Monday, 29 May 2017

For want of imagination, my seventh election blog.

And so, just over a week out, here is my seventh election blog. It follows after a gap of nine days because of the terrible events of last Monday in Manchester which, quite properly, led to a lull in campaigning. I don't propose to say anything about that. Except this.

It is patently the case that some of the misogynistic psychopaths responsible for this outrage are motivated in part by British foreign policy. Corbyn is right about that. Except that is only one of the things that they object to. Amongst others are the right of young girls to go to pop concerts. That explains why such an event became their target last Monday. We wouldn't respond to that by cancelling pop concerts, or even restricting the right of young girls to attend them. Not for a moment. For we would not allow our domestic policy to be dictated by a handful of murderous nutters. We shouldn't allow our foreign policy to be either. It is in suggesting that we should that Corbyn becomes unfit for the office of Prime Minister.

Anyway, back to the election in Scotland. And I have four things to say.


The critical figure for the SNP, as they realise, is 38%. Above that and even a limited degree of tactical voting still leaves them with the vast bulk of seats while the opposition vote mainly remains split three ways.

But the minute they drop even one or two points below that and, if you start with virtually every seat, those you hold start to drop not just in small numbers located in areas of already relative weakness but altogether more widely.

I give but one historic example, 1983. Scottish Labour;s worst result in my lifetime before 2015. It is cited, not least in the past by me, as evidence of the brutality of first past the post that, at that election, Labour got 41 of Scotland's (then) 72 seats based on 35% of the vote. But in comparison to 2015 what is interesting is how "little" 35% brings you.  Just over half the seats. And in 1983 even that 35% Labour vote was concentrated, to effect, in (then) traditional Labour areas. With 35% of the vote distributed more evenly across Scotland the SNP would not enjoy that advantage. For it is clear that, allowing the Libs their traditional fiefdoms, in large parts of Scotland Labour is not at the races, while elsewhere, despite their surge, neither are the Tories. But, where they are, our voters are. And they are not going away. Which might make things very interesting indeed. Particularly if there is even limited tactical voting.

But the Nats won't drop below 38%! I hear you protest. Except privately they themselves worry that they might. Not because they wouldn't be well above that figure in a Holyrood contest but because some of their own voters, at the SNP's own instigation (!), are now so alienated from Westminster that they lack motivation to turn out to vote in a "foreign"  election. Don't take my word for that, ask SNP strategists in confidence. They know this is a factor.

So this weekend past's Sun Poll (I know, I know, it's only one poll and not by traditional means) giving them "just" 39%, is causing heebie jeebies in some quarters.

Which leads me to my second point

Secret Seats

The media think they've "got" what's in play at this election. The Borders; traditional Tory areas in the rural North East; a few leafy (affluent) constituencies in or on the periphery of the big cities; traditional Lib-Dem strongholds surprisingly lost.last time.  And with the Nats at 40% or above that's probably a fair call. They'd lose perhaps ten or so to the Tories, three to the Libs and maybe East Lothian and a random other to us. And that would be it.

But I've already listed where a limited Labour revival might exist. In these seats, despite Kez and, credit where its due in appealing to a core vote, possibly even because of Jez, I think Labour is in contention. If you doubt me on that, look where Gordon Brown has gone to gain votes and Kez been told to stay well away from for fear of losing them.

To those I'd add these. Some for us, but first some for others.

Firstly, Caithness and Sutherland, which I'm reliably informed the Tories looked at as a target but walked away from on appreciating the residual Liberal loyalty among the "unionist" vote. Quietly, the Lib-Dem, Jamie Stone is now the Bookie's favourite to take out the appalling Paul Monaghan, whose appallingness is well appreciated in a close knit community.

Secondly, Banff and Buchan, kind of dismissed from being in Ruth's grasp because it has been a Nat seat since time immemorial. But it was the one Scottish seat to vote for Brexit, the idea of independence as a route to rejoining the hated Common Fisheries policy is political Kryptonite locally and, frankly, Eilidh Whiteford is no Alex Salmond.

Thirdly, Ochil and South Perthshire. The assumption here is that the Clackmannan bit will never vote Tory so tactical voting won't happen in the necessary numbers. But the "local" MP hasn't helped herself by her high profile for all the wrong reasons, never mind putting a home address on the south side of Glasgow on the ballot paper. The result here last time was greatly distorted by many Tory voters switching tactically to the sitting Labour MP. If they go home and the Tory revival persists, this is certainly in play. And, to be absolutely honest, more than a few Nats wouldn't mind a future embarrassment being avoided in the process.

Fourthly, Paisley and Renfrewshire South. The foregone conclusion is that if Douglas Alexander couldn't hold on here then nobody is going to win it for Labour without a sea change in opinion. But Mhari Black, locally has proved to be a simply terrible constituency MP. The recorded public information for her lack of response to constituents is more anecdotally appreciated locally, most particularly with her response, or non response, to the closure of the RAH children's ward. And Paisley folk aren't daft, The "working class Mhari" stuff night fool Jon Snow but the locals have long since worked out she's a posh girl from Ralston putting on a good act.

Fifthly, Lanark and Hamilton East. Let's just say that two years ago, the Labour incumbent, Jimmy Hood wasn't a natural magnet for tactical votes. Yet we still got more than 30% and this time there is a Tory vote to be squeezed towards an excellent Labour candidate with the benefit of a famous local surname. And, whisper it, the Tories aren't really trying here.

I could list a good few more but I'm conscious of space. So, thirdly,

"If the SNP win this election....."

This is the current formulation being used by Nicola in respect of what June 8th might mean for a second Independence Referendum within four years. All the attention has been on the assumption that she is talking in anticipation that they will win. But what if she is being more clever? Because nobody suggests she is a stupid person.  What if they don't win?  There might be an attempt to dress up losing twenty seats but still holding a majority as "victory" in some quarters but it is an open secret that there are many, absolutely committed to Independence, who nonetheless believe now is to soon. Because they'd lose again and then it would genuinely off the table for a generation. Might it not suit the First Minister to fall back on "I said if, but regrettably we didn't"? If you go back six weeks we all awaited her next move in utter bemusement as to what it might be. Perhaps there might be worse things, strategically, than a temporary set back. There will undoubtedly be cooler heads in the SNP thinking just that. And finally

The last hurrah for the Ruth Davidson Party?

Ruth Davidson has not single-handedly saved the Scottish Tories. She has been substantially assisted by her deputy, Jackson Carlaw and by the loyalty of the man she defeated for the leadership, Murdo Fraser. She has grafted on hired help in the shape of the inestimable Eddie Barnes and then elected help in, particularly, Adam Tompkins and Annie Wells. But these people are indisputably "team Ruth". What can't be avoided however is that a good number of her MSPs, given the chance, have chosen to head off to Westminster at the first available opportunity. Where the loyalty to the whip which comes as an essential element of climbing the greasy pole, will make Ruth's careful distancing from the worst bits of Westminster Tory policy unsustainable.

Even success brings its problems I suppose.

Here's hoping Scottish Labour will be in a similar quandary come June 9th.


  1. In how many of these seats where Labour are in the game can we hope to win getting some votes back from Tories? .. and how many getting some votes from SNP ?
    ...does this show up the public 'we don't pact with austerity Tories' display as a seat winner or seat loser move by Kez?

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