Saturday, March 7, 2015

Return of the Syd Little of British politics

Just a quick note to let you know that I have a new article at the International Business Times, about the nostalgia-inducing foray into Scottish affairs of a former Prime Minister who was memorably described by Ben Elton as "the Syd Little of British politics".  It can be read HERE.  (It's also on Yahoo HERE.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

SNP set to defeat Charles Kennedy, and are just 1% away from unseating Jim Murphy, according to rip-roaring Ashcroft polls

If anything, the new batch of Scottish constituency polls from Lord Ashcroft is even more devastating for the unionist establishment than the results we saw a month ago.  Eight constituencies have been surveyed (slightly more than I expected), and for the most part they are seats which voted No by a wide margin.  In six of them, the SNP have a clear lead, and they're also level in one.  Do you want to have a guess which one they're level in?  No, seriously, go on, have a guess.

It's Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale - the only Tory-held seat in the whole of Scotland.

And it gets even better - because in the one and only seat in which the SNP are trailing, they're just 1% behind.  Do you want to have a guess which one that is?  No, seriously, go on, have a guess.

It's East Renfrewshire - the seat that is supposed to be utterly beyond their reach because of the fabled (and yet strangely elusive) "personal vote" of new Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy.

Actually, the sheer impotence of the big names in bringing their personal vote to bear is something of a recurring theme of the Ashcroft polling - Douglas Alexander wasn't able to do it in the first set of polls, and Charles Kennedy hasn't been able to do it this time around.  The former Britain-wide leader of the Liberal Democrats is estimated to be trailing the SNP in Ross, Skye and Lochaber by some 5%.  To be fair to Kennedy, though, at least he's keeping the Lib Dems in the hunt, which is more than can be said for his counterpart in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, who is miles behind the SNP, as is the Conservative hopeful in the same constituency.  That's a less eye-catching finding, but it's arguably more significant, because it's a seat which the Tories fancied might fall to them in the event of a Lib Dem collapse.  On this sort of trend, the Lib Dems would be wiped out everywhere apart from Orkney & Shetland, and it's quite possible that the SNP would be the beneficiaries everywhere - including even in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, which the conventional wisdom states ought to be a Tory gain.

Here are the full results from all eight seats.  The percentage changes listed are from the 2010 general election result.

West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine :

SNP 39% (+23)
Conservatives 25% (-5)
Liberal Democrats 20% (-18)
Labour 10% (-4)

(This would be an SNP gain from the Liberal Democrats. Sir Robert Smith of the Liberal Democrats would lose his seat.)

Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock :

SNP 42% (+24)
Labour 31% (-16)
Conservatives 21% (-5)
Liberal Democrats 2% (-7)

(This would be an SNP gain from Labour. Sandra Osborne of Labour would lose her seat.)

Dumfries and Galloway : 

SNP 34% (+22)
Conservatives 30% (-2)
Labour 28% (-18)
Liberal Democrats 2% (-7)

(This would be an SNP gain from Labour. Russell Brown of Labour would lose his seat.)

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale :

SNP 34% (+23)
Conservatives 34% (-4)
Labour 18% (-11)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-13)

(It's unclear whether this would be a Conservative hold, or an SNP gain from the Conservatives.  If the latter, David Mundell of the Conservatives would lose his seat.)

East Renfrewshire :

Labour 34% (-17)
SNP 33% (+24)
Conservatives 26% (-4)
Liberal Democrats 2% (-7)

(This would be a Labour hold.  Jim Murphy of Labour would retain his seat - just.)

Edinburgh South-West : 

SNP 40% (+28)
Labour 27% (-16)
Conservatives 19% (-5)
Liberal Democrats 4% (-14)

(This would be an SNP gain from Labour.)

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath : 

SNP 45% (+31)
Labour 39% (-26)
Conservatives 7% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 3% (-6)

(This would be an SNP gain from Labour.)

Ross, Skye and Lochaber :

SNP 40% (+25)
Liberal Democrats 35% (-18)
Labour 9% (-6)
Conservatives 8% (-4)

(This would be an SNP gain from the Liberal Democrats.  Charles Kennedy of the Liberal Democrats would lose his seat.)

As things stand, the SNP are clearly on course to gain a significant number of seats in strong No areas on the basis of a relatively small minority of the vote.  In any seat where they're not too far ahead, the party in second place may feel that there's a potential silver lining to this polling - ie. anti-independence voters might be persuaded that the best strategy for tactical voting has now been definitively established.  But it cuts both ways - in a few seats, Labour were until now hoping to benefit not only from Tories voting for them to keep the SNP out, but also from SNP supporters voting for them to keep the Tories out.   The message of "the SNP can't win here, it's a straight fight between Labour and the Tories" has just been killed stone dead in Dumfries & Galloway, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale and East Renfrewshire.

And the hopes for an informal unionist voting alliance have been complicated in West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine and Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale as a result of the Conservatives emerging as the SNP's main opposition in both seats.  It's not unreasonable to suppose that it would be a lot easier to persuade Labour or Tory supporters to vote Lib Dem, or Lib Dem or Tory supporters to vote Labour, than it will be to persuade Labour or Lib Dem supporters to vote Tory.  In fact, I rather suspect that the average Labour voter in Dumfriesshire will be much more tempted by the golden opportunity to get David Mundell out by switching to the SNP this time around.

Eyebrows will doubtless be raised at the particularly enormous swing from Labour to the SNP in the seat that Gordon Brown will shortly be vacating, but in truth that represents a fairly predictable unwinding of the former Prime Minister's personal vote, and probably doesn't indicate that Labour are doing any worse there in "real terms".

You can read more of my thoughts about the Ashcroft polling, including the familiar doubts over methodology, in a short article I've written for The National - it can be found HERE.

Roll of honour

Political Betting/Stormfront Lite's resident pub bore "Carlotta Vance" was beside herself with excitement today after a possible sighting on Twitter of PB's former leading Labour poster Tim - who was hounded off the site a couple of years ago after numerous temporary bannings, and having his personal details revealed without any protection at all from the Tory moderators.  It may or may not be coincidence that one of those moderators (the notorious "TSE", who is currently guest editing in place of Mike Smithson) once lost a bet to Tim but delayed settling it by telling two cynical and contradictory lies about family tragedies.

Ms Vance celebrated the occasion by doing one of her hilarious "let's gloat about the left-wing/pro-independence posters who can't answer back because they've all been banned for no reason LOL LOL LOL LOL" posts. You know the drill by now - the marks of ellipsis indicate the points where you're supposed to be laughing. Gosh, there are a lot of them.

"The spiel sounds familiar.....3,000+ tweets and fewer than 80 followers.....bless.....

Perhaps like the Oscars & BAFTA we should have an 'In Memoriam thread.....

tim 'he rode a horse, shopped in Morrisons, COULSON!!!!!!!!'

Comical 'its a victory for Eck' James

Mick 'SHRIEK!!! You don't understand! Its all about GOTV!' Pork

And then there was Yellow Box Avery, who at least added to the sum of human knowledge, rather than subtracted from it....."

Well, I'm teetotal, so at least I generally leave the UK's stocks of alcohol in a stable state, rather than subtracting from them as someone else seems to be doing on a regular basis.

I've no idea whether this 80-follower Twitter account really is Tim, but I can set Ms Vance's mind at rest about myself and Mick Pork. Scot Goes Pop currently gets an average of 20,000 unique readers per month, which I suspect is considerably more people than ever used to read my posts on PB comment threads. And Mick now posts on numerous high-profile sites. Perhaps we should hold a memorial service for our former anonymity.

Clegg crestfallen as SNP and Plaid Cymru draw level with the Liberal Democrats across Britain

When the news came through last night that the Liberal Democrats had slumped to a historic low of just 5% in the latest GB-wide YouGov poll, I wondered if that might mean that the SNP and Plaid Cymru had drawn level with them - and so it has proved.

Britain-wide voting intentions (YouGov, 2nd-3rd March) :

Conservatives 36% (+1)
Labour 34% (+2)
UKIP 14% (-1)
Greens 6% (n/c)
SNP/Plaid Cymru 5% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 5% (-2)

The Scottish subsample figures are fairly routine : SNP 40%, Labour 27%, Conservatives 20%, UKIP 6%, Liberal Democrats 4%, Greens 2%.  As usual, the SNP lead would have been even bigger if it hadn't been for the misconceived downweighting based on Westminster-centric party ID target figures - 42 SNP and Plaid identifiers have been downweighted to count as just 32 respondents, in spite of the fact that Scottish respondents in general have had to be slightly upweighted.

Some people are confidently suggesting that today will bring the publication of more Scottish constituency polls from Ashcroft, although as far as I'm aware the man himself hasn't publicly confirmed that.  If true, I'm fairly sure there'll only be a limited number this time, perhaps concentrating mostly on constituencies that have big name sitting MPs (such as Ross, Skye & Lochaber and East Renfrewshire).  It might leave quite a distorting impression, because if any seats are likely to buck the national trend, those are the ones.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Murray Foote reels in disbelief as bombshell poll reveals most people think the Daily Record is ghastly

Many thanks to the 609 of you who participated in Scot Goes Pop's groundbreaking research into public attitudes towards the Daily Record newspaper.  As you'll recall, the survey consisted of a straight Yes/No question, so the results you're about to see are pretty startling.

Is the Daily Record a good newspaper?

Propagandists : 458 (75%)
"Scotland's Champion"?! Don't make me laugh : 447 (73%)
An embarrassment : 446 (73%)
Notoriously inaccurate : 440 (72%)
Found guilty by industry watchdog : 421 (69%)
Mistrusted : 412 (67%)
Driven by hate : 410 (67%)
Hypocritical : 407 (66%)
Falling circulation : 388 (63%)
Wreckers of lives : 332 (54%)
Seduced by Cameron : 239 (39%)

The one minor piece of salvation for Mr Foote is that "only" 39% of you think that he's been seduced by the dubious charms of David Cameron, so that's something, I suppose.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Seriously, guys, what is your problem with freebies?

To all you vile Cybernats out there - I'm sorry to take a contrary view, but I have absolutely no problem with the UK government's plan to adorn projects they've funded with the Union Jack.  In fact, I think the proposed message is far too modest, because some people might still assume that the government are getting the money from Scottish taxpayers, or Scottish oil revenues, or some other equally improbable source.  It should really read - "Funded by the UK government with revenue direct from the Hackney platinum mine.  This isn't costing you a penny, folks!"

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The Daily Record are running a poll today asking "Is William Wallace a freedom fighter or a terrorist?"  Interesting use of the present tense there, but it gets even better, because the two possible answers are "Yes" and "No".  That hasn't deterred people from voting, and the current result is Yes 80%, No 20%.  Make of that what you will.

Today's Scot Goes Pop poll will hurt your head much less.  It's a genuine Yes/No question - "Is the Daily Record a good newspaper?"  You can find the voting form at the top of the sidebar, and multi-voting is enabled, so you can vote for as many answers as you like.

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Today's Scottish subsample from the GB-wide Ashcroft poll : SNP 40%, Conservatives 22%, Labour 21%, Greens 8%, Liberal Democrats 8%.  Farage's mob failed to trouble the scorer this time.

When Ashcroft's focus groups in England were asked to list the good things that the UK government have done over the last five years, apparently one of the suggestions offered was "managing to hold onto Scotland".  Doesn't it make you feel wonderful to be talked about like a trophy wife?  Perhaps not.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Month of destiny

Welcome to March - the month in which the wretched Westminster parliament of 2010-2015 will finally be dissolved.  At the stroke of dissolution, all sitting MPs will cease to be MPs - there simply won't be a parliament at all.  (A bit problematical if there's an impending nuclear war in April.  The contingency plan to reconvene parliament and force through legislation introducing powers of summary execution would be thwarted.  Oh well, the unelected Privy Council would just have to do the dirty work instead.  Isn't British democracy wonderful?)

What that means in concrete terms is that by the end of this month, the parliamentary careers of 30+ Scottish Labour and Lib Dem MPs will already have ended - if we can trust ourselves to finish the job in May.  Now there's a thought to conjure with.

There's another crucial significance to the fact we're now in March, because it was the month that marked the turning-point in the dramatic Holyrood election four years ago.  The SNP's victory in 2011 was arguably the most extraordinary comeback in the history of UK elections, so if Labour leave it any later than March to make telling inroads, we can safely say their chances of turning things around will look very slim indeed.

*  *  *

The list of constituencies in which I have reports of people receiving recent calls from Populus now stands at six -

East Renfrewshire
Rutherglen & Hamilton West 
Lanark & Hamilton East
Edinburgh West
Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath
Ross, Skye & Lochaber

Unfortunately, though, we can't take that as a provisional list of upcoming Ashcroft constituency polls, because it's become clear that Populus have also been conducting very extensive internal polling for Labour.  So the only ones that I can be fully confident will emerge as Ashcroft polls are Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath and Ross, Skye & Lochaber.

If you want to know definitively whether you've been interviewed for an Ashcroft poll, this is how you can tell -

1) The polling company identify themselves as Populus.

2) They ask two separate voting intention questions, with the second one inviting you to think about the candidates in your own constituency.

3) They ask how you voted in the 2010 UK general election, but NOT how you voted in the referendum or the 2011 Holyrood election.

Strangely, I've heard from a couple of people about YouGov making calls.  On the face of it, that doesn't make any sense, because YouGov are an online-only firm (unless they've branched out into telephone polling without me noticing).  I'm wondering if perhaps there's a Chinese whispers effect at play, with Populus being mistaken for YouGov.

*  *  *

One of the nice things about Indiegogo is that they show you the amount of money donated by people who follow any link you post to a fundraiser.  (There's no information about individuals, I hasten to add - just an overall total.)  In the last post, I linked to three SNP constituency fundraisers - and although the number of people who followed each link was roughly the same, far more of you went on to actually donate to the Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale one.  In total, Scot Goes Pop readers have so far given £285 to Emma Harper's campaign to unseat David Mundell.  It seems you're rather keen on the idea of Scotland becoming a Tory-free zone once again, and I can't say I blame you!

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At some point in her life, Stormfront Lite's resident pub bore "Carlotta Vance" was encouraged to think she was a sparkling wit, and the rest of humanity has been suffering the consequences ever since.  She posted this a few hours ago, with the marks of ellipsis helpfully indicating the points where you're supposed to be splitting your sides.

"We haven't had such an entertaining Nat since 'Comical James' defenestrated himself - goodness knows what the demands will be if the SNP do get 46 seats.....I reckon 'free Unicorns' will be back on the table......"

I presume 'Comical James' is me, in which case "defenestrated himself" is code for "he was randomly banned for no good reason, but hey, I'll just bravely lie about that, because it's not as if he has a right to reply anyway".  And "free unicorns" is presumably a reference to Scotland's crazy desire not to have weapons of mass destruction on our shores.

The 200+ countries in the world that don't possess nuclear weapons must seem like Narnia to these people.

*  *  *

I was at Murrayfield yesterday to see the calamity in person.  Needless to say I'm planning to delight you with my high-quality photographs of the event (ahem), but my eyes are beginning to droop, so it'll have to wait.  Rest assured this is only a temporary reprieve.