Saturday, May 03, 2008

What now for Gordon and Alex?

I'll admit if things continue as they are the SNP will gain more seats at the nest Westminster election. However, in light of an interesting graph attached to these articles in today's Scotsman I'm going to add a couple of caveats.

The first is that this is not simply because of some uber-intelligent strategy of the SNP to attract more voters. But because the Labour party are in danger of going into freefall. The reason is aptly summed up by my own MP, Michael Connarty, who says in that article:

"[Gordon should] take some time for reflection in a quiet environment and speak to a wider range of people than he has as far been asking for advice. This means not just his confidantes or those left over from the Blair era."

The people have spoken to a new Prime Minister less than a year on the job in the way they know hurts most, through the ballot box. Yes the SNP can rejoice over their showings in opinion polls, their figures are going up, Labour's going down. But how many of those being asked are actually in a state of flux, disenchanted Labour voters who don't yet know where they will turn. Some of those may have already done that last May here in Scotland and in many areas to voice their disaproval already voted tactically for the best alternative to knock Labour down a peg size or two, voting for the Nats.

It the short term being a protest party against the Government isn't a bad thing, it's trying to move beyond that point and retain those votes that is hard. The SNP is not necessarily a natural final resting home for people who have permanently lost faith in Labour. So before 2010 unless some radical New New Labour emerges phoenix like from the ashes of this week the SNP will pick up seat on the back on doing nothing at all apart from being not Labour. Of course I know that won't be all of their strategy but watch out for it intensifying in their message over the next couple of years.

The second caveat relates to the graph itself. Sadly not viewable online. From the council votes this week it predicts the following changes to Westminster:

Tory gain 254 seats to 446
Lib Dems gain 28 to 91
Labour lose 298 to 53!!
Others gain 13

Note that is on current state of parties and does not account for the whip withheld MPS or the UKIP defection from a Tory seat.

That second caveat is that even with Labour close to the Canadian Progressive Conservative level of wipeout, the others are only predicted by the Scotsman to gain 13 seats. Now as it is a Scottish paper I'm assuming that some consideration has been made that Scotland had no elections this year, with Northern Ireland the only other parties generally predicted in the other's column and no new seats being created there, we can assume that the 13 others will be Nationalists, either the SNP or Plaid Cymru.

Now here's the rub. There are 59 seats in Scotland 39 held by Labour, 6 Nats, 1 Tory. There are 40 seats in Wales 29 held by Labour and 3 each by PC and the Tories. Assuming universality of the Labour wipe out, as I can't be bothered going through all 632 non-Northern Irish constituencies, that is 69% of their MPs gone.

In Scotland while that does mean 27 Labour MPs would go, while in Scotland the result sees 20 Labour seats wiped out, it fails to take into account that the Tory surge would almost certainly take some of these and the Lib Dems are also strong seconds in a number of others and could claim several of their 28 North of the border.

Of course central belt of Scotland and the heart of Wales are seats with some of the largest Labour majorities, 13 have a majority of over 40% between the two. Indeed drawing totally arbitrary lines in the sand at 20% majority Labour retains 23 MPs in Scotland and 18 in Wales. So I'm going to split the Nat gains fairly evenly by proportion. So the split of 13 gains ends up with:

7 more SNP up to 13
6 more Plaid Cymru up to 9.

Thus I conclude Alex Salmond has his work cut out to reach 20 SNP MPs.


Anonymous said...

That's some pretty fearsome number-crunching Stephen. But it's possible to reach the same conclusion - that Alex Salmond has his work cut out to reach 20 SNP MPs - without a calculator. The Edinburgh Evening News poll last week said:

"Just 19 per cent of people said they would vote for independence in a multi-option referendum on Scotland's future. Nearly three-quarters of those questioned backed keeping the Scottish Parliament as it is or increasing its powers."

In other words, support for the SNP at Holyrood has got nothing to do with a desire for independence. There are only 21 FPTP SNP MSPs at the moment. On a good night the SNP will maybe double their Westminster representation, but that will be it.

Stephen Glenn said...

Thanks for dropping by agentM. I was just so shocked and delighted to see what the Scotsman projection, that I was intrigued to find out what this would mean for Eck's confernce claim that he was aiming for 20 Westminster MPs next election.

This Is Alba said...

First things first, there's a big difference between local and national elections. I sincerely doubt Labour will lose that many seats and I'd be surprised if the Lib Dems managed to make any progress beyond their existing 63 (especially given that many of them are Tory marginals).

Secondly the Tory swing will be no where near as big in Scotland. A lot of the English vote will come from disaffected traditional Labour supporters, in Scotland they also have the SNP to contend with who will pick up a significant share of that vote. Furthermore, I can't see the Tories coming back significantly from the 1983 wipe out.

Fortunately for the Lib Dems, I suspect Nick Clegg won't play a major part in winning the Scottish vote. Lib MPs like Charles Kennedy will hold their seats on the basis of personal support. Most of the seats lost by the Liberal Democrats come the next General Election will be Tory marginals south of the border.

If we’re going to approach this reasonably, I’d say that currently my prediction would be:

Con – ~350
Lab – 180-200
LD – ~50
SNP – ~15
Plaid – 5 or 6

Stephen Glenn said...

I was merely looking at how the Scotsman's figures could possibly have come to be TiA. I agree with you regarding Lib/Tory Marginals, these are largely south of the border where we may lose these. But with a Labour slump in the pulls don't overlook that in many Labour marginal urban seats it is the Lib Dems that do stand to be the major benificiary.

I think the next election will have as many swings and roundabouts as the 1997 election. But I also believe we're too far out to call it any way.


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