Saturday, February 23, 2013

And you dare me to face the attack

Yes folks, it's that time of the year already, when I pointlessly alienate 99% of regular readers by reminding you that this is (theoretically at least) a Eurovision blog as well as a Scottish politics blog - hence the 'Pop!' bit of the title.  My original plan was to call it 'Nat Goes Pop!', but I realised in the nick of time that people would probably think I was called Natalie.

In years and years of voting in the now-defunct UK national selection for Eurovision, my strike rate of picking winners was pretty atrocious, which I naturally take to be a sign of impeccable good taste on my part.  As far as I can remember, the only winners I voted for were Imaani in 1998, Jessica Garlick in 2002 and Javine in 2005.  (And stretching a point I might say Jade Ewen in 2009, although that wasn't a national selection in the traditional sense.)  But after only two attempts, my strike rate with Ireland now stands at a much healthier 50%, after I voted earlier this evening for Only Love Survives by Ryan Dolan, which emerged triumphant as the country's entry for Malmö following a tight finish. I think the song is decent enough, although unfortunately the live performance wasn't as good as the studio version.

By far the best song to be selected so far is Norway's I Feed You My Love by Margaret Berger, although I have a sneaking suspicion that we haven't seen this year's winner yet. We can, however, assume with a degree of safety that the winner will not be the UK entry, after the BBC decided to build on the 'success' of Engelbert Humperdinck last year by going for yet another 'big name' internal selection.

* * *

After John Major devalued the pound, thus blowing out of the water the idea that only Labour were the party of devaluation, John Smith famously branded Major "the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued government".

Tonight the UK's much-vaunted AAA credit status was downgraded. I'd say that leaves David Cameron looking like the downgraded Prime Minister of a downgraded union state.

But it's not all grim for the No campaign. They can always pray in aid the fact that Britain is still the fourth fifth sixth seventh largest economy in the world.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Plaid Cymru surge to joint lead for Assembly list vote in dramatic YouGov poll

Here is the type of bizarre poll that we used to see in Scotland when people still thought that the list vote was a second preference vote. But the Additional Member System has been operating in Wales for just as long as it has been here, so there's no reason at all to suppose that there's any confusion at play. On the face of it, therefore, the results on the list vote are astonishingly good news for Plaid Cymru -

Constituency ballot:

Labour 46% (-4)
Conservatives 21% (+2)
Plaid Cymru 17% (-)
Liberal Democrats 10% (+3)
UKIP 5% (n/a)
Greens 1% (n/a)

Regional list ballot:

Plaid Cymru 26% (+6)
Labour 26% (-9)
Conservatives 14% (+3)
UKIP 13% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 11% (+3)
Greens 6% (-1)

In theory the list vote ought to be the most important vote, although because of the ratio between constituency and list seats it wouldn't be possible for Plaid to make up all the damage done on the constituency vote. Nevertheless, these figures would certainly produce the party's best results in terms of seats since 1999.

Comment is free (at least here)

I'll start by apologising in advance, because the majority of you won't have a clue what this post is all about. But as a matter of principle, I object strongly to being censored, especially when others are apparently free to call me an "utter arse" and to tell me to "shut the hell up" with total impunity. So here is my PB reply to Jonathan Foy that disappeared without trace a few hours ago. For obvious reasons I've had to reconstruct it from memory, so it won't be 100% word-for-word identical to what I originally wrote.

Well done, Jonathan! Well done! You've earned your seven likes from Plato's loyal band of followers, and doubtless it will be 21 likes in a few minutes, so you can get off your high horse now.

Small hint, though - that's a symptom of the problem, not an affirmation of your moral righteousness.

Fact - Plato has a consistent track record of abusing new non-Tory posters.

Fact - You, I, and the dogs on the street know that to be true, and risibly demanding that I trawl through countless hundreds of threads from months or years ago to find the relevant quotes will not alter that reality.

Fact - These antics from Plato and her fellow travellers have led to a state of affairs in which the only left-wing posters left on this site are those with the patience of a saint, like Nick Palmer, and those who can pay back with interest what is chucked at them, like Tim.

PS. If you're as familiar with my contributions as you say, you really ought to have realised that telling me to "shut the hell up" was not the most promising of strategies. A very good afternoon to you, and I look forward to reading your generous welcome to Mandy.

* * *

Has so much attention ever been given to a half-hearted student mock vote which limped to a dismal 13% turnout? The news of Glasgow University's "referendum" on Scottish independence is - bizarrely - the third most-read story on the BBC news website at the moment. It's impossible to know how to interpret the results without any kind of baseline figures, but on the whole I'd say that a 38% Yes vote is better than might have been expected. I'm a Glasgow graduate, and certainly when I was there student politics were completely dominated by the suffocating Labour machine. It also has to be remembered that a very substantial minority of the students are English, and are only resident in Scotland on a temporary basis.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Will the Tories rebrand themselves as 'Scotland for Socialism'?

I received a glossy No2AV-style purple leaflet the other day from an organisation calling itself 'Scotland for Marriage', and yet curiously their main preoccupation seems to be with preventing certain people from getting married. Surely such an organisation ought to be called 'Scotland Against Marriage'? Just a thought.

Clearly if I ever receive a leaflet from 'Scotland for People with Irish Surnames', I should be a very worried man.

Anyway, here is a small selection of their reasons for believing that 4% of the population should be legally barred from getting hitched -

"Marriage between a man and a woman is not a recent social invention."

Lettuce is not a recent vegetable. Is that an argument for banning spinach?

"Everyone knows that marriage predates law, nation and church. It goes back to the dawn of time."

It predates law? It predates church? What exactly is marriage without law or church? I have a feeling you're getting mixed up with cohabitation, old son. And I must admit that my knowledge of the dawn of time is a wee bit hazy, so I can't even be 100% sure that cohabitation was going on back then. If it was, it presumably must have been undertaken by genderless single-cell organisms, which is admittedly a pretty impressive thought, but not really an argument against same-sex marriage.

"Same-sex couples already have equality...through civil partnerships. Equality doesn't mean bland uniformity or state-imposed sameness."

Does equality mean state-imposed difference instead?

"Many gay people don't want it.

Just four in ten members of the gay community see same-sex marriage as a priority, with only a quarter saying they would enter a same-sex marriage...Latest official data shows that only 0.5 per cent of UK households are headed by a same-sex couple. Not all of them want, or will enter, a same-sex marriage. So why is such a monumental change being imposed throughout society?"

So let's recap. There are hardly any gay couples anyway, and of the microscopically tiny number that do exist, hardly any of them plan to get married when the law changes. In a nutshell, nothing much is actually going to happen. How, then, does this constitute a 'monumental change throughout society'? Hmmm. Something isn't quite adding up here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yes voters who were born outside Scotland

I'm not sure if this has been commented upon elsewhere yet, but one feature of last week's Ipsos-Mori poll on independence that struck me as particularly interesting was the breakdown of voting intention by country of birth -

People born in Scotland :

Yes 36%
No 53%

People born in other parts of the UK :

Yes 14%
No 74%

People born in the Republic of Ireland :

Yes 59%
No 41%

People born outside the UK or Ireland : 

Yes 43%
No 44%

Some of these figures have to be treated with extreme caution, because the sample sizes vary considerably.  Taken together, though, they prove fairly conclusively what most of us already know on an anecdotal basis, namely that a healthy proportion of people who came to Scotland from other countries plan to vote Yes, and that this includes a significant minority of English people.

No-one will faint with amazement at the discovery that English people in Scotland are disproportionately likely to vote No.  In many ways, it's straightforward human nature - if you feel that you're currently living in "another part of your own country", you don't want to break that spell.  Of course, that's entirely irrational - culturally Scotland will be no more or less "foreign" after independence than it already is, and if you don't need a passport or a change of currency to visit your family and friends in England, where is the issue?  My guess is that the 14% Yes vote in this poll for voters from other parts of the UK will increase markedly as reassurance is provided on these points, as I suspect that many English voters will be rather attracted to the idea of finding a safe refuge from the excesses of Westminster Tory rule.  They'll also discover, of course, that Scotland will remain their country after independence - they'll be entitled to Scottish citizenship, which they will be able to take up without losing their citizenship of the UK.

Perhaps the most extraordinary finding of this poll, though, is that voters from outside the UK are more likely to vote Yes than those who were born in Scotland itself!  That offsets to a significant degree the Yes campaign's problem with voters from elsewhere in the UK, with the overall Yes vote for people who were born outside Scotland standing at a respectable 24%.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Creative accountancy on Twitter

Spotted on Twitter earlier this morning -

Katherine O'Donnell ‏: Comparison with Nov 2012 Ipsos MORI poll suggest Scots keener than the English on EU - 50% of English wanted out, 53% of Scots want to stay

Brian M K Watson ‏: Meaning 47% of Scots wants to leave EU. 3% is nothing. Scots just as pro/anti EU as majority of England.

Which of course is just plain wrong. Here are the actual figures from Ipsos-Mori -

Scotland :

53% would vote to stay in the EU
34% would vote to leave the EU

England :

42% would vote to stay in the EU
50% would vote to leave the EU

Mr Watson is making the all-too-common schoolboy error of lumping in the 'don't knows' with the supporters of his own preferred position. Of course it's understandable that some random bloke on Twitter might make that mistake, but what is truly unforgivable is that the mainstream media do exactly the same thing, over and over again. How many times have we all seen the ludicrous claim that "two-thirds of Scots oppose independence" paraded as fact? Given that no Yes/No poll on independence has produced anything close to a 66% No vote, that figure can only be arrived at by counting as "anti-independence" those who tell pollsters that they don't yet know whether they will vote Yes or No to independence, or that they won't vote at all.

'Misleading' doesn't even begin to cover it.

The most irritating example was surely when Michael White (if ever a man was so condescending with so little justification I'd like to know about it) informed Joan McAlpine that the fact that 40% of Scots in a poll supported independence meant that she still needed to persuade another 10% to vote Yes. Er, no, Michael. George Cunningham rules do not apply here, and abstainers do not count as No voters.

* * *

On the subject of incredibly daft things said on Twitter, Duncan Hothersall reacted with utter fury to my blogpost on Friday pointing out that Labour's vote had fallen by 4% in the Rutherglen South by-election. He started by describing my entirely factual post as "idiotic", and then went all Alice in Wonderland on us as he manfully struggled to explain how a 4% drop in Labour support was not in fact a 4% drop in Labour support. His first claim was that the result of the by-election could not be compared to last year's election in the same ward, as different electoral systems - AV and STV respectively - had been used. (On this point he was egged on by Douglas McLellan, who as a Lib Dem really ought to know better.)

In fact, of course, the exact same electoral system was used in both elections. It's true that STV works in a strikingly similar way to AV when there is only one seat to be filled (as is almost always the case in by-elections), but that doesn't change the fact that it's still STV - complete with a quota, which is not a feature of AV.

Duncan's next tack was to claim that Labour's 39.9% share of the vote in the by-election did not represent a 4% drop on their 43.9% share in last year's election in the same ward, because (and I quote) the 43.9% figure was "not real". From what I can gather, this means that people who voted Labour last year were not "really" voting Labour because they were voting for two different Labour candidates, not one. But hang on just a minute here - does that mean, for example, that we can't say that 43.2% of the British electorate voted Labour in 1997, because those people were voting for 639 different Labour candidates, rather than just one? Incredibly, it appears that Duncan's answer to that question can only be 'yes' -

"This isn't a vote for a party slate though, is it. You're getting confused with AMS."

So there you have it, folks. If you're not voting for a Labour "party slate", you're not voting Labour, and your vote should not be added to the Labour tally. As there are no party slates in UK general elections, that means there is no such thing as "Conservative votes" or "Labour votes" - there are just "votes".

I have grave fears that this revelation will make John Curtice's head explode.