Saturday, October 3, 2009

YouGov marginals poll shows 9% swing to SNP

A few Scottish Labour hearts must have warmed last night at the early indications of what YouGov's massive (in terms of participants) poll contained, with the headline prediction of a result in Scotland practically identical to the 2005 election. Only four seats were predicted to change hands - admittedly these were all Labour losses. However, the detail of the poll released today paints a dramatically less rosy picture for Labour, and a very positive one for the SNP. Given that sampling was done only in selected marginal constituencies, there are no national vote shares available. However, it is possible to compare the parties' vote share in these constituencies with what happened in 2005. It's pretty much one-way traffic -

SNP up 11
Labour down 8
Conservatives up 1
Liberal Democrats down 6

If we assume a uniform national swing, that puts the SNP just two points behind Labour nationally. And whatever the individual constituency predictions (and YouGov's methodology there has been questioned by some) those figures put Labour perilously close to the territory where they would be in danger of losing a shedload of seats to the SNP.

The truly extraordinary finding (so extraordinary I'm inclined to doubt it slightly) is that the Conservatives - supposedly a party cruising to victory at UK level - are making no headway at all in the Scottish marginals. However, the Liberal Democrats' collapse is no surprise, given the giddy heights they reached in 2005 before foolishly jettisoning their greatest asset Charles Kennedy.

Also unambiguously great news for Plaid Cymru in this poll - a 4% increase in vote share, a 7.6% swing from Labour, and a projected gain of three seats.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Palin...

So in the end I needn't have worried - Obama's stardust didn't even come close to sealing the 2016 Olympics for Chicago. Completely predictable that the President's domestic enemies would try to score points over his part in this failure, but also completely misplaced - from what I can gather about the patterns of voting in the first round, delegates were to some extent voting in informal regional blocs. This placed Chicago at a natural disadvantage, given that the US has fewer natural 'tribal' allies than the other three contenders. But the stage where this political point-scoring goes beyond being merely misplaced and becomes...well, surreal, is the stage at which people start suggesting that Sarah Palin would have had a better chance of convincing the IOC delegates of Chicago's merits than Barack Obama.

The truly scary thing is I think they actually believe it.

Also worthy of note is this startling summary by 'consultant' Bill Mallon of what the rejection of Chicago tells us about the nature of the IOC itself -

"that reveals that they’re so euro-centric and international-centric, it’s ridiculous"

Euro-centric for sending the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro? OK...

But what on earth does 'international-centric' actually mean? From my limited knowledge of Ameri-speak, I can only deduce that it's supposed to mean that the IOC is 'centred' around the 96% of the world's population who live outside the United States. Heaven forbid!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Winning without stardust

I hadn't even been aware that today was decision day for the 2016 Olympic venue candidates until I caught about two seconds on the news this morning. So I had a quick rummage around on the internet in an attempt to ascertain which city is favourite. The first two results that came up - dated early September - said Tokyo is the favourite. The third and fourth results, from the last day or two, said Chicago is the slight favourite in a very close race, with only Tokyo now thought to be out of the running. That's quite a turnaround in the space of a few weeks, and I can't quite work out how it's happened. The only explanation I can find as to why Tokyo might not be considered suitable is that it's too close geographically to the 2008 host city Beijing - but wasn't that fact already known in early September?

Anyway, perhaps it's wrong of me, but my instinct is to hope that any city but Chicago wins, for two main reasons. The Olympics were held in Los Angeles in 1984, in Atlanta in 1996 - is there some kind of unwritten law that the games have to be held in the US at least once every two decades? Given that no South American city has ever been host, yet another trip to the US really would seem like overkill. My second reason is the sight of Barack Obama arriving in Copenhagen to press the case for Chicago. How is Brazil, Spain or Japan supposed to compete with that kind of stardust? And more to the point, why should they need to? I could never quite understand how Tony Blair supposedly had such an impact in sneaking London's victory four years ago, given that a) London is London regardless of whether it has a PM with a winning smile (yuck), and b) he was never going to be PM in 2012 anyway, so any assurances he offered the delegates were fairly meaningless. (Some would say all Blair assurances were meaningless in any case.)

On the basis that it's South America's 'turn', I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for Rio tonight.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

ComRes : SNP close in on Labour

The ComRes sub-sample a few weeks ago showing a 16-point Labour lead in Scotland was probably an aberration, but for what it's worth the SNP have now slashed that lead to just three. Here are the full figures -

Labour 33% (-8)
SNP 30% (+5)
Conservatives 17% (-)
Liberal Democrats 10% (-7)
Greens 8% (+8)
Others 2% (+2)

ComRes sub-samples need to be taken with an especially large dose of salt, given their pitifully small sample size. I think we can safely assume that the Greens haven't really gone from zero to eight in the space of less than a month!

The big UK-wide stories to emerge from the poll are that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are now level-pegging on 23%, but also that Labour could still have a chance of emerging as the largest party at the next election if they switch leader. Curiously, David Miliband is identified as the potential Labour saviour, with even Jack Straw ahead of Alan Johnson - I'm somewhat dubious on that score!

No convictions, but very easily flattered

"I have no convictions", ace Jury Team by-election candidate John 'Smeato' Smeaton revealed at his press conference the other day. He didn't mean it quite that way, of course, but the statement could hardly have been more apt, given the startlingly bland non-opinions the man who claims to be ready to "set aboot Westminster" had been offering up to that point. Immigrants have been great for this country, but the system needs to be fairer. In what sense does it need to be fairer? Well, it just needs to be 'fairer all round'. Superb, Smeato - you'll really wipe the floor with us rascals who only want the immigration system to be partly fair. And as for his answer to the query about whether he supports elected select committees...well, it was difficult to escape the conclusion that he was trying to bluff his way out of the awkward fact that he had never previously encountered the term 'select committee'. No shame in that, of course, but I might have expected a 'man of the people' to be unapologetically honest about it.

So why on earth does a man who seemingly believes in nothing (save for the need to dispense the odd 'banjoing' when required) want to enter parliament? The truth is, of course, that this 'independent' candidate is dancing to someone else's tune, whether he realises it or not. And history tells us that Smeato simply can't resist being wanted - it doesn't really matter by whom. How else can we reconcile his cringe-inducing star turn during Gordon Brown's speech at the Labour party conference a couple of years ago with what he's been saying about Labour recently?

The effect of Smeato's intervention is also very difficult to judge at this stage. Assuming he can't win (although unlikelier bandwagons have taken off in the past), my guess is that he would appeal more to natural Labour voters, given his slightly authoritarian instincts (I think that's fair comment). So bad news for Labour, then? Well, not necessarily. For the SNP to have any chance of victory in such unbelievably tough terrain for them, they'd need to be claiming a shedload of precisely those type of natural Labour voters, just as they did in Glasgow East a year ago - they can't afford to see those votes siphoned off to a third candidate.

But one positive effect of Smeato's candidacy - he's finally injected some life into this interminable by-election, which thanks to Labour's refusal to move the writ we seem to have been anticipating since Bruce Forsyth was a lad.