First of all, I've previewed the constituency race in Alloa and Grangemouth for The National, and you can read it HERE.

While I was checking all the facts and figures for the article, I noticed something that genuinely startled me.  The anti-independence Workers Party of Britain appears to be standing a candidate called Tom Flanagan in Alloa and Grangemouth.  The reason that's significant is that when the Alba member Craig Murray was unveiled as the Workers Party's candidate in Blackburn, he announced that he was staying in Alba and was able to do so because the Workers Party would not be standing directly against Alba in any constituencies, and he was confident that he could persuade George Galloway not to put up candidates anywhere in Scotland.  

In a comment on this blog, Craig drew attention to a quote from Galloway in the Daily Record as evidence that the Workers Party would not be getting involved in Scottish elections - well, that quote was clearly nonsensical, because the Workers Party website shows that they had already chosen nine candidates in Scotland by 30th April.  The Alba constitution is absolutely explicit that a party standing anywhere in Scotland is defined as a party in direct competition with Alba.  However, even if you ignore that provision, the Workers Party have now put the matter beyond all dispute by standing directly against Alba's Kenny MacAskill in Alloa and Grangemouth.

When I raised this issue before, I pointed out that the Workers Party was registered with the Electoral Commission as standing candidates in Scotland.  For some reason there were people who flatly refused to take that point seriously, but it was always phenomenally unlikely that the registration would have occurred by chance or by accident.

I'll stress again that I have absolutely no problem with Craig Murray standing in England for the Workers Party. I think it's great that he's being allowed to do so, and he'll be a fantastic advocate for the Palestinian cause.  But the issue is this.  We all know what's been happening in Alba recently - that the leadership have been becoming more authoritarian, and have been insisting on loyalty from the rank-and-file membership, with 'loyalty' defined in a maximalist rather than minimalist way.  If the rule book is being totally disregarded for a big name like Craig Murray, we really need to start seeing the same tolerance and flexibility extended towards "the little guy" (rather than the little guy constantly living in fear of what will happen to him if he isn't belligerent enough towards Eva Comrie, or whatever).

Friday, May 31, 2024

Astounding MRP poll shows SNP very close to retaining a majority of Scottish seats

The first MRP poll of the campaign is out - it was conducted by Find Out Now (so that'll really trigger KC!) and it includes two versions of the seats projection.  The first is without "TV" and the second is with "TV".  I assume TV can only stand for tactical voting, and as tactical voting is very much a real phenomenon, it's encouraging that the SNP are remarkably close to a majority on the "with TV" figures.  In the circumstances they're not doing all that badly on the "without TV" figures either.  Remember that 29 seats is the new target for a majority in Scotland.

Seats projection "without TV":

Labour 493
Conservatives 72
Liberal Democrats 39
SNP 22
Plaid Cymru 4
Greens 2

Seats projection "with TV":

Labour 476
Conservatives 66
Liberal Democrats 59
SNP 26
Plaid Cymru 3
Greens 2

If "TV" is indeed tactical voting, it clearly can't simply be anti-Tory tactical voting because Labour do less well on the "with TV" numbers.  One thing I really don't understand is why Plaid Cymru would win one fewer seat with tactical voting than without it.

I know some people will be sceptical about the scale of Labour landslide projected here, but I don't find it inherently implausible.  We've seen in the past that all bets are off when really enormous swings occur.  If we wake up the day after the election and the Tories are no longer one of the two largest parties, I'm genuinely not sure the BBC and ITV will know how to cope.

Another poll that offers real hope to the SNP - this time from Savanta

Let me acknowledge at the outset that not long ago I would have regarded the idea of reporting a 4-point Labour lead as "a hopeful poll for the SNP" as completely absurd.  But we have to accept the fact that Humza Yousaf did end the coalition with the Greens in a catastrophic manner, and that there was a major crisis as a result which upended a lot of our assumptions about the political state of play.  Shortly after John Swinney took over, there was a YouGov poll showing a 10-point Labour lead, and there seemed to be a real risk that could prove to be a staging post towards the SNP being reduced to fringe status in the House of Commons.

In that context, the Survation poll putting the Labour lead at only four points was encouraging, because at that sort of level the SNP would retain a significant number of seats, and it was still possible they could recover and edge back into the lead.  The snag, though, was that Survation have in recent times tended to show better results for the SNP than other polling firms, so there was a danger the lower Labour lead in that poll was just a "house effect".  This new Savanta poll with a similar result lessens that danger, not least because it shows the position as stable since the previous Savanta poll which was mostly conducted before Swinney became leader.

Scottish voting intentions for the UK general election (Savanta, 24th-28th May 2024):

Labour 37% (-)
SNP 33% (-)
Conservatives 17% (-)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-)

Seats projection (with changes from 2019 election): Labour 28 (+27), SNP 18 (-30), Conservatives 6 (-), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1)

As I've said before, if the SNP are going to fight their way back into the lead, they really need to try to do it before the postal votes go out.  I'll be a lot less optimistic about a slender Labour lead if it's still in place when a substantial number of votes have already been cast.

Interestingly, although the Westminster results show no change, on the Holyrood numbers Savanta are reporting a distinct improvement for the SNP.  They were level with Labour on the constituency ballot in the last poll but are now one point ahead, while on the list ballot they've dramatically overturned a six-point Labour lead and are now one point ahead.  OK, this is a Westminster election not Holyrood, but if the SNP's underlying support is recovering, that could eventually feed through into Westminster voting intentions.

On personal approval ratings, John Swinney is faring somewhere in between the findings of other recent polls, because his net rating of -4 is a bit below Keir Starmer's rating of +1, but a bit above Anas Sarwar's -8.  The important thing, though, is that Swinney is getting far better ratings than Humza Yousaf would be if he was still in place.  At least the leadership question is no longer weighing the SNP down.

Last but not least, our resident unionist troll KC will be devastated to discover that Savanta are showing support for independence continuing to ride high at 48%.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 48% (-)
No 52% (-)

Luke Akehurst: Labour's pro-genocide election candidate and wannabe Robespierre, who has more loyalty to Israel than to his own country

The Labour leadership have been behaving oddly in recent days.  At a stage of the election campaign where you'd think they'd be going out of their way to avoid any whiff of controversy or disunity, they've instead been openly carrying out a factional purge of left-wingers, including Britain's first black female MP, Diane Abbott. They've also been provoking fury by stitching up Labour selections at the last minute for cardboard cutout backroom boy Starmerite loyalists.  

Whenever it's been pointed out how reckless this behaviour is, a leadership apologist has popped up to insist that ordinary voters simply don't care about internal party machinations.  Which amounts to a boast that Starmer can do the most horrendous things in plain sight, in the full glare of publicity of a general election campaign, and suffer no penalty at all.  The only rational response to that is to redouble our efforts to make sure that voters do know about what's been going on, because it's actually not that difficult to understand, and it touches on something people really care about - ie. you don't want to put bullies and cheats in positions of power, because if they treat their own people so badly, how are they going to treat the rest of us?

The veteran journalist Michael Crick likened what right-wing members of Labour's NEC have been doing to schoolboys breaking into the school tuck-shop and gorging themselves sick.  These are the people who were the minority faction on the NEC during the Corbyn years and at that point were doing everything they could to undermine the leadership.  They couldn't believe their luck in later finding themselves in effective control of the party, and have abused that position at every turn by purging left-wingers in an orgy of revenge, and installing their own mates instead.  Having seen that there is nothing that will stop them doing exactly as they please, they've now gone even further by installing themselves, literally themselves, as Labour general election candidates.

The most notorious example is Luke Akehurst, who has ludicrously installed himself as Labour candidate for North Durham even though he lives hundreds of miles to the south.  Akehurst's main claim to fame is as Labour's number one fan of Israel's genocide in Gaza (although admittedly the competition is stiff).  There are numerous on-the-record comments from him in which he opposes a ceasefire and makes extremist claims such as that the UN is anti-semitic and that videos showing Israeli atrocities were staged by actors.  To my mind, though, this is his most damning comment - 

"Personal opinions, not those of WBII: I'm in favour of the major West Bank settlement blocks becoming part of Israel, and a new Palestinian state getting compensatory land swaps from pre-1967 Israel territory. I want the Golan Heights to remain part of Israel."

The Golan Heights cannot "remain" part of Israel because they are not part of Israel and never have been.  They are Syrian territory which has been militarily occupied by Israel since 1967, and they are internationally recognised as such by the UN and by virtually every country in the world.  Apart from a very recent US decision made by the Trump administration, the only country to recognise the Golan Heights as being part of Israel is Israel itself.  Simply by using the phrase "remain part of Israel", Akehurst is revealing himself to have greater loyalty to the State of Israel (or perhaps to Donald Trump) than he does to his own country, or to international law.  That alone should make him unsuitable as a candidate, before you even get to the fact that he thinks Israel should be awarded another country's land by right of conquest.

Imagine there was a Labour candidate who was going around saying that "personally, I think Donetsk should remain part of Russia" as if "personally" is an all-purpose get-out clause (Akehurst also says his opposition to a ceasefire in Gaza is a "personal" view.)  That is the precise equivalent of what is happening here.

It used to be said in relation to Cold War espionage that agents who were motivated by money were more reliable than those motivated by principle or personal loyalty.  Akehurst always stresses that he is not part of the Israeli diaspora, so it's not unreasonable to wonder what personal reward is motivating his obsessive, unquestioning loyalty to a country thousands of miles away that is committing genocide.

If Russia had bought absolute loyalty from a Starmer aide who was standing as a Labour candidate in July, that would be considered a problem.  In fact, it would be considered an absolute scandal.

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I've profiled the constituencies of Aberdeenshire North & Moray East and Airdrie & Shotts for The National - you can read the articles HERE and HERE.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Yet again, ITV betrays its viewers by trying to rig a general election in Scotland

The fact that ITV's announcement of a rigged leaders' debate was so predictable does not make it any less outrageous or mean it should provoke any less fury.  The debate will exclude all parties apart from the two that just happen to be most popular in England.

In the UK, parliament is directly elected but the government is not. There are no "candidates for Prime Minister" standing for election, even though that has been used as a risible excuse for excluding all but two leaders in the past.  (Michael Crick openly admitted in 2010 that the broadcasters started with the assumption that they had to come up with an excuse for excluding the SNP and Plaid Cymru, and thus worked backwards to dream up the 'Prime Ministerial Debate' wheeze.)

A parliamentary election consists of hundreds of individual constituency contests.  In Scotland, the vast majority of those will be SNP v Labour races.  How can those take place on a level playing field if the main TV debates only feature Labour and the Tories?  They can't.  They will clearly be rigged in favour of Labour.  Of the minority of Scottish contests that are not SNP v Labour, most are SNP v Tory.  How can those take place on a level playing field if the main TV debates only feature Labour and the Tories?  They can't.  They will clearly be rigged in favour of the Tories.

Nor can the distorting effect of Labour v Tory debates be in any way remedied by having four-way second-string Scottish debates that feature the SNP, Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems.  Because those will simply provide Labour and the Tories with yet more airtime, they will have no balancing effect whatsoever.  To properly compensate with fair coverage, there would need to be additional debates that specifically exclude Labour and the Tories.

Rigged debates cannot be justified by precedent either, because in 2015 ITV had no problem broadcasting a scrupulously fair debate involving the leaders of all seven of the largest parties, including the SNP and Plaid.  Why did they agree to that?  Oh, because David Cameron would only agree to take part in a single debate if his exchanges with Ed Miliband were 'diluted' by having other leaders present.  It's extraordinary, isn't it: democratic fairness is possible for Scotland in the UK, but only as an incidental side-effect of the whims of a unionist party leader in London.

Scots will always be second class citizens in 'Our Pwecious Union'.  Institutions like ITV serve England and literally look no further.  The dice are loaded against us, and quite simply we need out.

Survation poll offers glimmer of hope by suggesting the SNP are only four points behind

After the disappointment of the Redfield & Wilton numbers a few hours ago, a new full-scale Scottish poll from Survation has offered a bit more hope by putting the SNP just four points behind Labour - the smallest gap any polling firm has shown since John Swinney became leader.

Scottish voting intentions for the UK general election (Survation / True North):

Labour 36%
SNP 32%
Conservatives 17%
Liberal Democrats 9%

Seats projection: Labour 28, SNP 16, Conservatives 8, Liberal Democrats 5

So there are two important points about the slenderness of the gap.  Firstly, it gives the SNP hope that they might still be able to overhaul the deficit, although ideally they'd want to do that in the early stages of the campaign before postal votes are cast.  But secondly, even if they don't get back into the lead, the seats projection (which was calculated by John Curtice) shows there may be a reward for keeping things close.  Sixteen seats for the SNP is twice as many as we saw in the projection from the recent YouGov poll.  While slumping to sixteen seats would be seen as just as big a disaster on election night as slumping to seven or eight would, after a year or two things would look different, and the importance of retaining a substantial presence in the Commons would seem obvious.  It would still be a better position than the SNP had at any point prior to 2015, including the 1974-79 parliament when they had only 11 seats out of 71.

The fact that the Tories are actually gaining a couple of seats on the projection also suggests the SNP have an opportunity to squeeze out more than sixteen seats if they can get an anti-Tory tactical voting bandwagon going in the several Tory-SNP marginals.

There's also a touch of bad news from the poll, which is the first poll since the change of SNP leadership not to show John Swinney as more popular than his Labour counterparts.  Incomprehensibly, Keir Starmer has a net positive rating, albeit a modest one of +3, while Anas Sarwar is on -3 and Swinney is on -7.  But everything is relative - that's a small gap which is nowhere near as much of a problem as would exist if Humza Yousaf was still leader.

Unusually, the full range of Alba leaders are asked about, and the results are a mixed bag.  Neale Hanvey's net rating is respectable enough at -12.  Ash Regan's rating is poor at -24, but that's only fractionally worse than the Greens' Patrick Harvie (-22) and Lorna Slater (-22).  But Alex Salmond remains the least popular politician asked about, with his rating of -45 being seven points worse than Rishi Sunak.  As I've noted multiple times before, this is such a dilemma for Alba - in normal circumstances it would be obviously suboptimal to have a leader with a rating of -45, but it may well be that Alba only attract as much media attention as they do because of who their leader is, and that if they replaced him in the pursuit of better ratings, they'd end up being completely ignored, which is the worst outcome of all for a small party.

By the way, if anyone from Survation happens to be reading this (not impossible on past form), could I just point out that you're still spelling Ash Regan's name wrong.  In fact, it's got even worse - you're now calling her "Ash Reagen".

I've previewed Stephen Flynn's constituency race in Aberdeen South for The National - you can read the piece HERE.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Redfield & Wilton mega-poll suggests SNP have 7-point deficit to overcome

Redfield & Wilton have produced a new GB-wide poll with a much larger than usual sample size, meaning the Scottish subsample is roughly the size you'd expect for a full-scale Scottish poll.  Whether the weightings have been applied in the same way as they would be for a full-scale poll, I don't know, but for what it's worth these are the numbers: Labour 35%, SNP 28%, Conservatives 22%, Reform UK 7%, Liberal Democrats 5%, Greens 2%.

That would mean the SNP have made no progress since the last full-scale Scottish poll from the same firm, which also had a 7-point Labour lead, although I suppose the other way of looking at it is that things haven't got any worse.  If anything is making me sceptical, it's the Tory number - is it really plausible that the Tory percentage vote in Scotland is roughly the same as in the rest of Britain? If so, it would be the first time that's happened in many decades.

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I've profiled the constituency of Aberdeen North for The National - you can read the piece HERE.

Monday, May 27, 2024

First Scottish poll of the campaign has the SNP trailing - but not by as much as the pre-campaign polls

We have the first full-scale Scottish poll of the general election campaign, and I'm not quite sure whether to be encouraged by it or not.  A few months ago we'd have regarded a five-point Labour lead over the SNP as a terrible starting-point, but it's not as bad as the recent YouGov and Redfield & Wilton polls, and thus offers the SNP a fighting chance of coming out of this election with an OK result.

Scottish voting intentions for the UK general election (More in Common, 22nd-25th May 2024):

Labour 35%
SNP 30%
Conservatives 17%
Liberal Democrats 10%
Reform UK 4%
Greens 3%

It's worth making the point that the poll suggests the SNP may be reverting to an old problem they thought they'd resolved thanks to Nicola Sturgeon, because they're almost level-pegging among men but ten points behind among women.  Their own internal polling will give them ideas about how best to counter any gender voting gap, but I'd have thought putting Kate Forbes to the fore of the campaign might help.

Some of the supplementary results from the poll are moderately encouraging for the SNP.  34% of respondents say that John Swinney is an improvement on Humza Yousaf, compared with only 5% who think he's a downgrade on the previous leader.  There's also no clear advantage for Labour on trust issues, at least not across the board.  Labour are a bit more trusted than the SNP on the NHS, jobs and housing, but the SNP are more trusted on the wars in Ukraine and Palestine, on climate change, on independence, and weirdly also on the transgender debate.

Almost 80% of respondents say "it's time for a change", and yet only 45% think Keir Starmer represents change, with 55% believing he represents "more of the same". Now that sense of realism could be very useful indeed - except for the fact that John Swinney is seen in much the same way.  Perhaps voters needs a reminder from the SNP that independence is a far, far more radical change than anything Starmer is proposing.

Voters are slightly more clear on where John Swinney stands than they are with Starmer, although the difference isn't statistically significant. But on basic approval ratings, this is yet another poll showing Swinney (-2) with a very clear advantage over both Starmer (-10) and Anas Sarwar (-11).

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Time to get real: if you're an independence supporter, you need to vote, and you need to vote for a pro-independence party

The independence movement is facing by far its most challenging election for a decade, and yet when I look at the comments section of this blog it's like stepping into Narnia, because it's full of apparently committed independence supporters debating whether they will somehow help the situation by staying at home on polling day, or by spoiling their ballot paper, or by voting tactically to oust their local SNP MP.  To state what ought to be the bleedin' obvious, no, you will not help by doing any of those things.  You will do tremendous harm.

Yes, I know all the arguments backwards: Pete Wishart is so comfortable in Westminster that he's referred to as "Slippers", John Nicolson is an identity politics extremist who is unacceptable to feminists, Stewart McDonald is (at best) a devolutionist who is infatuated with British militarism, etc, etc.  But all of that is totally irrelevant in the current context and I'll explain why.

What people are overlooking is the importance of momentum and story-telling.  Think back to the aftermath of the failure to pass the 40% threshold in the 1979 devolution referendum, and the SNP losing nine of their eleven seats a few weeks later at the general election.  That created a narrative that the Scottish people had slammed the door shut on devolution through lack of interest, and indeed a generation passed by before Home Rule became possible once again.  The media and London establishment are eagerly waiting to declare this election the decisive 1979-style turning-point at which voters put independence back in its box, where it can be safely ignored for the next twenty years.  Nobody will give a monkey's about the minutiae or nuances of the views of individual SNP MPs - if someone like Stewart McDonald loses his seat, it will be seen as confirming the narrative of a generational rejection of independence.  If he holds his seat, it will be seen as calling that narrative into question and keeping the flame of independence alive.  And that's our task for this election: simply to keep the flame alive so we can live to fight another day and hopefully press home for independence in 2026.  I very much doubt we'll have that opportunity if the SNP are routed in July.  The media will tell the public that they've moved on from the independence question, and the public will believe that about themselves.

If you can't bring yourself to vote SNP for whatever reason, there will be other pro-independence parties like Alba and the Greens to choose from in some seats.  But I make no bones about it: if the SNP are the only pro-independence party standing in your constituency, the logic points overwhelmingly towards voting SNP.  If you don't, you're either using your vote to do harm to the independence cause, or you're refraining from using your vote to do anything constructive.