Archive for the 'Scotland' Category

h1

Ruthless People. The Conservatives lose a leadership contender

Monday, September 17th, 2018

I have an announcement to make. Sadly I do not foresee circumstances in which I shall be standing to be leader of the Conservative party. This is no doubt a great loss to them, despite my having no ministerial experience, not being an MP or even being a member of the Conservative party. But they will have to struggle on without me.

The bemusement you are, I expect, feeling was not matched when Ruth Davidson similarly ruled herself out. Perhaps it was because she is a member of the Conservative party. After all, she has the other two disqualifiers, just like me. There are 316 MPs more immediately eligible, of whom at least half will have had more governmental experience. Why should her disavowal attract so much attention?

This can be explained partly, of course, by the basis on which she did so. As has been widely acknowledged, she has been incredibly open about her past struggles with mental health, an openness that will help change attitudes to a set of serious problems that are far too little discussed. She may have helped to save lives with her words. Few politicians achieve as much.

Still, the question can’t be dismissed: why is this major news? The answer is simple, and worrying for the Conservative party: they have a serious lack of talent. A charismatic outsider with a winning track record looks much better than most of the alternatives. Theresa May only remains in office because the alternatives look dire. Unsurprisingly, Conservatives are looking to see whether the grass is greener.

Ruth Davidson’s hypothetical candidacy is symptomatic of that bigger problem. Jacob Rees-Mogg, an MP who has not yet climbed as far as unpaid bag-carrier in government, has been among the favourites for next Prime Minister. He too has disavowed leadership ambitions, so far without harming his betting odds very much.

Others have seen the gap in the market. Last week George Freeman, an MP who had previously served in unblemished obscurity, helpfully announced that if called upon he would stand. The nation no doubt is grateful for his sense of duty.

When Theresa May goes, whether sooner or later, she will in all probability be replaced by a candidate with substantial experience at the highest rank, however lacklustre they might otherwise be. The paucity of quality of the field, however, suggests that the Conservatives will be likely to make heavy weather against Labour.

What of Ms Davidson? Having announced that she does not want to be Prime Minister she has benefited from a wave of sympathy from a public that finds a great renunciation a compelling story. It does raise a further awkward question, however: if she is not up to being Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, why does she think she is up to being Scotland’s First Minister? She had better have a clear answer.

Alastair Meeks




h1

Labour’s gains in Scotland were mostly down to the SNP misplacing nearly half a million voters, not because of some great love for Corbyn.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Analysing the Corbyn ‘surge’ in Scotland

One of the most profitable areas of general election betting in recent elections has been in Scotland, where backing the 2015 SNP tsunami was very profitable as was my 20/1 tip to back the Tories to get over 9.5 seats in 2017.  I expect the next general election might present similar opportunities, assuming Scotland hasn’t seceded by then, so it is worth looking at the last election to see if we can spot anything.

Just look at the chart in the tweet above, whilst the SNP lost nearly half a million votes since the 2015 general election Labour only gained fewer than 10,000. To put that in context, for every 48 voters the SNP lost Labour gained only 1 voter. For every 3 voters Labour gained the Scottish Tories gained nearly 100 voters. Labour’s gains were pretty much reliant on SNP losing voters.

If we look at the increases/decreases in the seven Labour Scottish gains we can see two were gained whilst Labour made a net loss of voters. Amusingly 7,000 of the near 10,000 votes Labour gained in Scotland came in Edinburgh South, the seat they already held, where Ian Murray the MP is someone who is very critical of Jeremy Corbyn.

After the huge, near comedic swings and wins from third place we’ve seen in Scotland at recent elections, and with so many known unknowns to come, only the Heir to the Throne of the Kingdom of Idiots could confidently predict the outcome of the next general election in Scotland.

If Labour’s strategy to make further gains in Scotland is to rely in major falls in the support of other parties then that might be a flawed approach.

Hat-tip to PBer TheUnionDivvie for making me aware of these figures.

TSE



h1

If Corbyn’s LAB can make progress in Scotland there are some easy SNP pickings

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018


Table – Commons Library

But recent polls suggest LAB will lose Scottish seats

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is in Scotland for a big speech at today’s Edinburgh television festival and more importantly to try to revive the party north of the border where under Ed Miliband in 2015 it was virtually wiped out.

Then LAB’s Scottish contingent of MPs was reduced from 41 seats to a single MP. At the general election last year some recovery was made and the party came out with 7 Scottish MPs. This was still a long way down from the glory days but it was progress. A big challenge is that with the rise of Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives LAB is now seen as the third party in Scotland where they used to be totally dominant.

The table at the top above shows the quite precarious nature of the SNP position in many seats. It also shows how a party with broad support can achieve an amazing seat haul (just under 60%) under first past the post with 36.9% of the vote. Even in the SNP’s safest seat Nicola Sturgeon’s party only secured 47% of the vote and as can be seen there are quite a number which were retained in June 2017 with majorities of less than 1,000.

As an election junkie I love the potential for huge changes in seats in Scotland with relatively small vote shifts. If the next general election north of the border finished up like the latest polls than LAB could be down to a single seat. However if they made just a little bit more progress they could be back as the top party there.

One of the things you have to factor in is that you can’t make projections for Scotland based on GB polls. What you need to do is look at the Scotland only ones because north of the border there is a very different political ecosystem and conventional swing analysis from a national perspective doesn’t work.

Unfortunately you don’t get that many Scotland only polls and the Wikipedia list above represents all of those that have been published since the general election. The next round of them will be particularly interesting given the Corbyn’s current initiative seeking to step up a gear. Will that be enough to put them in contention yet again there?

If Labour can improve in Scotland then the chances of the party coming top overall at the next general election are that much higher.

Mike Smithson




h1

Scotland and the electoral system: Why winning the next GE is huge ask of LAB

Friday, August 17th, 2018

The system bias is now strongly pro-CON

We all recall that at the 2005 general election Tony Blair’s Labour won the GB vote by a margin of just 3% but that was enough to give them an overall majority of 64. There was little doubt that the electoral system then favoured the red team.

Things have changed dramatically with the collapse of the LDs and the post-IndyRef rise of the SNP.

Even without the proposed new boundaries the electoral system is biased towards the Tories in that for the same vote share the blue team wins most seats. Thus feeding the recent CON 38% LAB 38% poll numbers into the Electoral Calculus seat calculator and find CON with 21 more MPs than LAB.

That is on the existing boundaries. If the latest Boundaries Commission plan goes through this autumn then the gap would by 40 seats. To put these numbers into context Corbyn’s LAB was seen to have had an extremely good GE2017 making overall net gains of 30 seats but still finished 56 seats behind the Tories.

    Perhaps the biggest reason the system no longer works for LAB is the failure of the party to recover in Scotland where it used to be so dominant as can be seen in the chart above showing the percentage of Scottish Westminster seats by party for each election since GE2001.

    Just imagine how GE2017 would have turned out if LAB had taken 41 of the 59 Scottish seats as it did at GE2005 and GE2010.

At GE2015 the SNP surge saw LAB reduced from 41 Scottish MPs to just one. Last year Corbyn’s party won 7 but the first past the post system meant that the SNP took the bulk of the seats north of the border with barely 37% of the Scottish vote. Scots LAB became the third party in Scotland behind the Tories.

Whatever national polls might be showing the Scotland’s only ones since the general election have had Corbyn’s party in an even worse position than the last election. Current projections based on the latest Scottish polls have Labour once again being reduced to a single Scottish MP.

Without a Scottish recovery the prospect of a Labour majority is very remote indeed.

Mike Smithson




h1

LAB takes clear leads in the GB polls but Scotland remains a problem

Monday, July 16th, 2018


Wikipedia

Just 8 years ago it won 41 Scottish seats – latest polls have that down to 1

The two GB polls over the weekend from Deltapoll and Opinium were both very good for LAB showing clear leads which weren’t down to its share increasing but the biggest shares for UKIP since GE2017.

Certainly based on these figures if there was an early general election then Corbyn’s party would be in a strong position to become top party although an overall majority might be more of a struggle.

An issue, which I’ve raised before is that Scotland remains a massive problem for the party. We don’t see many Scotland only polls but the Survation one that came out at the end of last week was very much in line other surveys – the SNP progressing, the Tories in second place with Labour in third.

Even at GE2010 when LAB lost its UK-wide majority 41 of the 59 seats north of the border returned Labour MPs. The Scottish seat projections based on the latest polls have this down to a single MP. What used to be a certain stronghold is in danger of being wiped out.

In a House of Commons of 650 seats Corbyn’s LAB really needs to get closer to the LAB 41 seat GE2010 haul in Scotland. Unless it can do the swing needs to be higher in England and Wales.

Also we are just under four years away from the next general election and it is hard to see TMay, or her successor, using the processes laid down in the Fixed Term Parliaments Act to go early.

I don’t buy the argument that a new CON leader would press the general election button even if the blue team returned to double digit leads.

Mike Smithson




h1

Labour continues to struggle in Scotland where it used to hold 41 of the 59 seats

Friday, June 29th, 2018

But the low-hanging fruit for Corbyn’s party is still there

There is a new Scottish poll out this morning and the picture remains gloomy for LAB. As can be seen Panelbase still has the party in third place behind, of course, the SNP and the Conservatives.

What makes this particularly disappointing for Labour is that for decades Scotland was the bedrock of the party’a support throughout the UK and its dominance underpinned its parliamentary position. So at both 2005 and 2010 Scottish Labour had 41 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

It was, as we are all aware, the upheaval in politics north of the border in the aftermath of the 2014 independence referendum that changed everything. Although the SNP lost the referendum it attracted new support in a very major way in the aftermath. In 2015 it took 56 of the 59 Scottish seat.

That slipped back to 35 seats at GE2017 but the Tories were the main beneficiaries.

    But don’t write Scottish LAB off. Many of the SNP seats are held with very slim majorities and could be vulnerable to the red team with quite minor shifts.

In fact the SNP last time did not get above a 47% vote share in any of its 35 Scottish seats.

One of the reasons why I focus on Scottish polls is that there’s the potential for a lot of seat changes following the trend of the past two general elections. It has become the part of the UK with the most political turbulence.

All this this matters to LAB particularly because it needs to be making inroads in its former Scottish strongholds if it is to have any hope of getting close or exceeding the overall Conservative MP total at the next election.

Mike Smithson




h1

Tipping point. Why Scotland’s ultimate independence now looks inevitable

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Wednesday was not one of those days when it was difficult to tell the difference between a ray of sunshine and a Scotsman with a grievance.  The SNP launched a choreographed flounce from the House of Commons following a spat between their leader Ian Blackford and the Speaker over the treatment of Scotland’s position in the Brexit debates.

The government was quick to accuse the SNP of pulling a stunt and of manufacturing discontent.  It’s certainly true that the SNP haven’t exactly gone out of their way to seek concord with Westminster in the past.  When copies of the SNP’s staging notes were discovered, the Conservatives claimed that the stunt had backfired. 

The following day, however, the SNP announced that they had signed up 5,085 new members in the previous 24 hours.  The former editor of the Daily Record, Murray Foote, who had been instrumental in 2014 in putting together the unionist Vow in the last week of the referendum campaign, announced that he was now a supporter of independence.  Stunt or no stunt, the SNP have struck a chord with some.

What’s the deal?  Well, the Speaker had allotted just 15 minutes in the Brexit debates on Tuesday to discuss post-Brexit devolution concerns.  Given that the Scottish Parliament had not accepted the Westminster government’s approach to devolved matters in Brexit, the SNP felt that this was wholly inadequate.  Ian Blackford had asked the Speaker to extend the debate, and the Speaker had refused: hence the walkout.

We now enter constitutional niceties that are of no interest at all to the English.  (This uninterest, incidentally, is an important point that I will come back to.)  Devolution, as the word suggests, is a devolving of power from Westminster to Holyrood.  It means that in theory at least Westminster can overrule Holyrood when push comes to a shove.  This makes Holyrood’s power contingent on Westminster’s goodwill.

At the time, it was recognised by the government that devolution needed more entrenchment.  So a constitutional convention was created at the instigation of Lord Sewel, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland at the time of the passage of the Scotland Act 1998, under which the UK government would not normally seek to legislate on devolved matters except with the agreement of the devolved legislature.  

This convention, which applies to the devolved assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland as well, was reaffirmed by the UK government as recently as 2013.  Unusually for a constitutional convention, it is referred to in legislation.  Section 28(8) of the Scotland Act 1998 provides:

“But it is generally recognised that the Parliament of the United Kingdom will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.”

In practice, the devolved assemblies have rarely refused consent. So far they have done so just ten times in aggregate.  The Scottish Parliament has done so only twice (the Welsh have been much more awkward in practice).  The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is the second time on which it has done so.  So it can hardly be said in reality that the SNP government in reality has been fomenting discontent on a routine basis.

The Scots took a very different view of the EU referendum from the English. The Scottish government has a genuine concern that Westminster might seek to use the repatriation of powers from Brussels as the opportunity for a power grab at Holyrood’s expense. 

Theresa May’s government has been desultory in addressing these concerns.  No doubt its attention span for Scottish matters has been sharply diminished, given its need to negotiate with the EU, the hardline Brexiters, the rebellious Remainers and the DUP and, for that matter, to reach an agreed position itself.  Nevertheless, the strong impression has been given of a government that is intending to steamroller its way past the rebellious Scots by the use of its residual power and forcing a settlement on its terms.

It is against this background that the battle between Holyrood and the UK government came to be considered this week in Parliament.  For English MPs, this is a complete sideshow.  For the Scots, however, it goes to the heart of devolution.  For Parliament to allocate just 15 minutes to discuss the impact of Brexit on the constitutional framework of devolution was an insult to the Scots.

At such points it is usual to say that the optics of such a dismissive approach to devolution are appalling.  But that wouldn’t be correct on this occasion: it is the dismissive approach itself that is appalling.  

The fact that devolution throws up some very difficult problems in relation to Brexit does not mean that devolution should be treated as a disposable luxury: those difficult problems should have been engaged with and considered properly by the House of Commons.

It is this fundamental unseriousness of the English towards devolution which is going to doom the current constitutional settlement.  When the architect of the Vow gives up on unionism, it is likely that many others will follow.

The economics of Scottish independence continue to look daunting.  But where there’s a will there’s a way.  Scots will not indefinitely accept a grace-and-favour devolution.  This week may well have been the week when Scottish independence became an inevitability.

Alastair Meeks




h1

Those who think the SNP are a busted flush might be surprised by the latest YouGov Scotland poll as Labour set to be reduced to just 1 Scottish MP, again

Friday, June 8th, 2018

TSE