Tuesday, 9 June 2015

A palpable hit

Today's TNS poll has figures so ridiculous - yet in keeping with trends - that they're barely believable. 

The constituency poll gives the National party 60% of the vote, with Scottish Labour on a shattering 19%, their Tory friends on 15% and the Liberals, moribund, on 3%. 

This reflects what I predicted before the Westminster election last month: the Conservatives have already bottomed out in Scotland, and thus we know that it can rely on a minimum of 15% of the vote. They got 15,3% in 1999, 15,5% in 2003, 16,6% in 2007 and 13,9% in 2011 for an average of 15,3%. They can go up to 17% or down to 14% but Scottish Conservatives will remain with the party through thin, and they will always be within that margin of error of the 15% base.

For the Liberals, things are a bit disastrous. They scored 7,9% on the constituency vote last time out, but a mere 5,2% on the list. And it's likely that the list will be more reflective of the national vote given that their only two constituency deputies - and fully 5% of their national vote in the constituencies - came from Orkney and Shetland. With only ten full campaigning months to go until the election, the Northern Islands Liberals are square in the spotlight with the revelation that the MP for the overlapping Westminster constituency, Alistair Carmichael, lied and cheated his way into Westminster (to be their sole surviving MP), and is the subject of an Election Petition in the High Court. The Carmichael Scandal may be enough for the Liberals to hold onto their only MP, but he's guaranteed that the cost of that will be the loss of their only two constituencies in Holyrood, and possibly a full-scale wipeout of the party. 

Orkney and Shetland has returned nothing but Liberals since 1837. It used to be said "in the event of a nuclear war, only two things are guaranteed: the survival of the cockroach, and the election of a Liberal MP in the Northern Islands". Alistair Carmichael, single-handedly, has removed one of the two remaining citadels of Liberalism in the United Kingdom. Good work, arse-features.

The interesting part of this poll is Labour, however. Scottish Labour no longer has ambitions to govern. Their single abiding, guiding principle is the maintenance of the Union. But because of the madness and hate which has afflicted the party in the last ten years, and their refusal to learn from the continued rejection of the electorate, they are shrinking into themselves. Their attempts to broaden their appeal amongst Yes voters lasted roughly four hours and was an unmitigated failure, so their only scope for broadened appeal is to the extreme fringes of loyalism and unionism - that's why Glaswegians were subjected to Saturday's farcical events. 

But the danger in presenting yourself as the party of Unionism couldn't be clearer: this will only work as long as you are the largest Unionist party. With the Tories scoring 15% and the SNP likely to score at least 55% in the constituency vote, there are now only 30% of the entire electorate that Scottish Labour can attract; viz. the most Scottish Labour can ever hope to achieve is a third of the vote: and even that low target can be achievable only inasmuch as loyalists and unionists are confident that Scottish Labour will emerge as the largest Unionist party. 

Many of them, therefore, with no particular ideological connection to Scottish Labour other than the Union, will lend their second votes to the Conservatives in order to hedge their bets, but if they feel Scottish Labour is at risk of not being the largest Unionist party, the constituency votes might start to dribble away to their erstwhile Better Together partners as well. 

It might very well be that 19% in this poll represents a high-water mark for Scottish Labour in Holyrood in the future. I suspect that with carefully-chosen Green and Socialist constituency candidates bleeding further constituency votes away from Scottish Labour, their final score will be closer to 17%, leaving them with nary a constituency MSP again, and damn few on the list. And if that happens, the loyalist and unionist vote will go directly to the party which is in the stronger position to #Pout - and that will be the Tories.

This is what happened in the north of Ireland. Unionists weren't drawn to the OUP because of the wit and charm of Jim Molyneaux and David Trimble: they voted for them because they were the best electoral bulwark for the Union. Once doubts began to be implanted about that, Unionists completely abandoned the OUP for the DUP. The fact that the party were committed, fanatical unionists didn't matter a jot - once its position as the largest Unionist party came under threat, it became pointless. Scottish Labour should look at the current state of the once-impregnable OUP and shudder. Not too long ago, the OUP controlled every council in the north of Ireland, had an unassailable hand on the tiller of the north's government, and had almost every sitting MP. No more - they're now a rump, saved only by history, not usefulness.

The only way the Scottish Labour party can guarantee its continued existence is to remain the largest Unionist party. It's almost within a margin of error of being overtaken by the Conservatives as it is - and it's just about to elect a divisive, talentless, unpopular troll as branch manager. 

I see no reason to change my prediction from April that Scottish Labour won't be the official opposition in Holyrood come May, nor my prediction that in the longer-term, the only way they can survive is to fold lock, stock, and barrel into the Conservative party to become the Unionist Party. 

1 comment:

  1. Another excellent post Tommy, I want to see a principled opposition in Holyrood and I think most people do. This indulgence in Tribalism by the Labour Party does nobody any good. I would rather see both the Scottish Socialists and the Greens there both who may agree on independence but will be much more able to provide constructive ideas and to vote for them unlike Labour who seem to think abstaining is voting?