Saturday, April 18, 2015
I've been trying very hard to imagine what a plausible excuse for the change of heart might look like, but it's a real struggle. You have to bear in mind that the right-wing press in London will be indignantly parading a long series of unambiguous quotes from Jim Murphy and the Scottish campaign literature, so whatever retort Labour come up with, it's going to have to be good. So far, my suggestions are somewhat less than good -
1) Yes, we said that, but we said it a few months ago. Back then, no-one could possibly have anticipated the crisis that we'd be facing now. We all have a responsibility in the national interest to ensure that a stable government is now formed. It is our judgement that the Tories have no prospect of forming a stable government, and surely none of us wants to see the uncertainty of a second general election.
2) Yes, we said that, but we said it a few months ago. Back then, no-one could possibly have anticipated how clear Nicola Sturgeon would be that she intended to put Ed Miliband in office. The reality is that SNP voters were in no doubt that they were giving a mandate for a government led by Ed Miliband. The Miliband bloc in parliament therefore clearly outnumbers the Cameron bloc.
3) We always made clear that it was merely fantastically improbable that the second-largest party could form a government, because it hasn't happened since 1924. It's a miracle! It's happening again!
4) Look into my eyes, look into my eyes, the eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes, don't look around my eyes, look into my eyes, you're under. When you wake up, you will under NO CIRCUMSTANCES recall that we've spent this entire campaign telling Scottish voters that the largest single party gets to form a government.
Feel free to add any other possibilities you can think of.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Astonishing new set of Ashcroft polls : Labour head for wipeout, as Jim Murphy looks set for devastating defeat at the hands of the SNP in East Renfrewshire
A new batch of Ashcroft constituency polls is out this afternoon, with the most eye-catching result being that Jim Murphy is on course to lose East Renfrewshire. Here are the full results, with the percentage changes measured from the 2010 election result, rather than from the most recent Ashcroft poll in each seat. (He hasn't previously polled three of the eight seats in any case.)
East Renfrewshire :
SNP 40% (+31)
Labour 31% (-20)
Conservatives 25% (-5)
Liberal Democrats 3% (-6)
(This would be an SNP gain from Labour. Jim Murphy of Labour would lose his seat.)
East Dunbartonshire :
SNP 40% (+29)
Liberal Democrats 29% (-10)
Labour 16% (-18)
Conservatives 12% (-4)
(This would be an SNP gain from the Liberal Democrats . Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats would lose her seat.)
Ross, Skye & Lochaber :
SNP 48% (+35)
Liberal Democrats 33% (-20)
Conservatives 7% (-5)
Labour 6% (-9)
(This would be an SNP gain from the Liberal Democrats. Charles Kennedy of the Liberal Democrats would lose his seat.)
Paisley & Renfrewshire South :
SNP 50% (+32)
Labour 39% (-21)
Conservatives 6% (-4)
Liberal Democrats 1% (-9)
(This would be an SNP gain from Labour. Douglas Alexander of Labour would lose his seat.)
Glasgow South-West :
SNP 55% (+39)
Labour 34% (-28)
Conservatives 6% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 2% (-7)
(This would be an SNP gain from Labour. Ian Davidson of Labour would lose his seat. Hosanna, heysanna, sanna-sanna-ho, sanna-hey, sanna, hosanna.)
Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale :
SNP 36% (+25)
Conservatives 34% (-4)
Labour 20% (-9)
Liberal Democrats 4% (-16)
(This would be an SNP gain from the Conservatives. David Mundell of the Conservatives would lose his seat.)
North-East Fife :
SNP 43% (+29)
Liberal Democrats 30% (-14)
Conservatives 16% (-6)
Labour 9% (-8)
(This would be an SNP gain from the Liberal Democrats. Menzies Campbell is the retiring Liberal Democrat MP.)
Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk :
Conservatives 30% (-4)
SNP 29% (+20)
Liberal Democrats 28% (-17)
Labour 9% (-1)
(This would be a Conservative gain from the Liberal Democrats. Michael Moore of the Liberal Democrats would lose his seat.)
Bear in mind that Ashcroft uses two separate voting intention questions, and headlines only the results on the second, in an attempt to take account of local factors and the effect of tactical voting. So there's absolutely no comfort here at all for Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander or Charles Kennedy - in all three cases, the SNP were even further ahead on the first question. The only 'big name' that enjoys any significant personal vote (or possibly a tactical voting boost) is Kennedy, but that doesn't look like being sufficient - it merely reduces his arrears from 21 points to 15. Remember that he was only 5 points adrift on the second question in the previous Ashcroft poll, so either the election has been running away from him since then, or he was being flattered by margin of error effects in the first poll.
In all five constituencies that have been polled for a second time, the SNP's position has improved further, with the result flipping in two seats (East Renfrewshire and Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale). Of all the seats that Ashcroft has now covered at least once, there are only two in which the SNP are not ahead on the most up-to-date figures - Glasgow North-East and Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk. However, based on the additional movement we're seeing today, it's perfectly conceivable that a new Ashcroft poll in Glasgow North-East would put the SNP slightly ahead.
Ashcroft himself has claimed some "surprise" at the fact that the Tories are ahead in Michael Moore's seat, albeit with a tiny advantage over the SNP and Lib Dems that is well within the margin of error. I'm not sure if surprise is really warranted - we always knew Berwickshire was the one constituency where the collapsing Lib Dem vote might work in the Tories' favour more than the SNP's, although admittedly the SNP vote there is up by significantly less than in the other seven constituencies that have been polled. On the other hand, the SNP would be ahead even in Berwickshire if Ashcroft hadn't used the discredited 2010 weighting procedure - it's led to people who recall voting SNP in the seat in 2010 being weighted down from 112 to 63. And even simply dispensing with the questionable 'spiral of silence' adjustment would be sufficient to put the SNP level with the Tories. (Of course both of these factors apply in all of the constituencies, meaning it's quite possible that the SNP are further ahead in the other seven seats than is being reported.)
I don't think any of us are going to collapse with shock at the discovery that the result of the Lib Dems' internal poll in East Dunbartonshire was a load of nonsense, although to be fair it's slightly unexpected to see that they're in such a clear second place in the constituency. So their hopes of portraying the contest as a straight SNP v Lib Dem fight haven't been thwarted, but that might actually play into the SNP's hands - it would probably be easier to persuade Lib Dem voters to move tactically to Labour than it would be to persuade Labour voters to move tactically to the Lib Dems. (And of course a large number of Labour voters may now be seriously considering switching to the SNP to stop the Lib Dems.) An even bigger problem applies in Berwickshire and Dumfriesshire - the appearance of a Tory v SNP choice is the nightmare scenario for any "unionist alliance", because the Tories are the hardest party of all to persuade people to lend their vote to on a tactical basis.
When the first batch of Ashcroft polls was released, the big frustration was that the fieldwork for some of them was already well out of date. There is no similar worry on this occasion - all of the new polls have been conducted within the last eight days. The additional swing to the SNP can therefore be seen as directly corroborating the big increase in the SNP lead reported in the most recent full-scale Scottish polls from both YouGov and TNS.
As before, there's a clear pattern of the Tory vote being down across the board. It's easy to jump to the conclusion that this is simply because of Tory voters switching tactically to Labour or the Lib Dems, but there must be more to it than that, because it's happening even in the two seats where the Tories are clearly in contention (including the one where they hold the outright lead). If I was going to hazard a guess, I'd say that a Shy Tory Factor may be at play in telephone polls. Most full-scale polls conducted online don't have the Tories significantly down on 2010.
Do the mainstream media truly not "get it", or are they deliberately trying to mislead their readers?
To be fair to the BBC, their report was eventually replaced with a more accurate representation of what Nicola Sturgeon actually said - presumably after someone had a stern word in their ear. But it's depressing to think that was even necessary.
On a similar theme, I was somewhat alarmed last night to spot an article on The Scotsman website bearing the headline 'Sturgeon backs down on Full Fiscal Autonomy'. If there had been the slightest truth in that claim, I would have been deeply worried that the SNP was losing its way and forgetting what its raison d'être is. But you're way ahead of me here - the headline has no basis whatever in fact (actually, let's call a spade a spade, it's a downright lie). The article invites us to believe that Nicola Sturgeon backed down on Full Fiscal Autonomy by saying that it would take a few years to implement, and that the Barnett Formula should remain in place until that point. In other words, she "backed down" by saying exactly the same things that she was repeatedly saying before she "backed down". Words fail me.
* * *
UPDATE : This one isn't so much misleading as unbelievably offensive. From Melanie McDonagh in the Spectator -
"If you take seriously the notion that the deficit is something to be addressed rather than put on hold, that the national debt is something to be talked about rather than an error of taste to be mentioned, well, the spectacle of the three women, Nicola Sturgeon, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood - none of them English – more or less spitting out the word ‘austerity’ and brightening up at the mention of ‘immigration’ was not a happy one."
How dare they not be English! Not even one of them! Did no-one teach these impertinent women which nation provides the rulers and which nations are the ruled?
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Nicola Sturgeon 67.9%
Ed Miliband 17.4%
Nigel Farage 8.5%
Natalie Bennett 5.2%
Leanne Wood 1.1%
Respondents were also asked immediately after the debate to say which of the leaders would make the best Prime Minister of the UK...
Would make the best Prime Minister? (Survation, respondents in Scotland only) :
Nicola Sturgeon 56.4%
Ed Miliband 31.6%
Nigel Farage 7.3%
Natalie Bennett 4.0%
Leanne Wood 0.8%
It's amusing to hear that, in spite of these numbers, Polly Toynbee has predictably managed to convince herself that Miliband has somehow "retrieved some Scottish votes" tonight. Good ol' Pol.
Here are the Britain-wide numbers...
Who do you think 'won' the debate? (Survation, respondents across Britain) :
Ed Miliband 34.7%
Nicola Sturgeon 31.1%
Nigel Farage 27.1%
Natalie Bennett 4.7%
Leanne Wood 2.4%
Even though a close second for a 'wicked separatist' is absolutely astonishing in any Britain-wide poll, my strong suspicion is that it was even better than that. Survation was the least favourable for Sturgeon of the four firms that conducted instant polls after the first debate, and it seems likely that YouGov in particular would have had her well ahead tonight.
UPDATE : Even Survation have Nicola Sturgeon clearly ahead among Britain-wide respondents when the question is asked in a slightly different way...
Putting aside your own party preference and basing your answer on what you saw or heard during the programme, which one of the 5 leaders do you think performed the 'best'? (Survation, respondents across Britain) :
Nicola Sturgeon 35.2%
Ed Miliband 29.3%
Nigel Farage 25.5%
Natalie Bennett 5.3%
Leanne Wood 4.7%
It's probably the 'putting aside your party preference' bit that makes the difference here - obviously there are far more Labour than SNP voters across the whole UK, so if respondents aren't asked to set that aside, it leaves Miliband with an in-built advantage.
After the first debate, YouGov used "leaving aside your own political preference" in the wording to their headline question, which probably goes a long way to explaining why they reported Sturgeon as the clear winner when other firms didn't. Another factor was that they included more undecided voters in their sample.
Here's how it was done...
* The results were weighted by 2010 vote recall. On the headline numbers, this resulted in respondents who said they voted SNP being weighted down from 53 to 33 (a drop of almost two-fifths), while respondents who recalled voting Lib Dem were upweighted from 73 to 90. Assuming that a significant proportion of people are probably getting their 2010 and 2011 votes mixed up, this factor alone is sufficient to introduce a huge distortion, and to transform what would have been a comfortable SNP lead into a small Lib Dem lead.
* No other form of political weighting was added to help balance out any distortion from the 2010 weighting (a practice used by some other pollsters, albeit admittedly not Ashcroft). Respondents were asked how they voted in the independence referendum, producing too big a lead for No, and yet the headline voting intention figures were not weighted by recalled referendum vote. Again, that alone would have been sufficient to put the SNP in the lead.
* The poll departs from standard good practice by not asking the headline voting intention question at the start of the question sequence. It's in fact asked fifth. The big problem is with Question 4, which names the local candidates and asks respondents to rate them. Unsurprisingly, this works in Jo Swinson's favour, because only 3.3% of the sample have not heard of her, compared to 49.7% who haven't heard of SNP candidate John Nicolson. (Although Mr Nicolson is a television personality, he's been off our screens for quite a while, and is probably more recognisable for his face and voice than for his name.)
* When the voting intention question is finally asked, it's posed like this : "If the general election was tomorrow, how would you vote in the East Dunbartonshire constituency knowing who is standing?" (my emphasis). People try to keep their responses to polls logically consistent, and if you've just said that you like Jo Swinson and haven't heard of John Nicolson, it's very hard to suddenly say you're planning to vote for John Nicolson, particularly when the question is insisting that you take into account who is standing. So it's likely that some people who plan to vote SNP (or indeed Labour) without being overly fussed about the candidates will have been coaxed into falsely saying that they are going to vote for Swinson. This is the twisting effect of question sequence that was famously illustrated in a Yes Minister scene, in which Sir Humphrey gets Bernard to say he is both in favour and opposed to the reintroduction of National Service.
What's interesting of course is that the Lib Dems have done a large number of these polls, but have only released a small fraction of them. That suggests even a rigged methodology isn't sufficient to produce a favourable result in many seats.
* * *
Have you ever had one of those nightmare journeys over a ridiculously short distance that leaves you wondering if a celestial power is conspiring against you? Yesterday morning I was due to take part in one of Derek Bateman's audio recordings at around 11.30, but the Stagecoach bus I was planning to catch turned up early, and I missed it by literally twenty seconds. So I texted Derek to let him know I would be late. After waiting an eternity, the bus I finally caught managed to shed its drive shaft midway during the journey. I didn't have the heart to text Derek again to tell him the bus had broken down, if only because it would have sounded like a classic "the dog ate my homework" excuse. So instead I hopelessly tried to make up the time by running when I got to the city centre, and I eventually arrived at the studio 50 minutes late. Thankfully everyone was very understanding, although when the recording is put on the website I suspect you'll still be able to hear me gasping for breath!
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Sensational poll commissioned by the Lib Dems suggests the SNP are within touching distance of winning EAST DUNBARTONSHIRE
Thanks to my namesake James on the previous thread for alerting me to the fact that the Lib Dems have leaked another of their internal constituency polls - this time East Dunbartonshire. The methodology used in these polls moves heaven and earth to produce artificially good results for the Lib Dems (ie. leading questions asked before the voting intention question, plus strict weighting by 2010 vote recall), so the fact that the SNP still find themselves in a 'statistical tie' in one of their very toughest target seats is pretty extraordinary.
East Dunbartonshire voting intentions (Lib Dem poll) :
Liberal Democrats 34.5%
On the face of it, this poll is also devastating for Labour, because some projections have suggested they could gain East Dunbartonshire, even if they lose a large number of seats to the SNP. However, it's possible they've suffered disproportionately from the Lib Dem-friendly methodology.
East Dunbartonshire is one of the seats Populus have been polling this week, so if that proves to be an Ashcroft poll it will make the real state of play a lot clearer. Let's put it this way - I strongly suspect the Lib Dems aren't really in the lead, even allowing for Jo Swinson's personal vote.
Presumably the reason for leaking the poll was to establish the Lib Dems as the "only way of stopping the SNP here" for propaganda purposes, but Ashcroft could well muddy the waters in that respect.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Ross, Skye and Lochaber
Edinburgh North and Leith
Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk
From the questions that were recalled, it initially sounded like internal polling for one of the London parties, but there's no discernible pattern in the above list - other than the SNP, no party is in contention in all nine. Another possible explanation is that it's a third round of Ashcroft constituency polls - he's already polled four of the nine seats on the list, but it could be that he's revisiting them to see if there's been any change (he's done that in a number of English constituencies). Time will tell.
* * *
On the previous thread, David Halliday pointed me in the direction of an article on Common Space about the current polling situation, which makes several misleading points. In particular, it's stated that -
"In Monday's TNS Poll (TNS does face to face interviews) the headline figure for the SNP was 52 per cent but the actual raw figure before weighting was 29 per cent. The number of undecided in the TNS poll was 29 per cent - obviously these numbers are in stark contrast to what is being portrayed in the media...How the polling companies weight their polls is giving a huge boost to the SNP numbers..."
The reality is that the SNP haven't benefited at all from the weightings TNS have applied. In respect of the headline numbers, there were 217 SNP voters before weighting, and 219 SNP voters after weighting - near-enough identical. What is really meant by "actual raw figure before weighting" is "actual figure after weighting but before undecided respondents have been stripped out", which is an entirely different point. Because there is such a large number of undecideds in this poll (hardly untypical for TNS), the SNP vote is of course much higher after those respondents are removed, but so is the Labour vote, the Tory vote and the Lib Dem vote.
It seems to me the average reader will be left with the highly misleading impression that all of the polling firms are using some kind of very weird weighting scheme which is uniformly flattering the SNP by a massive amount. Nothing of the sort is happening. YouGov's weighting tends to boost the SNP a little, but not dramatically.
The underlying message of the article is "there is no room for complacency", which I would thoroughly endorse, but I think it's possible to get that message across without making bogus points about how the SNP's position in the polls is supposedly much worse if you "drill down". It isn't. The SNP's position in the polls is absolutely fantastic. If they don't win a truck-load of seats, it'll be for one (or more) of three reasons - a) a significant late swing back to Labour, b) industrial-scale tactical voting, or c) methodological flaws across the whole polling industry of the sort we saw in 1992.
On the latter point, it was mentioned on the previous thread that the SNP were significantly overestimated in the polls in the run-up to the European elections last year. That's true, but all of the firms in question (Survation, YouGov, Panelbase and ICM) have changed their methodology since then, and introduced weighting by recalled referendum vote. So there's no reason to assume that history is bound to repeat itself.
Monday, April 13, 2015
Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election (TNS, 18th March - 8th April) :
SNP 52% (+6)
Labour 24% (-6)
Conservatives 13% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (+3)
Greens 3% (-1)
UKIP are not listed because they're literally on zero (there were two respondents interested in a Farage à trois, but they were rounded down to zero).
These figures mean that TNS are suggesting an absolutely astonishing trend over the last few months. Their first post-referendum poll in January/early February produced an SNP lead of 'only' 10%, which made it look as if they were going to slot in as one of the most Labour-friendly pollsters. A second poll not long afterwards saw the lead increase to 16%, which was pretty much in line with most online pollsters. Now, in one fell swoop, the lead has reached 28% - which completes a rapid transformation for TNS and leaves them as one of the two most SNP-friendly firms. (The other is Ipsos-Mori, which also showed a position of SNP 52%, Labour 24% in their most recent poll - but that was way back in January.)
Now it's true that last week's YouGov poll also showed the SNP lead reach a record level, so it would be wrong to instantly dismiss the TNS poll as an obvious outlier. It now seems much more likely that there has been further movement to the SNP at some point over the last few weeks. But the sheer scale of the swing suggested by TNS over such a relatively short period of time is not something that has been recorded by any other firm so far, and it would be just as well to remain cautious until it is. I can't see any obvious methodological change that would be generating an illusory swing, so it may just be that margin-of-error effects are exaggerating the trend slightly.
But that's not much comfort for Labour - to state the obvious, they desperately need to be gaining ground, and the mounting evidence that the swing is in completely the opposite direction will be greeted with unmitigated horror in McTernan HQ (which in normal circumstances is renowned for being such a happy, jolly sort of place).
Sunday, April 12, 2015
1) When Nicola Sturgeon is answering a challenging question, the moderator should personally ensure that SHE CANNOT COMPLETE ANY SENTENCE WITHOUT AGGRESSIVE INTERRUPTION.
2) Jim Murphy, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie should not be asked any challenging questions by the moderator.
3) When Jim Murphy, Ruth Davidson or Willie Rennie is attacking the SNP, the moderator should allow them to continuing speaking WITHOUT INTERRUPTION, AND AT HOWEVER MUCH LENGTH THEY WANT.
4) When Nicola Sturgeon is attacking the other parties or asking them questions, the moderator must personally ensure that HER VOICE IS COMPLETELY DROWNED OUT.
5) When Jim Murphy, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie are talking over Nicola Sturgeon and preventing her from being heard, they must be ALLOWED TO DO SO.
6) If Nicola Sturgeon shows the slightest sign of opening her mouth when someone else is speaking, the moderator must TELL HER TO SHUT UP.
Did you spot any others?
The reason I'm doing it temporarily is to deal with an anonymous unionist troll who's been throwing his weight around over the last couple of days, and who has predictably started to become more abusive as the penny drops that we don't all dutifully surrender at the first sign of his silly scare stories. (He's just described me as "bordering on mentally ill".)
Of course, this won't stop Simon (I call him Simon) continuing to post, but if he wants to do so he'll have to put a name to the bile. Will he be brave enough? I suspect not, but we'll see.
When I find myself in times of boredom, my mate Murphy comes to me, speaking words of narcissism, glory be...
"To Mrs Lily Ritchie of Girvan Rd : open your front door now for rare opportunity to see me on Irn Bru crate railing against separation."
"If you live on corner of Heather Ave & Acacia Dr in Barrhead, look out window as doing Sky News on SNP pension cuts."
Yes folks, it's true - one of these is a GENUINE TWEET from Jim Murphy.