A semi-regular question I get asked here is why Yougov, with a panel of 250,000 people, can’t do polls with much larger sample sizes so we can see what is happening in a particular type of seat, region, county, city and so on. A normal voting intention poll does tell us how the parties are doing compared to last month, or last year or the last election in terms of overall popularity, but they really are quite limited in terms of telling us what would happen at an election. To do that, we need to know what is happening in different parts of the country, different “battlegrounds”, seats of different marginality (or in a perfect world, individual seats). With the normal sample size of around 2000 we can’t do that, though it doesn’t stop people trying: I’ve given up telling people that the cross-break for respondents in Scotland in a standard poll is so small as to be utterly meaningless.

The reason huge polls allowing us to look at small groups of seats hasn’t happened before is the cost. For YouGov every person they ask costs an extra 50p, for companies conducting phone polls, every interview takes an extra 20 minutes or so of phone charges and interviewer’s wages. Few newspapers would cough up that amount of money for a poll that would be fascinating for activists, anoraks and apparatchiks, but wouldn’t be much better at selling papers than an ordinary poll. Enough beating around the bush, PoliticsHome has gone for it: a poll of 34,000 odd people, in marginal seats, with the fieldwork carried out by YouGov. To declare my interest – the survey design and analysis was almost entirely done by me.

How we did it was a bit different from usual. Firstly, we didn’t lump all marginal seats into one big pile and assume that they all behaved together. Instead we split them into different sub-groups of seats that we thought had shared attributes – so all those seaside towns on the Conservative target list were taken as a single group, all the commuter seats around London were grouped together, the group of marginals in West Yorkshire was another, those in the East Midlands along the M1, the Metropolitan West Midlands were taken together and so on. We also took out different battleground seats, so Lib Dem held seats in the South West were treated seperately, so were Lib Dem seats elsewhere, and Lib Dem vs Labour seats. Naturally, Scottish and Welsh marginals were also treated seperately. This shows some clear trends, with the Conservatives doing noticably better or worse in different parts of the country.

Secondly was the way we asked the question. Past marginal polls in seats contested between Labour and the Conservatives haven’t tended to be that bad, but seats where the Lib Dems are in contention have normally produced bizarre results showing the Lib Dems facing annihilation, even when they haven’t been doing that badly nationwide. My theory is that this is because when people are asked how they would vote in “an election tomorrow” they give their national party preference, which isn’t necessarily the same as how they would vote in their own seat. For example, a Labour supporter living in Cornwall might say Labour if asked how he would vote in a poll, but actually vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats in his own seat to keep the Tories out. A Conservative supporter in Lewes, for example, might say Conservative in a poll on how he would vote, but actually vote Lib Dem in his own seat because he admired Norman Baker.

The Liberal Democrats benefit the most from tactical voting and from “incumbency vote”, so disproportionately suffer in polls like this. Hence in this poll we used different questions: first we asked how people would vote “in an election tomorrow”, then we asked them whether they voted for their first preference or tactically, then we asked them to consider their own seat, the situation there and the parties and candidates that were likely to stand. This didn’t make a vast difference in most seats (though there was evidence of a personal vote for Labour incumbents too, albeit a smaller one), but it made a massive difference in Liberal Democrat seats – it really did make the difference between annihilation for the party, and relatively limited losses.

Anyway, enough teasing you – the report is published and available for download from the PoliticsHome website here. I’ve written a lot of in depth analysis of the data for PoliticsHome’s report which can be downloaded on their website, so rather than regurgitate it here I’d urge you to go and download the report from there and read it yourself. As well as voting intention there is a huge amount of stuff on messages, what would make floating voters switch, what drives peoples votes and so on – plus three articles by me on what I think the strategic lessons for each party should be.

To summarise the voting intention bit, it projects a Conservative majority of 146 seats – the full top line figures are the Conservatives on 398 seats, Labour on 160 and the Lib Dems on 44. The important part of the study though is to show where the swing is larger or smaller, and how well the Liberal Democrats are doing against Labour and the Conservatives.

Firstly, the common perception is that the Conservatives are doing badly in the North, so-so in the Midlands and best in the South. The actual picture is somewhat different. The Conservatives worst regions are Scotland (no surprise at all there – the anti-Labour vote has gone almost entirely to the SNP), parts of the North and, perhaps surprisingly to some, London. In the North the Conservatives are doing comparatively badly in West Yorkshire, which tallies with the poor local election results they’ve had there, and Cumbria. However, in the rest of the North-West they are doing very well, as they are in the North-East – though there are few seats there where a Conservative swing will translate into seats gained. The comparatively poor Conservative performance in London actually tallies with the mayoral elections, which saw Boris Johnson winning the race, but not on the sort of huge swing that national polls would have suggested (and alternative interpretation, of course, could be that Boris in power has put people off the Tories!).

Where the Conservatives are doing best is not the South, the London commuter belt is actually pretty average for them. Their strongest showing is in the Midlands, producing some surprising projections such as Geoff Hoon’s Ashfield falling and the Conservatives winning a seat in Coventry.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the poll are the Lib Dem findings. Standard national polls throughout this Parliament have been very poor for the Liberal Democrats (the last couple of days have been an exception, but we won’t know for weeks whether that is anything more than a temporary conference boost), and their supporters have been consoling themselves with claims that Lib Dems seats don’t necessarily reflect the polls and how the personal vote of their MPs somehow shields them from drops in support, Chris Huhne wrote an article making exactly that sort of argument on LibDemVoice a week or two ago. Under normal circumstances though all of this is guesswork: we really don’t have the evidence to judge. This poll gives us some.

The topline results of the poll show a swing of about 5 points from the Lib Dems to the Conservatives, enough for them to lose 19 or so seats, but not the sort of slaughter that uniform swing calculators normally project. The bad news is that the gains from Labour that the Lib Dems hope will counter-balance any losses to the Conservatives have almost entirely failed to materialise. In seats that are marginal between Labour and the Liberal Democrats the anti-Labour vote is going to the Conservatives (which in effect, means Labour hold most of these seats). The consolation for the Liberal Democrats is that relatively few people in these seats realise they are in a Lab/LD marginal – if the party can successfully position themselves as THE party to beat Labour in those seats, something they have great experience in doing, they could do far better in those seats and start gaining Labour seats to balance losses to the Tories.

Looking beneath the surface in those Lib Dems seats though produces some fascinating results – without the “locally prompted” question I mentioned earlier the Lib Dems really would be facing annihilation, but asking how people will vote in their own local constituency produces incredibly different results in Lib Dem seats, with much, much higher Lib Dem support. That’s partially tactical voting, but it’s also likely to be down to Lib Dem MPs’ personal votes which, as Chris Huhne suggested, probably really are much bigger than those of many MPs from other parties. One of the other things we asked in the survey was for people to rate their MPs on the attributes they considered important and, on almost every count, people with Lib Dem MPs rating their own MP far more highly than constituents of Labour and Conservative MPs rated theirs. Lib Dem supporters often claim their MPs work harder or perform better or are more popular or similar stuff, and most other people dismiss it as partisan guff – but in the perception of voters, it’s true.

Anyway, the full report is here to read.

(Before someone else spots it, a mea culpa. Obviously if 33% of people in Twickenham thought Zac Goldsmith was their Tory candidate they would have been horribly mistaken, it was 33% of people in Richmond Park and they were quite correct. Unfortunately Andrew Rawnsley spotted my rather shameful error after the report went to print. Ooops)


44 Responses to “PoliticsHome marginals poll”

  1. Amazing!

    It has Glasgow East as a Labour hold!!! Interesting that Labour would be wiped out in Cardiff with Alistair Darling just narrowly clinging on in Edinburgh. I’ve had a hunch that Labour could get wiped out in both cities and now I will take a punt on that!

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  2. IO – I didn’t put Glasgow East as one of the seats to poll (unlike other by-election seats I thought might be unusual), so the projection there is based purely on the swing on Scottish seats in marginal seats, and from the 2005 result that wouldn’t be enough for the SNP to “gain” it.

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  3. Anthony it was meant to be tongue in cheek, but it’s been a long day at the day for me!!

    Do you know how Darling will narrowly hold on from??

    Regards

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  4. Typo,

    That should read “long day at the bar”

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  5. AW

    Very interesting but can I ask if any polling was done in South Yorkshire?

    If there are Conservative gains in Derbyshire NE and Ashfield I think there will be also in Stocksbridge & Penistone, Rother Valley and Don Valley as well.

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  6. Richard – nothing relevant to the Conservative/Labour race (Sheffield Hallam is there as a Con -vs- LD seat). Generally speaking seats polled were chosen by marginality, so nothing in South Yorkshire was close enough to be included.

    In projections beyond the seats polled I’ve assumed South Yorkshire will behave like West Yorkshire, which would mean the Conservatives wouldn’t gain anything there.

    If they behave more like the East Midlands, then obviously things would be different, but that’s a judgement call. Remember the polling in the East Midlands was places like Broxtowe, Amber Valley, Corby, Gedling and so on – which aren’t necessarily as similar to South Yorks as places like Ashfield might be.

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  7. “In projections beyond the seats polled I’ve assumed South Yorkshire will behave like West Yorkshire, which would mean the Conservatives wouldn’t gain anything there.”

    Thanks but I would say that’s an easy mistake to make!

    West Yorkshire is textiles with a large Asian minority and a tradition of ‘working class Tories’.

    South Yorkshire is coal and steel and almost 99% white with a strong Labour union tradition.

    Next time you should have a separate category for ‘Labour heartlands’ with constituencies in South Yorkshire and Durham!

    Even so I think the West Yorkshire swing is 10.5% and the East Midlands is 16%. If South Yorkshire falls between them the three constituencies I mentioned will go Conservative.

    I think I read a reference in the report to the Conservatives doing relatively poorly in West Yorkshire. I think that will change now that Gordon has decided that Halifax jobs are expendable.

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  8. If the strength of the Lib Dems in the SW is due to the popularity of the incumbents then surely Cornwall SE will go blue since Colin Breed isn’t standing?

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  9. Richard – my fear when designing the poll was that I would do too few seats and the Conservatives would go off the end of the scale. I thought 238 seats would be enough, lo and behold it wasn’t, and in several regions I should have polled more distant hopes (or as you suggest, set them up into a “ex-mining, Labour heartland” group or something like that). Still – next time!

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  10. A fantastic piece of work. Thanks very much for so much effort Anthony. :)

    Do you think we may get another one of these in the run up to the general election? (Thats assuming the election isn’t called until 2010, of course)

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  11. It’s a splendid piece of work and I certainly didn’t want to sound ungrateful in any way!

    Are there any detailed breakdowns of the results for those of us who want to compare the results of Dewsbury and Batley?

    Also, why wasn’t Morley & Outwood polled? Perhaps next time a group for potential Portillos of 2010 ;-)

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  12. Someone – possibly, or possibly people will assume that a new Lib Dem MP will be as good as Colin Breed is and let him “transfer” some of his personal vote onwards.

    GIN – who knows?

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  13. Yes. Great Work!

    I think I’ve heard it said that the West Midlands is the key area for predicting elections. This report seems to bear that out, because the biggest swing was there.

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  14. There is a small glitch on the report on the PH site. The links for West Midlands and Urban West Midlands both go to the same place.

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  15. Ironically although the swing to the Conservatives is relatively small in West Yorkshire they still gain all their target seats. I would also expect them to gain the unpolled Morley & Outwood from Labour and Leeds NW from the LibDems.

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  16. Well looking at the Scottish results on page 28 I am pretty happy and it tells me really what I had expected.

    We are doing really well and while Labour loses badly and neither the Tories or the Libdems making large gains or loses.

    The Tories gain three and we take one from the LibDems, but by and large the story is we gain nine ( eight from Labour) and Labour lose eleven ( eight to us three to the tories).

    On top of our current seven ( although I’d doubt we’d keep Glasgow East) these nine would take us up to fifteen which if you include the eight possibles in the bold paragraph at the bottom actually take us over Alex Salmonds election target of twenty seats.

    Assuming these fall too and are all from Labour we would, have asuming no changes elsewhere from other parties;

    Labour 21 (-16), LibDems 11 (-1) Tory 4 (+3) SNP 23 (+16) which would actually make the SNP the largest party in Scotland.

    Remebering that ‘ve only recently moved on my prediction of ten but twelve with luck, to the SNP maybe getting as many as fifteen these really are potentially amazing figures.

    We won’t know what the real outcome is till after the conference season and if I have an issue with the survey it could be that the time it was taken over might mean that people polled were influenced by different stories in the media.

    That shouldn’t be seen s a criticism more just the nature of doing this kind of large scale poll.

    Peter.

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  17. its about time we had a poll done for safe seats a think we would be in for a shock if someone did

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  18. Stuart

    I assume you mean ‘safe’ Labour seat? If so I’d love to see that too.

    Of the Lab/Con constituencies I think in only 3 were Labour still ahead – Edinbrugh SW (I expect that was a 3 way dead heat) and Copeland and Workington in Cumbria.

    Polling Labour constituencies with a majority of 20%+ would have given more relevant results than those with a majority of less than 5%.

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  19. Anthony,

    I may be wrong but I’m almost sure that national results map has Meon Valley as LD and Winchester as Tory. My guess is that someone has been confused by the new boundaries which created Meon Valley as a new seat.

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  20. Anthony, I haven’t read it all yet but what I have suggests this is a tremendous piece of work which answers so many questions. So well done!

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  21. Wow! It’s like Christmas has come early!

    You did well keeping that under your hat, Anthony…

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  22. An excellent piece of work Anthony , which gives a good indication as to what would have happened in a GE held 2 months ago – but of course a GE wasn’t held then . The recent post conference LibDem boost would no doubt have given a different picture if the survey were conducted again now and no doubt the position would change again after the other 2 party conferences .

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  23. I’d be surprised if the Lib Dems were to lose Dunfermline to the SNP. It was a gain at Holyrood last year with the SNP rampant across the rest of Scotland, why would Willie Rennie lose now?

    Also, the Lib Dems should be the main challengers in Edinburgh South, Edinburgh North and Leith and probably Aberdeen South. I’ve got high hopes of our being able to establish ourselves as the party most likely to beat Labour in these seats. I think we’ll be in with a shout in Glasgow North as well.

    Very interesting stuff – good to see that the incumbency effect isn’t just a product of Lib Dem wishful thinking.

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  24. richard-

    the vote in safe seats if it was ever done would be labour seats beacuse i don’t think that the lib dems have maney safe seats at all so would be hard to poll on that set up, but yes a few upsets would happen if the safe labour seats were polled

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  25. You’ve certainly made some waves with this poll Anthony. Its been featured on BBC news bulletins and even the front page of The Observer. I think PoliticsHome has arrived! :D

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  26. This is an excellent poll, and much much more helpful than the standard aggregate ones that appear. Thank you pollsters, including Anthony.

    One minor point, mot much salience has been given to the the dates on which the data was collected. I assume that the processing lag was longer than for conventional approximately 1,000 sample polls.

    A methodological point which is alarming for Labour is that a poll like this should ideally look at seats which are likely to be close in terms of what is known before the time is taken. This poll, understandably, appears to look at seats which are esier for the Tories than their target seat 200. However, things are so bad for Labour that in many of the sub-samples (e.g. Coastal seats) this selection simply shows a Labour wipeout. We don’t really know where the tide is stopping. People have expressed interest in Glasgow East, although the by-election majority there was so small that Labour would be in an even worse state than this poll suggests if they could not at least retake that seat. But there are other signficant seats one would now like to know about. For instance, would Labour actually manage to hold Bristol South as a last toehold in Southern England? Given that swings appear yet again to be larger in the South than in the North, Bristol South no longer looks at seat to be taken for granted. Similarly, one would like to know about Labour’s safer seats in London. In 1983/1987, London seats enabled Labour to avoid lokking totally a regional party. If Labour goes down to say a dozen seats in London (despite regaining Galloway’s seat), they really will be in terminal trouble.

    It is notable that this poll is suggesting that the Tories will take a number of seats on which I have commented and which the “anorak’s consensus”, if one can put it that way, as expressed in comments, is that Labour will hold on. This includes particularly Cardiff West and South. Other seats to which this comment applies include Ashfield, Dover, Reading West and Tooting. I have personally been more pessismistic for Labour than many contributors (I am a floating voter these days, so it is not through partisanship), for instance in relation to Southampton Itchen. It rather looks as though voters would tend towards Labour are wanting to give an unpopular Government a kicking, which is giving Labour particularly bad prospects in they seats that on national polls they would expect to save narrowly.

    The combined import of my previous points is that the Poll may be understating the predicted Tory majority. Specifically, there may well be some nasty surprises hiding away and waiting to be sprung on Labour amongst Tory targets seats 200 – 250 (approximately) that were not selected for inclusion in this survey.

    A final caveat I want to make as I make frequent contribtuions to this site commenting on individual seats. The pollsters are, understandably given the high, if worthwhile, cost of this survey which Anthony Wells points out, charging to release information about individual seats. As an ordinary elector, as it happens not currently working, I am not in a position to make such purchases. So my future contributions to this site need to be taken with the qualification that they might be modified if the full information available in this survey were available to me.

    The bottom line is that the next General Election looks likely to be a “bloodbath” like 1983 or 1997, and the die is probably already set.

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  27. ‘The bottom line is that the next General Election looks likely to be a “bloodbath” like 1983 or 1997, and the die is probably already set.’

    Yes, interesting possible pattern developing of a birdbath every decade; swings and roundabouts seem a strong argument.

    And a great, great poll…

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  28. I agree that this is an excellent piece of work, Anthony, but I feel there are a couple of methodological errors which hold back its absolute validity.

    The categorisation of seats does much to disinter the ‘local effects’ we can expect to see, but nevertheless by not describing some constituencies as ‘special cases’ (such as Watford) – which have peculiar circumstances and are likely to behave erratically – skews the overall picture.

    Unfortunately by such miscategorising and extrapolation of selected local effects to see how the national picture is effected is only likely to exaggerate the number of seats which will change hands and exaggerate any Conservative gains.

    The picture is muddier that this study presents.

    I think you have done much to explain why the LDs are consistently stronger than flat swings predict, but nevertheless you still underestimate the localized conditions and effects they prosper from. Therefore their ability to wins seats ‘under the radar’ will continue to surprise the psephelogically minded.

    Additionally the campaigning base of each of the parties membership should not be ignored.

    Labour’s recognised ‘payroll vote’ is matched by its’ payroll campaign team. The ability to bus-in unionised activists to bolster any internally popular figures where they are weak does much to counterbalance the effect of national trends, so I suspect at least some of the isolated ‘southern bastions’ to be held by a sense of loyalism and a desire to resist the impending ‘wipeout’.

    In conclusion this poll should be taken as a warning for Cameron not to take his eye off the ball because the multiplicity of factors can both exaggerate expectations and modulate successes.

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  29. If Labour get rid of Brown, I believe the electoral system favours Labour such that a bloodbath *COULD* still be avoided. That would actually be prferable, because I don’t think having two parties swinging from one landslide to another is particularly healthy. Majorities between 40-60 are much better, IMO.

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  30. An excellent piece of work, Anthony.

    It would certainly be interesting to have a separate poll for Labour heartlands, and perhaps also safe Conservative seats to see if that party is piling up votes uselessly in them.

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  31. Richard makes a really good point about West Yorkshire when he refers to the likely HBOS redundancies. Press statements have confirmed the new Lloyds HBOS intention of trying to keep jobs in Scotland but not in West Yorkshire where HBOS has its major retail sites. If we’re seeing mass redundancies at the time of the election this won’t bode well for local economies or for Labour.

    What’s more, I know many HBOS colleagues who are angry that Gordon Brown practically claimed he told the two banks to merge to save the company when they know full well he hadn’t and his slow action to force the FSA to ban short-selling was too late.

    This could have an impact here.

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  32. The regional findings do broadly correspond with what I suspected.
    It has been clear for some time that London is not likely to be the Tories’ best area on swing – London does have high swing seats, but it also has a solid Labour vote that could stick out fairly sharply on the map of swing and has done at times before, even in 1983.

    The North West (outside W Yorks), and the West Midlands does seem to be an improving area for the Tories, more than seemed likely.

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  33. West Yorkshire is coming along very nicely for the Conservatives as there are 13 gains they make on a swing of upto 10% but very little more (Bradford South and Hemsworth) that they would gain for a much larger swing.

    I would say that there would be a much larger swing in South Yorkshire than West which is where the Conservatives need the greater swing.

    It almost seems that the size of the swing is proportional to what is required. The only exception being Cumbria perhaps caused by the divided nature of constituencies there.

    It’s a pity that City of York wasn’t polled as it would be compare it with Susan Wade Weekes’ reports.

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  34. Richard is correct – In 2008, West Yorkshire in particular changed quite strongly against 2007.

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  35. A most impressive piece of work, confirming LibDem vote speculations.

    Not least I welcome your turn of phrase “seats of different marginality”. That concept explains so much of the Scottish situation. Without consideration of these two factors, projections from national polls are little better than horoscopes.

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  36. Little better than horoscopes is over stating it, because presumably they are an aggregation of building blocks and seats. (We often seem to get special pleading posts about seats where the LDs have an interest).

    Nevertheless, I do generally take the view that we need to build forecasts from the bottom up, and parties are successful by winning seats, not vice versa.

    I think the next election will have regional differences, but it could provide a more even swing than a lot of people think – except in Scotland.

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  37. A flaw in the research which has not been addressed is the student vote in many university seats. The timing of the poll probably means that very few students were registering their ‘vote’ against the seat they may be registered in: seats affected in sucha way would be substantial and include: Oxford east, Cambridge, Manchester Wittington, Bristol West, the two Southampton seats, Newcastle central, Birmingham Yardley etc etc. How has this been allowed for?

    The study is unequivacal for amny seats there must be some that are within the margin of error for the poll. It would be good to see which seats are on the boundary of the results shown i.e. the result is within the margin of error of the survey

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  38. Glasgow East may surprise some with a SNP increase in their share of the poll. The attention that voters in this constituency received will only encourage them to do the same again.

    This was not a protest vote or a tactical vote.

    Inequality of many sorts is increasing, but class is no longer what it was and the alternate Westminster governance parties should no longer imagine that they own as of right a class-loyal and tribal vote.

    Combine that with the fact that the party of the left is perceived to be more responsive to the demands of the rich than the needs of the poor and the availability of the SNP and you have the makings of a new and enduring detatchment from the Westminster parties.

    Whether and if so when that might develop into support for independence is quite a different matter, but I can see nothing on the horizon which doesn’t look like good news for the SNP.

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  39. Thee HBOS Yorkshire vs Scotland issue cannot fail to damage Labour. The SNP have the luck to have an articulate ex-bank economist as their leader He is now working his contacts in the industry and is always up for making the most of any opportunity to beat a nationalist drum.

    It matters not whether he wins or loses.

    If he wins he is “standing up for Scotland,” has delivered when others would have failed, and perhaps Scotland could benefit from more of that.

    If he loses, then the Westminster elite have caused the problem but it wouldn’t have happened in an independent Scotland.

    BoS is an Edinburgh issue as well as a Scotland issue. Alistair Darling’s majority is at risk and HBOS redundancies could be all that is required to make the difference.

    If you were advising Labour strategists whether it would be better to take the damage in Halifax or Edinburgh, what would you tell them?

    I would tell them that Scottish Labour MP’s (not least the Chancellor) should go back to their constituencies and prepare for independence.

    Or on the basis of this poll, is Yorkshire lost to Labour too?

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  40. Jack:

    ‘The bottom line is that the next General Election looks likely to be a “bloodbath” like 1983 or 1997, and the die is probably already set.’

    Not at all so far as Scotland is concerned. It can get much worse for Labour with self harm yet to happen.

    I’m surprised by only one thing in the Scottish results of the poll: the number of possible Labour losses to SNP. The rest is remarkably consistent with my consideration of the past two elections result and asking what it would take for each constituency to change hands and whether that was possible. I hadn’t finished it, but it didn’t look as if the SNP would get near their target 20.

    This poll suggests they will exceed that number.

    If that is where we are now, and if present conditions continue, then even that total could be on the low side and a bandwagon effect could even result in some further LibDem losses.

    Even before this poll, recent local information in Argyll and Bute, (where I vote) had led me to expect an SNP win whereas I had previously thought a three way LibDem – Con – SNP marginal too difficult to predict.

    The inclusion of constituency was a good choice despite what is said above.

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  41. if i was ascot i would be saying that you be better to have a number of each party and n seats where you voted for the conservatives instead of the SNP then it would be wise to do so again edinbrough south west would be a start and then the rest of edinbrough and the south of scotland.

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  42. ‘The bottom line is that the next General Election looks likely to be a “bloodbath” like 1983 or 1997, and the die is probably already set.’

    Not at all so far as Scotland is concerned. It can get much worse for Labour with self harm yet to happen.

    Yes, I agree, I was speaking totally broadbrush. I think Scotland provides a fascinating alternative.

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  43. Stuart Gregory:

    We need a critical mass of Conservatives in the SP and, with PR, there they are under the leadership of Ms Goldie, the party leader more respected outwith her own party than any since Donald Dewar. Were they not hamstrung by ties to Westminster, and if they had rebranded to break the assocation with what Christian Schmidt has called “The Party of Thatcher,” they could be in government in Scotland even now.

    That does not apply to Westminster where their voice would not be heard. A Scottish Labour MP, as part of a group critical to the majority, might have more influence were it not that so many of them are willing to put party loyalty before commonsense or even self interest.

    An SNP MP can get attention all right. 20+ will be enough to have an impact on public opinion in England. How many more do they need (joining with PC) to get as much attention from broadcasters as do the LibDems?

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