Sunday, 3 November 2019

My first election blog.

I say with due modesty that, back in 2017, I wrote a series of blogs, in the last of which I pretty much predicted the result of the 2017 General Election in Scotland. Feel free to look them up. They were written against the received wisdom of the day, even among those equally ill disposed to Scottish Nationalism as am I. Which received wisdom was, like it or lump it, that the Nats would pretty much stand still on their annus miraculis of 2015, when they had taken more or less every seat in Scotland.

In 2017, once the people had spoken however,  the proof was in the eating. And received opinion suddenly found itself hungry. 21 seats hungry.

My starting point tonight is pretty much the same. Once again that the "received opinion" of the day, that the Nats will make significant gains, is simply wrong. They will probably stand more or less still but the opening question about the "Scottish" election should not be about how many seats the Scottish Tories will lose but rather about how many they will gain.

Let us start by looking at the polls,

Here is every opinion poll on Westminster voting since 2017. Since I'm assuming an informed readership I'm not bothering with a graphic, just a link,

Now, what does that tell you? Well, first of all, that its a bit odd that in pretty much every poll the SNP percentage exceeds anything they actually got when real people actually voted. Which might suggest sampling error. But also that, even excluding this possibility, that the "nationalist" vote bumps along somewhat short of the infamous 45%. Let along the 49% they got in 2015.

Yes (or whatever) you say, but the Tories are still in the low twenties.As indeed they are. Except that a fair bit of the overall percentage is, in the later polls, given to the Brexit Party. Who in most places won't actually be standing, or at least seriously competing. And where do these voters go in that circumstance? Add, shall we say, 4 points from the Brexit Party to the Tory column and then run the figures again through the electoral calculus own calculating tool, even giving the Nats their supposed 38.9% and the Tories lose precisely four seats. Logically, they would be Ayr, Ochil, Gordon and Stirling.

But in all of them there are particular circumstances in that the Tories  came from third place in each in 2017, leaving a significant "unionist" vote in the hands of other Parties , some of such voters we can assume were confused about where to place any anti nationalist tactical vote. I'll be very surprised indeed if the Tories lose Gordon, or Ayr or Ochil this time round. But almost as much to the point, most of the other Scottish Tory seats are just about as safe as any seat is in a four Party system. Solid majorities of around 5,000. or above.

Whereas, and here is where things get really interesting, the second most marginal Scottish Tory seat (Gordon) has a majority of 2,607. No fewer than eighteen SNP seats have smaller majorities.And 22 of under 3,000.  Most over Labour (of which more later) but five: North Perth, Lanark, Central Ayrshire, Edinburgh South West and Argyll. over the Tories. I see no reason the Tories won't take four of these. The exception is Edinburgh South West, which is very posh but also very "remainy" and where the incumbent, Joanna Cherry, is, like her or not, a very prominent "remainy" MP.

So, even giving the Nats Stirling the other way, by no means a given, the Tories would be up a net three. Even assuming a UK wide landslide didn't deliver them the three way marginals of Edinburgh North or (God forbid) East Lothian.

Now, before going on to look at the prospects for my own Party, a brief word about the Libs. They are up in both Scottish and UK polls but, except for the four seats they hold and NE Fife, anywhere else their starting point is nowhere. In only two seats beyond these five are they even third. There has been talk of the Tories not really trying in Ross, Cromarty and Skye (where they are second) in the hope of unseating Ian Blackford but, majority 5K plus, I can't see it, much as I would like to. The Libs however will regain NE Fife (SNP Majority 2) at a canter. They might well have have done so already in 2017 but for a returning officer wanting to go to his bed.

And so to Labour, second in 16 of these 22 seats where the SNP Majority is less than 3,000.

Well, the most likely thing is that we'll gain none of them. And, what's more, lose 6 of our existing 7. Possibly East Lothian to the Tories but otherwise all "back" to the SNP.

But, hope springs eternal. Two things might happen. Corbyn might once again enjoy a campaign "surge". In 2017, had we pulled resources from the quixotic attempt to regain Eastwood, we would almost certainly have won half a dozen seats in "proper" greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire. Either Kez was completely campaign deaf or, "once a volunteer", knew exactly what she was doing in that exercise. More sympathetic to "the project" leadership this time at least won't make that "mistake". Alternatively, once it is clear there is no danger of Corbyn actually winning, we might pick up some tactical anti Nat votes in the latter stages of the campaign. Although the polling and by-election results have been terrible, there remains a defiant core vote on which to o be built . That tactical add on simply didn't happen in 2017. Where Labour won, or lost narrowly, the Tory vote actually went up. As indeed did the Labour vote in the seats where the Tories defeated the SNP. If however a "unionist together" phenomena happens, where the Greens choose to stand might prove critical.

Anyway, we'll see.

For the moment my prediction is this. SNP 34 (-1) Tories 17 (+4) Libs 5 (+1) Labour 3 (-4).

But I reserve the right to revisit that as the campaign develops


  1. Labour supporters will find your prediction pretty disheartening, but they have more fundamental problems to fret about at the core of the party.

    The Libs are surely likely to pick up more 'Remain' votes than the SNP, mainly because most Yes/Remain voters are already SNP voters , and the Greens are standing in quite a few seats this time and may soak up a few of any still 'floating' and might even pinch a from the SNP.
    No/Remain voters (the largest demographic) may have previously been spread between Libs, Lab and Tory but now may feel that Lib is the only one really reflecting their position given how disjointed Labour's position has been on both Brexit and granting a section 30 for another Scexit ref.

    This makes it a potentially promising prospect for Libs in seats where they are close behind SNP, but as you say those are few and far between.

    The big unknown is the Yes/Leave vote. Opinion polls post EU ref suggest that about 1/3 of Yes voters favoured leaving the EU (the actual range of four polls I think was about 24-39% with three of the four being >30%). In theory that could be 15% f the electorate. The big question here is how strongly do they feel about Brexit vs Scexit and how strongly do they believe that SNP would try to take us back in to EU. My gut is that Brexit is immediate and Scexit can wait, so they will either abstain or possibly even vote Tory (with a view to ditching them the moment brexit is achieved).
    I personally think that it is this interaction between voter's desire for the two exits that will be missed by simplistic UK wide polls that incorporate a Scottish element.

    Of course there are the No/Leave voters but they were probably almost all voting Tory anyway with just a handful of UKIP (many of whom may opt for Tory bar a few hard Brexit ultras who will vote for Farage's mob).

    Already while the SNP Scotland-wide are ramping up the 2nd referendum rhetoric, they are most definitely dialling it down in marginals where they have to hope that 'No' voters will prioritise them because of their anti-brexit stance, despite Scexit being potentially far worse....

    An interesting election

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