Archive for the 'Scotland' Category

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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




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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




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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




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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




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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




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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



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Unless LAB can win back Scotland then there’s little chance of Corbyn becoming PM

Friday, May 25th, 2018

The latest Scotland only polls have LAB down in third place

The biggest impact on the Labour-Conservative seat balance in the past decade was the virtual wipeout of LAB north of the border at GE2015.

Five years earlier at GE2010 when Labour lost power there were, extraordinarily, no seat changes at all north of the border with what was then Gordon Brown’s party retaining all 41 seats that it held on an overall increased Scottish vote share. The SNP had just 6 seats with the LDs 11 and the Tories just 1.

Then came the 2014 IndyRef which although Yes lost it totally changed the political environment leading to at the following general election SLAB losing all but one of the 41. The LDs lost 10 of their 11 and the Tories remained with just one Scottish MP.

It is not often remembered that Ed Miliband’s LAB actually made progress in England gaining 15 more seats. It was the Scottish wipe out that overshadowed everything and the SNP found itself with 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats displacing the LDs as the third party at Westminster.

    Move on to GE2017 which proved to be something of a setback for Sturgeon’s party losing 21 seats and holding onto 35. But, alas, it was Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Tories who were the main beneficiary not Scottish LAB

To put this into context in England Corbyn’s party made just 21 net gains which wasn’t much better than what EdM had done two years earlier.

If Corbyn’s LAB is to return to government then much of the current seat deficit it has nationally with the Tories will need be made up from battles with the SNP and current Scotland only polling doesn’t look good.

The most recent Panelbase survey had LAB on 25% in Scotland trailing the Scottish Tories and way behind the SNP.

Mike Smithson




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The continuing strength of the SNP makes it is harder for Corbyn to become PM

Saturday, March 31st, 2018

Scottish turbulence not good for the red team

Today’s YouGov LAB members has one finding that shows the extraordinary optimism of those who backed Corbyn in the last leadership election. 80% of them told the poster that they believed that Mr Corbyn would at sometime become Prime Minister.

Given his age and the current parliamentary situation that essentially means waiting till the next general election and requires two things to happen – Corbyn to retain the leadership and LAB to win most seats or be in position for form coalition. The latter is made much more difficult because of what happened in 2015 when the huge SNP surge in Scotland swept almost all before it and Labour’s seat total drop from 41, north of the border to a single MP.

For decades LAB had been top party north of the border one of the reasons why, alongside the collapse of the LDS, the electoral system appeared to favour them. Their Scottish dominance came was swept away in the general election which took place nine months after the IndyRef

Things changed a bit at the June 2017 election when LAB made a smallish recovery but still found themselves in 3rd place with 7 seats which was well behind the Conservatives in second and of course the SNP still there with 36 of the 59. The red team’s current Scottish total look paltry compared with the heady days of 2010

The most recent Scottish polls have double digit leads for the SNP with LAB still languishing in the 20s.

What sould encourage Labour, though, is that many of the SNP seats are held with very small majorities and a small recovery could bring bigger than expected rewards.

Without a substantial contingent Scottish MPs LAB will need to win more seats in England and Wales if it is to get near to power.

Mike Smithson