Sunday, 19 January 2014

Front Line Fife (again)

I am old enough to remember the last time the SNP vote collapsed. In the period 1978-79.

There is a perceived history that this was caused by the decision to vote with Mrs Thatcher to bring down the Callaghan government but, in common with much else in Scottish politics, that is a false recollection. In fact, by the night of the fatal vote, the SNP were already in steep decline. When Callaghan spoke famously in the no confidence debate of the turkeys voting for an early Christmas he was only referring to what the opinion polls and by-elections, from Garscadden onwards, already predicted. When Scotland actually voted, the SNP's 30% in October 1974 washed up at 17,3% in the next test of national opinion. By 1983 it was down to 11.8%.

Now why do I whimsically recall these days of my youth?

I was in Cowdenbeath today. Where even amidst the tsunami of 2011 Labour held on, as we undoubtedly will on Thursday, but where the Nats still got 10,679 votes, 41.6% of the total. Well, here is my prediction. If the Nats get half that total on Thursday they will be pleasantly surprised.

As the constituency has no natural centre, Labour has two campaign rooms in the constituency. Those in Lochgelly are at the "solid" end but at the arrival at the other base, in Inverkeithing, I was advised that its catchment area was more "mixed". And indeed, in my experience, in Rosyth this morning and Dalgety Bay in the afternoon, mixed it certainly was. Indeed in Dalgety Bay we were clearly not exactly in a Labour heartland. But, and it is a big but, it is also clear that, unlike 2011, the opposition is, once again, all over the place.

We were after two pieces of information on the doorstep: immediate voting intention and, as a a guide to the intention of the "not yet decideds" or "shy" againsts, as to how they might vote in the Referendum.

So, from that direct empirical evidence, and from some conversation with those with longer experience of the campaign, here is my conclusion. The SNP vote is in meltdown. And the reason is...........Independence.

I expressed frustration after both Donside and Dunfermline that the Nats would talk about anything other than Independence. Ludicrous minor local government issues; the middle class perks they have delivered since 2007 and, above all, the Council Tax freeze.

But, for whatever reason, possibly that they thought they had nothing to lose, possibly at the insistence of a candidate who is a true believer, they have at least decided to 'fess up in Cowdenbeath. And, believe me, that has been a strategic error. In consequence, the anti Labour vote which the Nats historically rely on, is suddenly everywhere and anywhere. For it may be anti-Labour but it is also firmly anti-independence as well. Some of it even appears to be in the hands of UKIP who, based purely on my own experience, have got more supporters in Rosyth (2) than the SNP (1).

So, here is my prediction of the result.

We'll win with more than 50% of the vote.

The Nats will trail in Second. The balloon is burst but it's still got a fair bit to deflate.

If the people intending to vote Tory in Dalgety Bay actually bother to vote, they'll be a decent third. That's despite our efforts to persuade them that a Tory vote is a wasted vote and that they should be sending a clear message to the hated Salmond.

UKIP will beat the Libs. There aren't a lot of Libs to start with.

The Greens will be nowhere. When I said the anti-Labour vote is everywhere I meant everywhere except with them.

And the other part of the "Yes coalition", the SSP? Jings, turns out even in a part of Scotland that once had a Communist MP they were afraid to stand for fear of humiliation.

But there is something else that I can't help but observe. Where is this 27% who apparently support independence? We don't like to talk about this but our wider (than Cowdenbeath) canvassing just doesn't pick it up. And while they, even more understandably don't want to talk about it, the experience of the Yes Scotland crew can't in reality be that different. There is no need to lie to a disembodied voice at the end of a telephone canvass. No wonder the SNP are considering holding on to their money to try to cling to power in 2016.

I appreciate Blair McDougall won't thank me for the paragraph above. So, in deference to him, I will end with my usual twitter exhortation.




    G'night, Ian.

  2. Ian - I think I've found your missing 27%. They're all on the internet talking to each other.

  3. Of course after a no vote there won't be independence to hold the SNP back.

    What then?