Westminster: October 2009 Archives

From a small base.

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ComresOctScot.pngA Comres poll for the Independent today shows a pleasingly tiny proportion of BNP voters despite the BBC giving them the biggest publicity spree in their history. 

As Mike Smithson puts it, "The mid-October poll had 8 respondees saying BNP - tonight's survey has that at 13". That's out of 1004 respondents. 

The same poll shows the Greens on 5% nationally (the actual final results are on p22 of that massive pdf), which is pretty promising for Green target seats given the large variability in our vote. 

Deep in the lengthy tables for it I noticed something else interesting. It's a subsample point, and I have in the past criticised those who take those too seriously. Nevertheless, it confirms my prejudices, so it's worth blogging about.

Comres asked their respondents "Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as ...?", i.e. Labour/Tory/Lib Dem/Green/Nat etc. Page 18 shows the results, or click the image above for a look at it.

In Scotland, a quarter define themselves as Labour, with almost as many as identifying as Nats. Despite the better position of the Nats, this makes sense. I know plenty of people who'd still say they think of themselves as Labour people but won't vote Labour, whereas the SNP clearly continue to get the backing of swing voters.

16% identify as Tories, about the level they poll at, pretty much whatever happens. This also seems to make sense. Their base is firm, if much lower than the rest of the UK for some reason, but they pick up few floating or tactical voters.

Then, intriguingly, 6% of this small sample of Scots define themselves as Green, and 6% as Lib Dems. The Lib Dems do continue to poll above us for now: for instance, in the recent Euros they got 11.5% to our 7.3%. 

With some chameleon-like politics, squeeze messages and media omnipresence, they do a lot with pretty low base. Those 5-10% who vote Lib Dem but don't identify with them, though, there's a term for them. Potential Green voters..

Why votes at 16 matter.

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youthvote.jpgI've got in my hand a flyer given out by Scottish Youth Parliament activists on the Gude Cause suffragette march the weekend before last. It lists what sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds can do, or can be made to do. 

They point out that this age group can be tried in court as an adult, join the army, own their own home, and pay taxes, but not vote. 

It's a persuasive argument, even if discrimination against the young is in one sense more egalitarian than discrimination against women or members of ethnic minorities. We were all young once, even Bill Aitken.

The reason I'm so committed to this cause is a little different, though.

Last year we had a young man in our Holyrood office on a work placement arranged by his school. These can be a bit high maintenance and sometimes of dubious value, but he was smart as hell, immediately got the basics of writing a press release, and fitted in from the start. He was also very politically aware, and pretty passionate.

He was fifteen at the time, and he had done the sums. He knew he'd turn eighteen in 2011, just a couple of months after the next Holyrood election, and wouldn't get a say in a Scottish election until he was practically twenty-two, seven years away.

Another very good friend of mine is in a similar position. He'll be a year and a month too young to vote in the 2011 elections, and (assuming the next UK cycle is four years long) he'll be in his twenties before he gets to vote either for Westminster or Holyrood. He'll just miss the 2012 Scottish locals, too, so won't get to vote for his local councillors until he's almost twenty-three.

Like our work placement friend, he's very politically literate, very knowledgeable and passionate about the issues. But politicians can safely ignore him as long as the voting age remains at eighteen.

The idea you can vote at eighteen is, after all, awfully contingent on there being an election on your eighteenth birthday, and the current arrangement means a lot of people in their twenties will have had no opportunity to vote for at least one of the levels of government that matters. Just wrong.

"Votes at sixteen" is therefore slightly misleading, although I see why they chose it. Plenty of people much older than that will get disenfranchised too, and the problem is much wider than people normally think.

Some patronising fools claim we can't trust these young people to vote responsibly. Just as with the older generations, though, many of those who don't care or don't know anything about politics simply won't vote at all. And who are we to say what a responsible vote is anyway? Let the (young) people decide for themselves.

Greens : Nats :: Nats : Tories?

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equations.jpgAlex Salmond is away this week at the Alex Salmond Annual Conference 2009, and everyone sounds like they're having a lovely time counting their chickens ahead of the UK General.

The Maximum Eck therefore went on GMS this morning to set out his strategically sensible but odd-sounding ambition for this election: a hung Parliament. 

Brian Taylor captures the thinking perfectly. The comparison to Steel's "go back to your constituencies" line may be brutal, but, as BT observes, this approach is much smarter because it excuses Salmond from having to admit he'd love nothing more than a Cameron victory. Apart from a Thatcher victory, that is. Fortunately it's just him and Norman Tebbit on that one.

The SNP attitude to the rest of the UK is changing pretty fast. Salmond said last week that Westminster would be "hung by a Scottish rope", a stark contrast to the more charming line he took before the last Holyrood election. Back in 2007 he said England and Scotland would be "the best of pals, the closest of buddies". I prefer my pals not to try to hang me with a rope, but I'm sure Kevin Pringle knows where he is on the message calendar.

Last year, at the midpoint of the transition from best pals to hanging with a rope, Salmond said he'd "make Westminster dance to a Scottish jig". That might still sound like a relatively friendly metaphor, but note the compulsion. It actually reminds me more of the brutal ending of Snow White, where the evil queen has to dance in red hot iron shoes until she dies

In Salmond's the cause of death is now hanging, not dancing, but dead is still dead. If you like you can also pick a role from Snow White for the First Minister to play. Anyone picking Bashful will be laughed at.

Back to his appearance on GMS. This morning he said that:

"A Scottish block would be influential regardless of the outcome of the election. What I think is true is that a balanced Parliament, a Parliament without an overall majority would be the most influential, give us the most ability to extract concessions and win gains for Scotland. 

"I think there's no doubt that in a Parliament without an overall majority, then if you have a block of MPs then you can achieve fantastic things, and I only point out that of all the politicians in these islands I am probably the one with the most experience of minority government. I'm on the receiving end of it. 

"Obviously, if you take the first Budget the SNP brought in last year then the Green Party with two MSPs were able to have an extraordinary influence because we're a minority government, because it's a balanced Parliament."

(on iPlayer until next week, roughly 2 hours and 10 minutes in)

I remember that Budget. What happened is that a small opposition party (that's us) brought forward an eminently sensible and pragmatic proposal, but an overweening minority administration tried to bully them into accepting something negligible and almost entirely different. When that bullying failed, the Budget fell

What exactly the SNP actually learnt from this process it would be good to know. Was it that larger parties tend to get their way in the end? Pleasing as it is for him to tell a UK-wide audience that Greens are influential, the fact is that he turned us over and the policy never happened.

The equation doesn't hold for other reasons too. Our only objective in the Budget talks he refers to was a policy one, to get the idea implemented, to cut bills and carbon emissions and to boost jobs. There was no hidden agenda, although we'd obviously have been happy to take credit for the idea (which regular readers will know we nicked from Kirklees Greens). 

Salmond, on the other hand, would be going into UK Budget negotiations striving to demonstrate that the new Tory government doesn't care for Scotland, and that only the SNP can stand up to them. 

This would make the SNP almost impossible for Cameron to deal with, just as a minority Labour government found them in the 1970s. The Tory leader's long term future may well depend on ensuring he avoids both their rope and their red-hot shoes, just as the polls predict he will.

Heathrow: this cat folds.

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thiscatfolds.jpgThis is becoming Climate Victory Week. Following the end of plans for new coal at Kingsnorth, BAA have folded over the third runway at Heathrow. Credit where it's due: the main reason is that Theresa Villiers held her nerve

Shame we couldn't have some similar Scottish wins over, say, Hunterston and the Additional Gold-plated Forth Bridge. That would require a majority of MSPs to understand the environment, though.

Keeping a sense of proportion.

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AdamBoulton.jpgI'd planned to ignore the Sky-promoted debates debate. Any actual head-to-heads will be of interest, but the usual squalling about who gets to be in it is pretty tiresome. And yet..

A classic of the genre today sees the Maximum Eck scoring the front page of the Sunday Herald (judging by the website) for a footstamping press release.

"Alex Salmond wants on the telly more" really isn't news, no more than "SNP support independence" should be. SNP HQ will have been delighted with the story, however petty it may make them look to the outside world. That is, until they got to Adam Boulton's line at the bottom:

"There are genuine concerns about making sure the other parties are represented - the Greens, SNP, BNP, UKIP."
paviliongreen.pngThe second annual PoliticsHome superpoll of the marginals is out today, based on YouGov interviews with 33,610 people. They polled everyone, it seems. They certainly polled me - did they poll you?

The methodology seems pretty sound. Anthony Wells grouped seats with similar characteristics - London commuter belt, Southwest Liberal/Con marginals etc - and got a representative sample in each group to extrapolate from. Much more plausible than the old Scottish sub-sample game.

The results (full document, 2.6Mb pdf) are easy to spin as good news and bad news for the three largest Westminster parties, especially given last year's numbers as an alternative comparator. 

Labour are out of government on these numbers, obviously, but down to 199 instead of the ultra-dire 160 seats predicted last year. "It's heading our way", they say, although Tom Harris certainly isn't kidding himself. The Liberals are down 8 to 55, but last year it was worse for them too, when the same poll predicted they'd keep just 44 MPs.

Conversely, the headline figure that puts Dave C into power is a Tory majority of 70, which I think he'd take, but last year they predicted a landslide 146 lead. There are pages and pages of English Con/Lab marginals shown here turning blue, places Labour never reached before Blairism, and places always likely to revert to type. Cumbria's about the only group to buck the trend.

Other parties' results are less equivocal. Last year the SNP leadership was jubilant about numbers showing vast swathes of Scotland going their way, but this year just 3 Nat gains are predicted. I'm personally sceptical about this, but you can imagine the long woad-painted faces of the cybernats as they contemplate page 29.

The best has been saved for last. Brighton Pavilion is part of a group of seaside town seats including Morecambe, Great Yarmouth and and the Blackpool constituencies. In the 2005 election 8% of people voted for parties outside the big three. Last year's poll had this number at 11%, and this year it's a staggering 19%.

The report says: "This is mainly benefiting the Green Party who on these figures would win their first Parliamentary seat in Brighton Pavilion."

I do hope so. Another near miss (as per several seats in the Euros) would be heartbreaking. Also, I note they didn't cover either of our English friends' other targets, Lewisham and Norwich South. That makes them better bets with the bookies, I reckon, Norwich South in particular. 

(politicalbetting.com thread here)

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Westminster category from October 2009.

Westminster: September 2009 is the previous archive.

Westminster: November 2009 is the next archive.