Looking ahead to May 2015

Everyone in Scotland is so focussed on the referendum that they’re forgetting the European elections on 22nd May. (And that’s worrying, because low turnout is how parties like UKIP get in.)

Charlie Bloom on BBC Question Time challenging Nigel Farage

Illustrating this forgetfulness about the European elections, last night on Have I Got News For You an English comedian made a joke about “Methadone elections” and Susan Calman took audible offence because she’d forgotten about the EuroElections and thought he meant the independence referendum was methadone: but the English comedian had forgotten about the Scottish referendum – he was making a joke about the methadone of the European Parliament elections compared to the heroin smack of a General Election.

My guess is – it always has been – that No is going to get the majority in the independence referendum, because consistently that’s what the polling data says. (I have a bet on with a prominent Yes supporter in Edinburgh: if Yes gets the majority, I’ll buy him a bottle of whisky of his choice: if No gets the majority, he will.) I emphasise the polling data, because I want to be clear: this guess has nothing to do with how I vote or with which way I hope the referendum goes. The polling data could be wrong, but it is consistently showing a majority for No.

(Arguments that undecideds might go Yes in September are optimistic: I was undecided until a couple of months ago and I’m leaning No. The SNP is the party with the power to change my mind, but their campaign tactic of promising nothing much will change is too consistent for me to hope they’ll abandon currency union before September.)

The Economist - SkintlandIn April 2012, The Economist helped along the Yes campaign with an ugly, jeering cover describing Scotland as “Skintland“.

This week, The Economist sanctimoniously argues that if losing America cost George III his sanity, losing Scotland ought to cost David Cameron his job.

If Yes gets the majority, who is going to resign at The Economist for the Skintland cover?

Of course the Economist is wrong both about David Cameron and the madness of King George III (whether GIII suffered from porphyria or was bipolar, it certainly wasn’t America). David Cameron will have to quit after May 2015, because he will have lost the General Election, and that’s how the Tories treat leaders who lose elections. As everyone in the party hierarchy is well aware of this, there could be no impetus to fire David Cameron for the Scottish referendum result, since whoever took over would almost certainly be fired for the General Election results. Iain Duncan Smith might be clueless and arrogant enough to take that bargain, but who’d vote for him?

Again: I’m confident Labour’s going to get the majority in May 2015 because that’s what the polling data consistently says and because the Tories haven’t managed to win an election since 1992 and the LibDems are likely to lose half their current seats in 2015, making them useless as coalition partners.

It’s appealling on a very visceral level to think of the expression on David Cameron’s face if Yes gets the majority. But that is not by itself a valid reason for voting Yes.

What is and remains a strong reason for voting yes is UK Labour’s veering to the right. They’ve voted for the welfare cap, they’ve fallen into the Iain Duncan Smith policy hole of treating unemployed people as ungrateful layabouts to be punished with destitution, they’ve refused to commit to re-nationalising the NHS in England or bringing back British Rail, and they’ve complied with the pressure from UKIP and the EDL to treat immigration as if it were a problem. Labour’s leaders appear to be quite confident that they’ve got the left-wing vote tied up because who else is there to vote for*, and to be aiming instead by right-wing policies to capture the LibDem and moderate Tory vote.

*Quite literally the worst thing the LibDems have done to electoral politics in the UK, is to remove themselves as a credible alternative vote by their highly-cooperative coalition with the Tories.

Labour will certainly get the majority in 2015, and obviously, better them than the Tory/LibDem coalition that’s made our lives a misery since 2010. But it’s Labour’s refusal to campaign for a better UK after 2015 that is the problem with the independence campaign. “Better Together” is primarily a Labour campaign in Scotland, almost as much as “Yes Scotland” is an SNP campaign, and the sad thing for voters is this: Neither one has been able to campaign positively.

  • “Better Together” can’t, because Labour isn’t interested in giving Scots good reason to want to stay in the UK by restoring the invaluable British institutions the Tories have damaged or destroyed.
  • “Yes Scotland” can’t, because the SNP’s calculations are that more people are likely to vote Yes if they think nothing much is going to change.

Party-political activists are very apt to complain of low turn-outs and voter apathy, about how young people today don’t get involved in politics. But that isn’t true except in the very limited sense of party politics. What is true is that a young person who wants to make a difference in the world, who wants to campaign to change things for the better, is very unlikely to join Labour or the LibDems or the Conservatives or the SNP: they are much more likely to join an activist group. Joining Labour or the SNP or the Conservatives is the first step in a career in politics – as has been made horribly clear to all of us over the past twenty years, grassroots party members don’t affect party policy in government.

If people tend not to turn out to vote at elections, that is exclusively and entirely the fault of the political parties in failing to provide anything positive people want to vote for: yet party activists and pundits blandly and hypocritically blame voter apathy.

(I note that LibDem blogger Richard Morris, writing in the New Statesman, while making a good point about Ed Miliband as a lucky general, is taking the head-in-sand view that Labour’s rejection of the LibDems as coalition partners stems from their rejection of Gordon Brown in 2010: LibDem supporters are in general refusing to acknowledge that the LibDems are now a toxic brand to be avoided and polling data says they’re unlikely to be useful coalition partners to anyone after 2015.)

Dunfermline - Who won?One of the things I am hopeful we are going to see in September is a very large turnout – probably larger than for the General Election in 2015, almost certainly higher than recent by-elections: because on 18th September, voting Yes or No is being pushed as making a difference. (And certainly, to be valid, the referendum needs a high turnout.) Whereas in 2015, after No gets the majority (polling data says it will, remember?) there’s nothing much to vote for: the Labour party isn’t promising to make a difference, just to win.

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25 Comments

Filed under Elections, Politics, Poverty, Scottish Politics

25 responses to “Looking ahead to May 2015

  1. keaton

    “Labour will certainly get the majority in 2015″ – Certainly? The analysis you link to at Electoral Calculus states that, on average, governments since 1983 experience a 6% swingback in the year before a general election, and that this would put us into hung parliament territory. It also says that with a 7% swingback, the Tories get a majority.

    Of course, the collapse of the Lib Dems and the rise of UKIP are wild cards which weren’t a factor in earlier elections. But according to Oddschecker, not a single bookie has a Labour majority in 2015 at odds-on. They don’t believe it’s probable, let alone certain!

    • But according to Oddschecker, not a single bookie has a Labour majority in 2015 at odds-on. They don’t believe it’s probable, let alone certain!

      Hm. I think you’re a bit inexperienced in looking at bookie odds. In fact all of the bookies are offering a Labour majority in the next Parliament as a pretty safe bet. (Granted, they all also think “no overall majority” is an even safer bet, but in no case is there any very big difference between the two outcomes.)

      You may find it easier to understand if I explain it to you in tenners. Say you decide to expend £10 betting on each of the probable election outcomes in 2015. The biggest gap between “No overall majority” and “Labour majority” is with a bookie called BetVictor. Bet £10 on “No overall majority”, and BetVictor will give you £11 back if you win. Safe odds: probable outcome. Bet £10 on Labour majority, and BetVictor will give you £13.75 back if you win. That’s slightly worse odds than the first bet, but any gambler would tell you: it’s still pretty safe.

      Bet £10 on a Conservative majority and BetVictor will give you £30 back if you win. That’s fairly standard for bookies giving odds on a Conservative majority. Best odds I can see for that are 5/2 at BetFred – that would get you £25 back on your tenner if the Tories won. (But BetFred are also offering 11/8 on N.O.M. (£13.75 back on your tenner) and 6/4 on Labour majority (£15 back on your tenner.)

      The analysis you link to at Electoral Calculus states that, on average, governments since 1983 experience a 6% swingback in the year before a general election, and that this would put us into hung parliament territory.

      Quite. But, this is not an average government. The Conservatives lost the election as they have lost every election since 1992: the Liberal Democrats did as well as their supporters expected them to – and then went and propped up a party that a majority of their voters actually oppose. There’s nowhere for a swingback to come from.

      t also says that with a 7% swingback, the Tories get a majority.

      No bookie is offering odds of a Conservative majority at much better than 3 to 1 against. That’s a gambler’s bet, not a safe bet… and all the other possible options are very long shot odds.

      • keaton

        I’m unclear how any of that contradicts my statement that the bookies don’t believe a Labour majority is “probable”. By that I mean, they believe there’s more chance that Labour will fail to get a majority than that they will succeed. You mention BetFred’s 6/4, which implies a 40% chance that Labour will achieve a majority, and a 60% chance that they will not. Not sure how you can call that “certain”.

        I don’t know what gambler would describe an 11/10 bet as “safe”. It’s a subjective term, but I would suggest that a bet which is more likely to lose than to win unarguably fails to merit the term.

        There are other indicators, of course. I see today’s Ashcroft poll has the Tories in the lead for the first time since 2012. An outlier, I expect, but troubling for Labour that it’s even possible at this stage.

        • I don’t know what gambler would describe an 11/10 bet as “safe”.

          I don’t know any gambler that wouldn’t. Nor do I know any bookie who would regard odds of 6/4 as odds for an improbable outcome.

          which implies a 40% chance that Labour will achieve a majority, and a 60% chance that they will not.

          Nope. What it means is that if you bet a tenner with BetFred on a Labour majority, you will win only £15 if Labour gets the majority. (You see, it’s unwise to cite “bookie odds” without understanding how bookies lay odds…)

          • keaton

            Nope.

            I wonder, then, what you consider to be the implied probability of a 6/4 price.

            What it means is that if you bet a tenner with BetFred on a Labour majority, you will win only £15 if Labour gets the majority.

            Yes. Meanwhile, the same stake on NOM will win you only £13.75. Because that is deemed the more likely result.

            All of which is rather tangential to my original point: that the odds on a Lab majority show that the markets, at least, consider such an outcome to be rather far from “certain”.

          • I wonder, then, what you consider to be the implied probability of a 6/4 price.

            3 to 2.

            Meanwhile, the same stake on NOM will win you only £13.75. Because that is deemed the more likely result.

            Fractionally so, yes. As I discussed at more length in the comment you didn’t read.

            All of which is rather tangential to my original point: that the odds on a Lab majority show that the markets, at least, consider such an outcome to be rather far from “certain”.

            And by “rather far” you mean “quite likely”? That’s what the bookies think: that’s why they’re offering such low odds on Labour getting the majority.

  2. It is remarkable how today’s Conservative and Unionist party is so busy destroying so much of the British institutional structure and place in the world that it risks sleepwalking the Union out of existence. Anyone would think they mean it (if we didn’t already have abundant evidence of their incompetence) and will settle for being the English National Party.

    The risk is that, once again, the turnout for 2015 will be so low as to risk all legitimacy for whichever government comes in. It’s been far too long since the “winning” party got more voters out to support it than stayed at home.

    • Well, it would still be the Conservative and Unionist Party in the United Kingdom of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland even if Yes got the majority.

      But yes. It’s one of the reforms I’d really like to see instituted (and doubt I ever will): if the majority of the electorate don’t vote, the election is deemed void and has to be re-run in a month – no candidates who stood at the past election allowed to stand again.

      (I also like the idea of compulsory voting, not forced on people by fines but rewarded with a tenner when you hand in your ballot. Each party standing a candidate could have the right to choose a charity and all voters get to drop their £10 in a charity box if they want to or to walk out the door with their tenner if they prefer. But I only want it to be compulsory to vote if you get to tick the “None of the above” box and if a majority do so then re-run the election.)

      • keaton

        Do any countries have this system of a 50% turnout requirement? It’d be interesting to see how that works out. I strongly doubt that the likes of council elections would ever attain that level – the last one in Scotland was 39%, and that was the highest in the UK – so we would basically never have any local government.

        • Not as far as I know. Some countries have compulsory voting, which necessarily results in much higher turnouts. Elected politicians obviously wouldn’t care for a system in which voter apathy could cost them their job.

  3. Tim

    People might find this blog entry from Lallands Peat Warrior interesting re the upcoming elections: http://lallandspeatworrier.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/europe-through-looking-glass.html
    PS.: UK Labour have now been overtaken by the Tories as confirmed by two polls reported in yesterday’s Guardian. Labour used to have 15% lead in January 2013 which dropped to 3% this March and now the Tories are in the lead. Miliband’s approval ratings are so bad that even swing voters aren’t trusting him. Even Gideon’s approval ratings went up to -14. Expect the Tory lead to stay put at the very least. I personally fully expect the Tories to enjoy another five years in government after the 2015 UK election; the only question is whether they’ll have a working majority or whether they’ll form a coalition with the Lib Dems or UKIP.

    • While I’d love to read this poll as “Labour discovers the hard way why it was a big mistake to try to be just as right-wing as the Tories”, I should note that the Guardian correctly reports that this is a surprising result – the Sunday polls still show the usual Labour lead – and in opinion polling, it is always a mistake to pick out one poll and declare that one set of data to be correct. The general trend in opinion polling is what to look at – only time (and more polls) will tell if this is an odd blip or a genuine fall in approval ratings as Labour veers steadily rightwards.

      I personally fully expect the Tories to enjoy another five years in government after the 2015 UK election; the only question is whether they’ll have a working majority or whether they’ll form a coalition with the Lib Dems or UKIP.

      Wishful thinking on your part; currently the data doesn’t support such a conclusion, which – however welcome to you – would be nightmarish for most of us.

  4. Tim

    I pointed out that TWO polls were showing a Conservative lead and Labour’s lead has been declining since January 2013. My point still stands: Labour should have been out of the Tories’ sight and with these two polls indicating that they have now lost that slender lead, it is reasonable to predict that Labour will not regain the initiative in the 11 month run up to the 2015 UK election. It is also clear from historical results that no prime ministerial candidate has ever won office with their personal approval rating being worse than their party’s, and Miliband’s ratings are significantly worse than Labour’s. He is a dead man walking and anyone intending to vote No because they think Labour will come to Scotland’s rescue in 2015 will be in for a nasty surprise in the shape of another Conservative govt and in the worst case scenario with one or two ministers from Nige’s Looney Party in the cabinet. The more pertinent question to ask though is: even if Miliband had a chance, would anyone in their right mind trust him and his cabinet to devolve more power to Scotland?

    • I pointed out that

      No, you didn’t “point out” anything: you didn’t provide a link to either of the polls.

      Nor have you pointed out anything now, because you still haven’t provided any links.

      I found the Guardian report of the single poll which shows Conservatives ahead, and provided a link to it for the sake of improving the quality of discussion.

      You did link to Lallans Peat Worrier, who is lovely, but not actually a news site. (I found his blog analysing the polls very interesting and thoughtful: kudos to you for the heads-up, shame you didn’t benefit more by reading it.)

      anyone intending to vote No because they think Labour will come to Scotland’s rescue in 2015 will be in for a nasty surprise

      Ah, you’re one of those SNP campaigners who can’t think of a single positive reason for voting Yes so goes with attacking the Opposition. Not the Tories, of course; just Labour.

  5. Tim

    Thing is, Labour should know better than to throw their lot in with the Tories. Labour also failed to repeal the Bedroom Tax which they could have done if several of their MPs, including Scottish ones like Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown, had bothered to show up for a vote. Labour’s Devo Nano plans are badly thought out and on past record, Labour has only given Scotland more powers because they were pressurised by the independence movement. Gordon Brown’s behaviour testifies to that: in 2007 he told the Scotsman that more devolution was not on the cards only for the Labour party to cynically perform a turnaround after the first SNP election victory and introduce the Calman Commission. More of the same followed when the SNP won again in 2011. Stuff like the income tax won’t actually be devolved until 2016 by which point it might be a moot point anyway if the majority of the country votes for independence.
    I have outlined my reasons for voting Yes in your older “Leaning towards No” thread:

    -> democratisation of our political voting system (getting the government WE voted for, not the people of the South East of England), meaning that if Scottish Labour gets its act together and behaves like a real socialist party with the interests of the SCOTTISH people at heart, it might just win the next 2016 Scottish election (though considering that 7 years after losing to the SNP they’re still acting like it’s their God-gven right to govern, I think it’ll take Scottish Labour longer than the next Scottish election unless Labour for Independence takes over in which case I’d gladly consider voting for them rather than the SNP)
    -> getting rid of Trident
    -> using the money freed up by removing Trident to improve childcare and life expectancy in Scotland
    -> a Yes vote ensures that our block grant no longer gets reduced in accordance with English public spending
    -> related directly to the point above: having full control over public expenditure guarantees that the Scottish NHS stays public rather than having to worry about the block grant being so heavily reduced by Westminster in the long run that we can no longer fund a public NHS and may have to privatise our NHS in part or altogether
    -> renationalise the Royal Mail in Scotland
    -> ensuring that money ringfenced for defence gets spent on a new Scottish defense (by comparison, Westminster only spends £1.6bn of the close to £4bn we pay the Treasury each year
    -> having our foreign policy interests properly represented in Europe and across the world
    -> investing in a sovereign oil fund like Norway has done, except right from the get go
    -> having a Scottish constitution set up by a committee from across the political, social and cultural spectrum
    -> being able to set up our own immigration policy which, if current events are anything to go by, would be in sharp contrast to English policy across the border

    Positive enough?

    I am baffled as to why you seem to take umbrage to my explicit criticism of Labour. We all know the Tories can’t be trusted and Iain Duncan Smith’s policies especially are criminal. Labour used to be trustworthy for the most part but that went all to pieces with the Blair/Brown era from 1997 onwards. Scottish Labour is merely an extension of UK Labour and UK Labour does not care about Scotland at all. The current state of Scottish Labour is utterly unacceptable and they have to be humiliated so that they get the message and return to their true Labour roots. Many of my friends were Labour supporters and you know what they say? “I didn’t leave the Labour party. The Labour party left me”. Having seen the behaviour of the likes of Johann Lamont, Anas Sarwar, Jackie Baillie and worse people like Gordon Brown (he who infamously devalued people’s pensions while chancellor and now has the gall to frighten pensioners across the country into voting No by telling them blanket lies about how vulnerable their pensions would be in an Indy Scotland), Douglas Alexander and Alistair Darling, I can understand why more and more people no longer believe a single word Labour North and South of the border say.

    • I am baffled as to why you seem to take umbrage to my explicit criticism of Labour.

      You actually make a lot of very valid points about Labour. Of course, as an SNP partisan, you’re not going to make any criticisms of the SNP’s policies.

      What I took umbrage at was your claiming in an earlier you’d “pointed out two polls” when you’d provided links to neither: also, like any SNP campaigner, using the polls about the General Election 2015 as a reason to vote Yes. I find SNP partisans who focus on attacking Labour as a reason for voting Yes to be tiresome and annoying.

  6. Tim

    I would also appreciate if you’d stop labelling me an SNP campaigner. I’m campaigning for a Yes vote as part of the grassroots movement.

  7. Tim

    It really should have occurred to you that it is possible to be very critical of Labour’s record and behaviour in this campaign and not be an SNP partisan (ever watched Allan Grogan from Labour for Independence? if his argument for Independence, i.e. the chance to reclaim the Labour party in Scotland is not the most damning verdict of current Labour then I don’t know what is). If anything, you’ll find that former Labour supporters are angrier about Labour’s role in all of this than “SNP partisans”. If you find it annoying that people rightly point out Labour’s chances of winning in 2015 are getting slimmer by the day and that this surely has to be considered as a repercussion on Scotland when people are contemplating to vote No, then well tough luck. You think I sound like an SNP campaigner; well I think you sound like someone who, while they don’t currently want to vote Yes, actually doesn’t want to vote No and, more to the point, would be uncomfortable with voting No because you, as an intelligent and informed person, are fully aware of the very serious consequences of a No vote. You don’t want to vote No which is why you are reacting adversely to warnings that the South of England may well vote the Tories back in. Considering what the Tories have done, the increasingly likely prospect of at least five more years of austerity and assinine policies is not just a good reason for SNP partisans to vote Yes but for pretty much everyone else who will be voting for Independence on Sept 18. A final point: UK Labour are virtually indistinguishable from the Tories in their policies as Ed Balls has already made clear that austerity would continue under Labour if at a slower pace and smaller in scale. It follows from there that even if Labour were to win in 2015 it won’t make an ounce of a real difference to people here in Scotland. We’d get the income tax powers in 2016 which it took the Calman Commission several years to agree on. Woohoo! Feel the power, folks! I’ll take self-governing over breadcrumbs of devolved tax powers any day.

    • It really should have occurred to you that it is possible to be very critical of Labour’s record and behaviour in this campaign and not be an SNP partisan

      Naturally. I am very critical of Labour’s record and behaviour*, but, unlike you, I am not an SNP partisan.

      *For evidence, click on Labour in the tags to the right and take a look.

      If anything, you’ll find that former Labour supporters are angrier about Labour’s role in all of this than “SNP partisans”.

      Oh, I can manage to be angry at both, but yeah, I’m angry with Labour. Of course, the SNP have screwed up so hugely that I have to vote No, but I guess I feel bottomless contempt for them: they haven’t earned my anger. But, unlike you, I’m proceeding on the facts and the evidence. I also know how to provide links to support my argument, which it appears you don’t.

  8. Tim

    “Naturally. I am very critical of Labour’s record and behaviour*, but, unlike you, I am not an SNP partisan.” Wow, could you be more condescending with your blanket assumptions please, that would be awesome.

    “But, unlike you, I’m proceeding on the facts and the evidence.”

    Now that is comedy gold.

    “I also know how to provide links to support my argument, which it appears you don’t.”

    first poll: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/12/conservatives-poll-lead-ashcroft

    second poll: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/12/support-labour-drops-tories-lead-guardian-icm-poll

    “I guess I feel bottomless contempt for them” Glad we cleared that one up.

    • Wow, could you be more condescending with your blanket assumptions please

      I’m making no “blanket assumptions”, Tim. I’ve just mirrored back your own condescending tone. If you don’t like it, I suggest you don’t dish it out.

      Congratulations on learning how to cut-and-paste a link! Next week, perhaps you could learn how to format HTML?

  9. Tim

    “Congratulations on learning how to cut-and-paste a link!”

    Except that I already knew how to cut and paste, see the Lallands Peat Worrier link in my post dated 13/05/2014 at 6:05 pm. D’oh!

    First she sidesteps the pointed remark about planning to vote No despite knowing full well that a No vote is not risk-free either, then she does herself and her blog no favours by having a cheap shot at those readers who question her stance and attitude.

    Hope you like the sound of your own voice because at this rate, you won’t have a receptive audience anymore soon. Ta ta…..

  10. keaton

    3 to 2.

    Under what arithmetical system is that not equivalent to 60/40?

    Meanwhile, the same stake on NOM will win you only £13.75. Because that is deemed the more likely result.

    Fractionally so, yes. As I discussed at more length in the comment you didn’t read.

    If outcome A is fractionally more likely than outcome B, it is impossible for outcome B to be “certain”.

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