Archive for the 'SNP' Category


Labour’s massive challenge: Support for Corbyn as “best PM” is inversely proportional to people’s likelihood to vote

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

There’s a new YouGov voting poll out which has the Tories extending their lead to 12%. The figures are:

CON 40%
LAB 28%
LD 8%
UKIP 13%

This means that the Tories have double digit leads in four of the five polls since Theresa May became PM. Clearly she is enjoying a honeymoon bounce but, on top of that, she is facing a Labour party that appears to be at war with itself.

One part of the poll that show the massive challenge facing a Corbyn-led main opposition party – the “best PM” ratings. Across the board that runs 52% to May and 18% to Corbyn. But it is the age splits that I find most interesting and which feature in my chart above.

As can be seen those voters of Corbyn’s age group are the least likely to rate him. Conversely the youngest is the only one where he has a lead. Only trouble is we all know is that the older you are the more likely it is that you will vote in elections.

Mike Smithson


Holyrood 2016: the SNP’s hegemony continues

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Scottish Labour Conference Halloween Special   YouTube

But how bad will it get for Scottish Labour?

You wouldn’t know if you only received your news from the London media but there are three general elections in the UK this year. Voters will go to the polls in May to elect new Assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland and to the Scottish Parliament (as well as a London mayor, various lesser mayors, a bumper set of councillors and PCCs across England and Wales – it’s probably the biggest polling day before the next general election). But clearly that’s far less interesting than the EU referendum in June or the dramas of the US presidential primaries.

There are interesting questions surrounding the outcomes of both the Belfast and Cardiff assemblies but the most fascinating race lies north of England, where the political landscape has undergone a revolution unlike any in Britain in almost a century.

At the heart of that revolution is the SNP, who will be seeking to win a third term and a second overall majority. Going by current polls they seem as certain to do so as can ever be the case in politics. Not since August 2014 has the SNP trailed Labour and since the referendum changed everything, the SNP has never led by less than 10%; their smallest lead since last year’s general election in the crucial regional vote is some 22%. That the best odds on an SNP win are 1/50 tells you all you need to know.

Two questions follow such overwhelming dominance: just how well can the SNP do, and who will be best of the rest?

On the first question, Ladbrokes are offering 7/2 that Sturgeon’s army will take all 72 constituency seats and 1/6 that they won’t. That’s quite a big margin and I don’t really see any value there. Achieving a lock-out of all other parties is hard: you only have to make a mistake in one constituency or with one candidate and it’s lost. And some constituencies will be hard to win anyway with Shetland perhaps proving the toughest nut.

A lesser target is that of the overall majority which Ladbrokes have priced at 1/16 that the SNP will, and 7/1 for a hung parliament. There might just be a smidgen of value in the latter. Winning half the seats under AMS is difficult. The SNP won a majority of nine in 2011 on a 44% regional vote. That, however, was with parties outside the main four gaining 12% of the vote but just three MSPs (two Green and Margo MacDonald standing as an independent).

Current polling is far from consistent: TNS typically report the SNP as well into the 50s, a level that would produce an easy overall majority; by contrast, Survation and YouGov only put the SNP in the low- to mid-forties. Just as relevant are the scores at the bottom. If TNS is right, then the Greens, Lib Dems and UKIP will be unlikely (again) to reach double figures between them; if Survation is on the mark then they should be in the 15-20 range.

As for best of the rest, Labour is 2/5 (again Ladbrokes), against 7/4 for the Conservatives. It’s a measure of how far Labour has fallen that we are seriously talking about them finishing third, something they haven’t done at any election in Scotland since 1918*. All the same, they should do so and despite the unattractive odds, there is a little value there. The Conservatives have had great difficulty breaking through a barrier at 17% (other than presumed margin of error) and there has to be a limit to how far Labour can fall. All the same, punters would be well-advised to invest it in, for example, the US presidential race where more attractive options exist.

One question to ask is whether we should be placing too much faith in the polls at this stage after the experience of 2015, when they were badly wrong, and 2011 when they moved heavily late on. I’d say cautiously yes for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t expect a late swing this time because the numbers are in alignment: Sturgeon is a popular leader and her party is well ahead. There’s no tension there to be resolved. And secondly, last year’s general election gives us all the evidence we need as to the big picture assuming that little’s changed – and we’ve no real reason to think otherwise.

David Herdson

* This is definitional. I’m counting parties that fought an election under a pact as a single entity. I’m also using MPs elected as the decisive factor. If votes are used, then it would be the first time since December 1910 (Labour outpolled Asquith’s Liberals in 1918 but won two fewer seats, eight to six).

There seems to be a problem with Vanilla comments. Hopefully his will all be sorted asap. If you still wish to post, go here.


At 10.30 am we’ll find out if the 2nd by-election of the 2015 parliament will be in Orkney and Shetland

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

UPDATE Carmichael cleared

The election court will announce its decision in the Carmichael case

If the case goes against the former Scottish Secretary then the LDs could lose the one seat in Scotland they hold and have to fight a by-election.

Based on what happened in the Phil Woolas case in 2010 the Speaker might delay calling a vacancy in the constituency pending the possibility of an appeal.

The action against Alistair Carmichael was crowd funded.

Mike Smithson


The Sunday Trading vote: Dave/Osbo’s problem is not the SNP but the rebellion on the issue by 20 CON MPs

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015


Aside from the EU a developing story at Westminster is the decision by the SNP to vote against the planned changes on Sunday trading that Osborne announced in the budget for England and Wales. In Scotland this is a devolved matter with decisions being made at Holyrood.

Inevitably this will raise the whole English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) debate because of the devolved nature of such a measure.

    But before we get too deep into this let’s remember that the reason that the 55 SNP MPs have any influence is that Cameron/Osborne do not command the support of the full contingent of Tory MPs on the matter.

If there was no threatened Tory rebellion then the measure would have got through the Commons. This wasn’t in the Conservative manifesto and soundings should have been taken in the party before Osborne made his announcement in the budget.

Sunday trading is a hugely controversial issue as we saw in the early 90s when big supermarkets were allowed for the first time to open for a limited number of hours on Sunday.

Governments should be able to get their measures through the Commons with, if necessary, their own MPs alone.

Mike Smithson


Good news and some potentially worrying news for the SNP in latest TNS Scotland poll

Monday, August 10th, 2015

Salmond & co should be doing better on the NHS

But a big 2016 Holyrood result looks on the cards


On fox-hunting a reminder from the SNP of the tight parliamentary situation

Monday, July 13th, 2015

LAB by-election leaflet 2009

But won’t this reinforce the case for EVEL?

This is how the Speccie’s Isabel Hardman sums up the situation:-

“..The result may still work politically for both parties in one sense: in Scotland of course the headline ‘SNP stops Tories relaxing hunting ban’ works beautifully for Nicola Sturgeon’s party. But in England a headline saying ‘SNP stops Tories relaxing hunting ban’ will also help the party if it wishes to stir up more emotion in favour of English votes for English laws. However, some proponents of relaxing the ban would rather that no vote took place unless the Tories were certain of winning it: they believe that such defeats expend the very valuable political capital they have built. This was their argument in the last Parliament: that they were happy to avoid a vote if it meant avoiding a defeat. Now it looks as though they may be set for a defeat they can’t avoid.”

Mike Smithson


Holyrood 2016: who will come second?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Making a tissue on a “Betting Without” market

This is a betting thread without a market as yet. However, the best prices on any political market can usually be found within either the first six hours or the last six. So a little forethought as to what you’d be prepared to back – and at what price – can often be rewarded handsomely. Someone launching a “without the SNP” market on Holyrood is only going to be a matter of time and there’s every reason to think there might be value about. Let’s make our own tissue.

A quick refresher on the voting system: voters get two votes, one for their local constituency, and one for a regional list (regions comprising between 8 and 10 constituencies). The list seats are doled out using a d’Hondt system, but taking the constituency results into account.

Polling at 60% in the constituency section, the SNP are going to win. Indeed, Ladbrokes only offer 5/2 on them winning all 73 constituencies, which might be a touch skinny. But the 2/7 on an overall majority (65+ seats – the parliament has 129 MSPs) looks about right: they will probably be in a position to win one or more top-up seats in a region where they sweep the constituencies – just as they did in North East Scotland last time.

So, in the face of an SNP near-sweep, who will come second in seats is predominately a question of who will come second in list votes. Even if Labour or the Conservatives pick up a constituency or two this will usually be at the expense of a list seat they would have won anyway. An exception might be if one party could do especially well in the constituencies of a specific region: there’s one plausible possibility I’ll highlight below.

The TNS list polling [from 13th-31st May] was as follows (changes from 2011 result):

SNP 50% (+6)

Labour 19% (-7)

Conservatives 14% (+2)

Greens 10% (+6)

Lib Dems 5% (=)

I think we can pretty safely rule out the Lib Dems coming second in seats, so I’ll examine the case for and against the other 3 parties. It looks like around 18% will be enough to win.


Labour are deservedly the clear second favourites on the main market – 10/1 at Ladbrokes. But this is because they are best placed to benefit in the event of any major scandal or cock-up on the SNP’s part. Absent that, there’s actually little reason to assume that there might not be a further net movement away from Labour.  As John Curtice puts it:

Labour’s figures in [the polling quoted above] are also much worse (and the SNP’s better) than they were in polls conducted by YouGov and Survation just before the May 7th ballot that saw all but one of Labour’s MPs swept away.

In short, it looks as though that disaster may have further dented voters’ confidence in the party’s ability to govern and/or persuaded them the SNP is better able to advocate and promote Scotland’s interests.

For all that, I think Labour should still be well odds-on, representing as they do the default opposition.  I’ll say 70% for now.


The Scottish Tory surge has been a long-running meme on PB, and a profitable one for those who’ve opposed it. In the context of the SNP dominance, the Tories are now surging by standing still.

The Tories might also manage to pick up several constituencies in South Scotland. They already hold Ayr, Galloway and West Dumfries, and the triple-barrelled Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire, though the SNP are a potential threat in every one of these. Dumfriesshire is a target gain from Labour for both Con & SNP. If they were to win all four seats this is likely to be a net improvement on their theoretical entitlement based on the list percentages.

However unless the Tories can actually put on votes (from ex-Lib Dems, maybe?) then they’re going to have a hard time getting enough to come second overall.  Let’s give them a 15% chance for now.


The Greens aren’t going to overtake both Labour and the Conservatives on the strength of their message. But they are likely to be the beneficiaries of an attempt to play the voting system by independence supporters voting “SNP constituency : Green list”.

By voting this way their votes will definitely go towards electing two independence-minded MSPs – whereas if they go SNP:SNP they may not see any extra list SNP members elected at all in a region, because the constituency sweep will already have given the SNP their fair share.

So the nub of this market is to assess how widespread this phenomenon will be. The SNP can’t endorse it explicitly and even if they do so tacitly they run the risk of upsetting their own list candidates. But some of the membership will think differently of their own accord and spread the message online, where the SNP have a strong presence.

Perversely, if the SNP continue to poll 50% or above the appeal of this manoeuvre is reduced since that makes the Nats more likely to pick up list seats. 45% is probably the sweet spot.

Overall, I’ll credit the Greens with a real shot at pulling this off and say 25% for now.

Making a tissue

We now need to scale our 70:15:25 estimates back to total 100%, giving us 64:14:23. Converted to the nearest classical bookie prices that gives us a tissue of:

Labour 4/7

Green 7/2

Conservatives 6/1

If, when the market goes up, you see a price bigger than this on any of these I’d tentatively suggest that it might be value.

If we wanted to act as a bookmaker, we would scale back up to e.g. 110%, to give ourselves some margin. But rather than multiplying through back up to 70:25:15 it would be more usual to stick 3% or so onto each realistic runner (which is all three, in this case).

Labour 1/2

Green 11/4

Conservatives 5/1

Finally, when trying to estimate political probabilities, I’ve frequently found the comments on pb threads to be a huge source of wisdom and information.  So no doubt I’ll be re-evaluating these prices in an hour or so!

Tissue Price


David Herdson says the government should call the SNP’s bluff on full fiscal autonomy

Friday, June 12th, 2015


It’s time to slay Holyrood’s bogeyman

The referendum was never going to be the end of the story and neither was the declaration of the unionist parties to implement the recommendations of the Smith commission. The closeness of the vote last September and the unprecedented landslide this May have understandably prompted the SNP to demand a lot more. It would be foolhardy for Westminster to refuse.

The amendment that the SNP have put down is quite smart, not demanding a transfer of power but the ability to take up those powers. Providing it’s a one-way choice (i.e. the powers can’t be taken up or handed back at will, depending on the oil price, for example), then that’s as it should be.

    A great deal of the history of Scottish nationalism is built on resentment and in particular, resentment at ‘London’ taking ‘Scottish’ oil revenues. Unless that grievance is tackled, the sense of unfairness will never go away.

Nor, for that matter, will the mirror image resentment in England at Scotland’s apparently generous settlement from central revenues (which is not without its own electoral potency).

Handing Holyrood the option to take up those extra powers will finally put the politicians there – and the electorate too – on the spot as to whether they’re serious about self-government or whether it was all grandstanding. It would also go a very long way to eliminate the ‘they’re taking our money’ argument, from both sides. The question of the £7.6bn shortfall that the IFS identified would be a very real rather than a theoretical possibility. Would Holyrood really want to vote away so much – if it is so much? But if they wouldn’t, what does that say about future independence?

Such a move would also put Labour on the spot in Scotland. Would they oppose the amendment, so angering further nationalists; or do they support it, with the implicit threat it carries of having to implement a smaller state and spending restraint, so upsetting their left-of-centre voters?

That, however, ought to be a side benefit. The devolution story is littered with wishful thinking and moves that proved too clever by half. Indeed, George Robertson’s expectation that “devolution would kill nationalism stone dead” may be one of the worst pieces of prediction since Gaius Terentius Varro decided that the clear open ground just down the road from Cannae offered an excellent prospect for shattering Hannibal’s army.

The risk to the unionists if they were to call the SNP’s bluff and accept the amendment – or redraft it so that it contained a tighter definition of what the remaining UK-wide functions were and how they would be funded – is that that those who want independence could more credibly claim that it would be less of a leap in the dark and that there would be nothing to lose. It still wouldn’t be true (the interlinked EU and currency questions would remain, for example), but the fiscal case would not only be much clearer but also very little different from independence, in which case, why not take it?

But the alternative is worse. Firstly, it would still be behind the political curve, catching up with where the debate was nine months ago rather than where it is now, and that looks weak; but secondly and more importantly, it would do nothing to address the SNP’s favourite complaint that they’re not funded properly and don’t have the political or fiscal powers necessary – or in other words, Holyrood failings are essentially someone else’s fault. And of course doing so would make it still harder to avoid rebalancing the English side of the devolution equation.

That’s not to say there wouldn’t still be arguments, the most obvious one being that ‘we could invest x millions in whatever if the government scrapped Trident renewal. Likewise, there would no doubt always be some complaint to be had about how those central functions are paid for. But it’s hard to argue that defence shouldn’t be a UK-wide policy and that Westminster shouldn’t make the decision.

So let’s hear no more talk of residuals, no more talk of Barnett, or of the Smith Commission. The SNP have bid high on a weak hand and deserve to have their bluff called.

David Herdson