Tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph reports that CrosbyTextorPepper have repeated their poll of the 30 seats seats most vulnerable to the Conservatives (last time they did it I believe they used the top thirty seats on this list). The breakdown in support in these seats stands at CON 44%, LAB 20%, LDEM 18%. At the last election support in these seats stood at CON 38%, LAB 31%, LDEM 25%, so the poll represents a swing of 8.5%, the equivalent of a 14 point national lead for the Conservatives, so much in line with national polling.

When CrosbyTextor last polled these seats (see my reports here and here), back in late June 2008, the figures were CON 49%, LAB 20%, LDEM 21% – so this poll actually shows the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats down on last year – not that this should come as a particular surprise to us, given that in June last year the national polls were giving the Tories leads of around 20 points.

This is assuming that the Sunday Telegraph figures are excluding don’t knows and wouldn’t votes – last year they published figures including them, and I had to get the tables from CrosbyTextor/Flying Matters in order to get the comparable repercentaged figures.

The poll was conducted between the 1st and 11th July.

107 Responses to “New CrosbyTextorPepper poll of marginal seats”

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  1. The only Scottish constuency is the 30th which will be decided on local factors such as incumbency, expenses, and the MP’s effectiveness especially in dealing with local issues.

    For that reason inferences from polling in one constituency are all but irrelevant for any other.

    Even as a group SNP/Con seats are few, and for those who believe that elections are lost, not won, a SNP or LibDem incumbent is in a favourable position.

    Even if the SLD in Argyll and Bute manages to lose enough votes to fall behind the Con, the critical question is how these votes break. The third placed SNP is likely to garner a greater proportion than the second placed Con, so IF the seat changes hands it won’t go to the challenger. I wouldn’t bet on the winner, but the Conservative will be second.

    The Cons are certain to gain only one additional seat, have an outside chance in three more and would need to be very lucky in their opponents to gain all of them.

  2. Seen the Scotsman Scottish polling headline figures:

    Lab: 32
    SNP: 30
    Lib: 15

    But naturally I entirely dismiss some of it (not least because it the average taken from all those dogey, and mostly irelevant Scots samples in UK polls).

    However the tory figure strikes me as dead on for Scotland, we will poll nationally across Scotland in the region of 17-20%.


    in the key marginals in Scotland our vote is signifcantly higher than the Scots national poll base- the borders we scored 34% in the borders (in a YouGov Scottish only poll which rather rarely included regional breakdowns for Scotland), this was matched with the 32% (i think) in the borders in the euros- this boads well for the three seats there, and lets not forget that we topped the polls in East Renfrew, and same within 110 votes of topping the Edinburgh polls in the euros too.

    However the Labour % is too high, the SNP is roughly correct (though we could do with some fresh polling from Scotland after funny season draws to an end).

    The Liberal 15% is the very most they are likely to get.
    I suspect their real % support base lies around 11-14%

  3. Dean,

    You really can’t have it both ways you know.

    As you point out this is an aggregate of several polls covering July to create a meaningful sample.

    As such it suffers from not being a single snapshot or having been properly weighted, it’s made up of a series of subsets that were unweighted parts of larger weighted polls.

    Howver you then go on to quote the 34% in the Borders which itself was an unweighted sub sample from a larger poll.

    I had a look on the Yougov archive and couldn’t find one with regional breakdowns, but given that the sample size would have been under 2,000 before weighting, and there are eight regions the borders sample would probably be less than 250 and unweighted.

    Oh and I like the line;

    “However the tory figure strikes me as dead on for Scotland, we will poll nationally across Scotland in the region of 17-20%.”

    If 17% is dead on then it’s 17%, not 17-20%.

    As I’ve said before spin all you like on your own blog but don’t try it here.


  4. Peter you really can’t acuse me of “spin” because I have said the Scottish Conservative Scottish % lies “dead on” at 17-20%

    I am not simply making it up, take a look at the average for Scottish Cons between 1 Jan 06 – 4 Jun 09:

    Scottish Con: 18.0%

    Dosn’t that fit in with my “dead on” statement? Spin- I shall have none of it. My figures seem supported by empirical data, even if you dont like the findings.

    And I disagree that the poll mentioned is worthwhile at all, if anyone seeks to ascertain long term trends in Scottish voting (collated by reliable methodology) just check out the TNS system three polling data. Much better (and accurate).

  5. Oh, and remember that little thing called margins of error Peter? Every prediction made by anyone assumes that other bloggers would understand that the margin of error is simply understood.

    Sorry if you didnt realise this, just assumed you understood is all.

  6. Been reading this site for ages, thought it was about time I joined in!

    As people have pointed out, this poll tells very little about Labour and the Lib Dems. I can’t understand why they didn’t limit Labour/Lib Dem (and SNP) results to only the constituencies they currently hold – that would be far more meaningful and also allow a proper appraisal of the Conservative likelihood of taking them.

    As it stands, if the Lib Dems scored low in the Labour strongholds, their 18% could actually represent an increased majority in their 9 seats, we just don’t know.

  7. @David E. Jones

    “If the opinion of the electorate in the top 30 marginal’s reflects a 44 – 20 – 18 breakdown, then why would people’s opinions be any different in the top 50 or 100 or 200 marginal’s?”

    Firstly, these are the top 30 Conservative targets, not the top 30 marginals.
    The further you go down the list of targets, the further away the Conservatives will have been from winning at the last election. Which implies that their vote share will be reduced as you go further down.

  8. @ David E Jones

    Go onto where there is a full list of results from 2005.

    The national share of the vote was 33% Tory, 36% Labour.

    Now have a look at Knowsley and then have a look at Richmond and their respective shares. That should help answer your question.

  9. Dean,

    If the poll quotes “17%” then it’s dead on 17%, if it quotes “17-20%” then it’s dead on 17-20%.

    A poll that quotes 17% can be at the bottom of the range “17-20%”, but a poll that quotes a single figure can’t be dead on a range.

    As to margin of error, if we are talking 3% one way or another to give us 90% accuracy then 17% can just as easily be describe in your version as “spot on 14-17%.

    Even if we take the 18% figure then +/-3% is 15-21%.

    Oh and as for TNS System 3, well I’d question whether they are any more accurate than Yougov or anyone else in the BPC.

    Certainly there June Scottish poll of Holyrood does have breakdowns for regions.

    It has the Tories on 12%/10% constituency/regional for all of Scotland ( sample 580)it’s figures for the Southern region containing the borders are only 13%/9% ( sample only 80).

    To go from 13%/9% at Holyrood to 34% at Westminster is quite a jump even for the Super Tories.

    It does have Westminster voting in the May poll,

    That has the Tories on 19% ( sample 575) and the 34% for the South but again it’s on a sample of 80.

    Equally given that that poll is the only one from TNS that gives a Westminster figure as all the rest are either Holyrood or Referendum polls I can see how you can claim it’s the best data.

    As to the long term trend if that’s from TNS the only two other Westminster polls they have are in 2005 and they have the Tories on 14-15%, hardly a large data set that confirms an 18% average.

    Even if we were to say that the current 17% ( stretched to 20%) fits with an average of 18% from Jan 06 to June 09, so what.

    If you were to do that for Labour I suspect that they would probably average over 32%, but they aren’t polling anywhere near that now.

    I can understand you wanting to talk up the Tories but rubbish a poll made up of small sub-sample because it has them at 17% and then quoting one for the Borders as a show of strength when it has a sample of only 80 is hardly consistent.

    Trying to support that by comparing your current assessment of 17-20% by an average that has to be spread over three and a half years isn’t that convincing either.

    Apart from anything else being at 17% now with a 40+ month average of 18% suggest that far from gaining ground you’ve been treading water and sinking a little as you do it.


  10. @ Anthony Wells

    I know of no other way of contacting you. Is it possible the Wirral West forum be reopened please (after a year). I’m from Wallasey myself, but it is interesting to see what the other Wirral seats are up to from time to time.


  11. @Yariv – on behalf of everyone – welcome! Your post of 4.07 is very true. It makes me wonder just what worth there is in this poll, other than to confirm as AW has, that the swing is in line with national polls. Other than that, it’s an entirely worthless piece of polling.

  12. @ Andrew Myers

    Andrew – thanks for your input in response to my little contribution.
    In our electoral system, it is obviously the marginal’s that matter. William Hague is safe in Richmond whatever the overall swing is; likewise, Knowsley will certainly stay Labour.
    I am certain that you are familiar with this:
    In order for Labour to retain power, they need to keep these seats and in order for the Tories to gain power, they need to take those same seats. In other words, the major parties are fighting over the same territory; e.g. whichever party takes the Midlands where there are a lot of marginal’s, they will form the next government.
    In my previous contribution, I simply made the point that people’s opinions are not that different between marginal number 30 and marginal number 150.
    The 200th target seat for the Tories is Walsall South where they need a swing of 10.5% to win; on all the polling evidence I have seen I think they might do it!

  13. “I can understand you wanting to talk up the Tories”

    Please Peter stop and examine the evidence before you. If I were “spining” or “talking up” tory chances then surely I’d be arguing that we are 20%+.

    It is perfectly reasonable, and I’d argue the true case when I say Scottish Conservatives are currently placed between 17-20%. And its not “treading water”, its up from the 2005 GE result.

    Just look at the polling data:

    ELECTION 2005 5 May 2005 15.8 39.5 22.6 17.7

    MORI Social Policy Monitor 1 Jan 06 – 31 Mar 06 526 19 44 17 16

    MORI Social Policy Monitor 1 Apr 06 – 30 Jun 06 520 17 36 17 24

    Daily Telegraph/YouGov 17 Nov 06 – 22 Nov 06 1,016 18 36 16 25

    Channel4/YouGov 4 Jan 07 – 8 Jan 07 1,061 19 34 15 27

    Sunday Times/YouGov 10 Jan 07 – 12 Jan 07 1,005 16 35 15 28

    Sunday Times/YouGov 15 Aug 07 – 17 Aug 07 1,118 14 40 11 31

    Daily Express/YouGov 3 Jan 08 – 8 Jan 08 1,343 18 36 12 30

    The Sun/YouGov 2 Apr 08 – 4 Apr 08 1,070 17 35 12 31

    Daily Telegraph/YouGov 24 Apr 08 – 28 Apr 08 1,175 17 34 14 30

    TNS System 3 26 Apr 08 – 29 Apr 08 1,086 17 39 10 31

    Daily Telegraph/YouGov 8 Jul 08 – 10 Jul 08 1,131 20 29 14 33

    Sunday Times/YouGov 3 Sep 08 – 5 Sep 08 1,355 17 32 13 34

    Sunday Times/YouGov 22 Oct 08 – 24 Oct 08 1,266 20 38 11 29

    Sunday Times/YouGov 29 Jan 09 – 30 Jan 09 1,498 20 37 12 27

    Sunday Times/YouGov 12 Mar 09 – 13 Mar 09 1,380 20 37 11 27

    TNS System 3 22 Apr 09 – 28 Apr 09 986 19 36 9 32

    Sunday Times/YouGov 2 Jun 09 – 4 Jun 09 1,048 17 28 16 31

    AVERAGE 1 Jan 06 – 4 Jun 09 18,584 18.0 35.4 12.9 29.2

    You cannot say that YouGov is the most reliable polling agent, then say that 17% is talking up the Scottish Con chances! YouGov has been the agent which placed us on 20% for months, and the moving average for YouGov alone is much more favourable.

    No spino n my part- just take five minutes out and look at this polling data Peter before firing your mouth off.

  14. Peter Cairns

    I thought you had left us but may have missed a few of your recent posts as I have been away on and off a bit. However .I see you are back and in fine form

    I for one don’t feel the need to talk up the super Tories. If they cannot win the next election then the party should be wound up as a hopeless cause. The Labour government is an embarrasment to its own supporters just as the Major administration was to many Tories in 1997
    What happens in Scotland is quite another matter. You yourself have in the past speculated that the Tories might rise to 21% at Westminster and for all that I agree with you that up here they have at best trod water this last year we do know that in areas of past strength eg Edinburgh South the Euro election results were far from discouraging for them.
    On this site I have accurately predicted in a mini competition exactly where the polls would be on a UK basis come early August (thanks for the concession Woods that was gracious)
    But Scotland is indeed as we all know quite another matter but flush with success I will hazard a guess that the Westminster ratings will look like this come November

    SNP 30%

    Labour 30%

    Tories 22%

    Lib Dem 13%

    Others 5%
    What do you think it will be?

  15. The tories will sweep the board in England thats all that matters .the libs will be slaughtered in the south east people know vote liberal get labour nobody wants that.

  16. @Craig,

    That’s a terribly Anglo-centric view. I wouldn’t say that sweeping England is all that matters. It also matters that the Tories gain enough seats in the Scotland and Wales to be credible as a UK-wide party otherwise there is a danger of hurtling towards the break up of the Union. Of course, there are many in Scotland (and in England too I imagine) that would welcome that development, but I don’t think you can say it “doesn’t matter”.

  17. Anthony

    Are there any regular polls due in the next few days?

  18. Dean,

    “It is perfectly reasonable, and I’d argue the true case when I say Scottish Conservatives are currently placed between 17-20%. And its not “treading water”, its up from the 2005 GE result.”

    The 2005 election share was a whisker below 16%, so 17% in electoral terms is standing still.

    That effectively means that where as Cameron has taken the Tories in the UK from 32% to 42%, a rise of 10% of the electorate, or a 24% rise on the 2005 32% vote, in Scotland it’s 1% or a 6% increase on the 16% in 2005.

    Putting the Tories on 17-20% because they polled 20% between October and March when Labour started their downward spiral doesn’t justify them being on that now.

    Oh and I didn’t say YouGov was the most reliable pollster.

    What I said, in response to your claim that TNS;

    “Much better (and accurate).”


    “I’d question whether they are any more accurate than Yougov or anyone else in the BPC.”

    Anyway you as ever keep avoiding the main point I made which was you challenging an aggregate of Polls with small samples and then quoting a single one with a sample of only 80 to show the Tories on target to take seats.

    The best you so far have come up with is to produce your own agregate of polls to show that the Tories have hardly moved forward since the last general election.

    I don’t have a problem with the polls 17% figure putting the Tories mid way between the 2005 result and the average since then, my issue is with talking them up to 20% and claiming 34% in the South of Scotland on a poll of only 80 people.

    As Nick point out, I have said I could see the Tories polling 21%, but right now I think they are on about 17% and over the last two to three month seem to have fallen back from 20%.

    They might get their again but they aren’t their now.


  19. Peter you cannot sit back and accuse me of “spin” and “talking up”- given that you have accepted my estimation that the Scottish Cons are on 17% (as I said earlier) I take it you are rolling back on the earlier accusation?

    But as I was saying on TNS polling, they do offer a rather helpful insight, not least because their weighing methodology seems to me rather comprehensive enough to provide apt results (with the usual margin of error of 3+-)

    But on the YouGov border breakdown, I didnt use this figure in isolation if you had bothered to read my earlier post Peter. I raised it as a relevant point only because the euros result reinforced its value.

    But what I find trully remarkable was your earlier statement “As I’ve said before spin all you like on your own blog but don’t try it here”

    I take it you withdraw this remark given the facts that my electoral predictions do indeed have emprical data to support them? As I said 17-20%, supported by the Scottish Cons moving average at 18%. Hardly spin, more simple mathematics Peter.

  20. Dean,

    The Poll said 17%, the average is 18% the election was 16%. There is no current poll suggesting 20%.

    Your quite clearly trying to talk up the Tories as you always do.


  21. “There is no current poll suggesting 20%.”

    Peter once again you completely fail to understand that 18% average has a 3% margin of error, as does 16%, and 17%.

    I take it that you understand that 17% +3% adds upto 20%, and 16% +3% adds upto 19%?

    And remember polls always understimate Conservative support, and overestimate Labour support. So it is hardly the case at all that I am “talking up” the Scottish Conservatives, unless you reject the margin of error.

    You are being rather sadly partisan Peter, to ignore the relevant margin of error, to ignore the historical trend that polls usually underestimate tory support levels- it is hardly unbelievable that I may conclude that 17% is an underestimate within the 3% margin of error.

    As I say, this is all simple mathematics Peter.

  22. Peter,

    I notice that you studiously ignore the Conservatives’ showing in the Borders in the recent Euro Elections. How do you explain that away if, as you say (and I’m sure you have the figures right), they were only polling 13%/9% for Holyrood in this region.

    People vote differently depending on what the election is;
    The poll you quoted dramatically underestimated the Tories;
    Most probability the truth is a mix of the two.

    For Westminster the Conservatives will do better than for Holyrood – it’s obvious, they are more relevant there, and the only party with a chance to kick out Labour.

    The SNP by contrast will do worse for Westminster than for Holyrood – they are completely irrelevant there as far as most people are concerned.

    You might not like that but it is true.

  23. Neil your points all stand true, and as I said to Peter (and he failed to respond) I mentioned the borders polling breakdown, not in isolation but in coordination with the euros to support the poll findings.

  24. In my least post read “Most probably” rather than “Most probability”

  25. latest*

    sorry, cannot spell tonight!!

  26. @Alec
    Thanks for the welcome, I’m looking forward to joining in the debate! (Although I’m based in Japan, so I’ll probably be posting when nobody’s around…)

    If the 18% figure you quote is an average of polls, doesn’t that imply that the margin of error would likely be less than 3%?

  27. Yariv- not in regards to the Conservatives, mainly due to the fact that the opinion polls tend to historically always underestimate Conservative strength in the polls.
    The best example was in the 1992 GE when they all predicted a labour government (albeit either short of a majority, or with a parlaimentary majority) but instead we saw Major get a victory for the Cons and a 22 seat majority too!

    (plus a modest recovery in Scotland, and the recapture of aberdeen south all happened despite the polls).

    So I’d hesitate a prediction that its more likely underestimating tory strength in Scotland on 17%, and the margin is likely to lay higher.

    18%, is likewise the average (but over three years!). So it depends where you start measuring from also.

  28. Neil A Wrote

    That’s a terribly Anglo-centric view. I wouldn’t say that sweeping England is all that matters. It also matters that the Tories gain enough seats in the Scotland and Wales to be credible as a UK-wide party otherwise there is a danger of hurtling towards the break up of the Union. Of course, there are many in Scotland (and in England too I imagine) that would welcome that development, but I don’t think you can say it “doesn’t matter”.


    If only the same concern had been shown over the last decade regarding a largely Scottish cabinet lording it over an English electorate who, not only voted for a Conservative Government in 2005 but has also had to suffer the outrage of Scottish Labour MP’s forcing through legislation for England and Wales at Westminster which our MP’s have no say in over the border.

    Believe me, the lack of fair representation in England created by Labour’s devolution is already threatening the union.

  29. Dean,

    I appreciate that polls likely underestimate the Conservative vote, but that isn’t what “margin of error” refers to. A margin of error of 3% would imply that the poll was as likely to be 3% too high as 3% too low, which is different to “probably underestimates to Tories by 3%”.

    If it were possible to poll the entire electorate then the margin of error would be zero, but it may well still underestimate the Conservative vote.

  30. Yariv- the Scottish Tories may be 3% less than 18%, sure (but I’d content this is isnt the most likely assumption).

    What I was objecting to was Cllr Peter Cairns claim that I was engaged in “spin” when I suggested the tories may be 3% up from 16% in Scotland. I was attempting to get him to understand that this isnt an unreasoned position to hold. Nor is it really “talking up” Scottish Con chances.

    Unfortunately he seems to obsessional about talking down the Scottish Tories chances regardless of empirical polling data coming out of Scotland.

  31. Dean,

    Peter’s a SNP Councillor. Please recognise that’s the reality of a Party politician!

  32. David D- yeh I suppose I will have to.

    Its just sad, this website was rather apolitical when I first came to regularly visit here. But nowadays it seems to drown in partisan comments, and partisan party supporters.

    Well at least Peter has reason to be partisan (he is a politician for the SNP afterall!), but I simply cannot let him accuse me of “spin” when all I’m doing is applying the polling data coming out of Scotland.

  33. For Neil. You say “The SNP by contrast will do worse for Westminster than for Holyrood – they are completely irrelevant there as far as most people are concerned”

    I think the next election will be the last election in which the “irrelevant” label will influence anyone much in Scotland.

    After Brown’s defeat, and the recognition that no Scotland based politician is ever likely to be PM again, together with the likelihood of UK Tory dominance for a decade or two, I suggest that the SNP will dominate Scottish voting both for Holyrood AND Westminster.

    People often mention Quebec and their (very narrow) failure to achieve independence by referendum. What I have not seen anyone mentioning is that the Bloc Quebecois nowadays (in good times and bad for the Parti Quebecois) always sends a majority of representaives to the federal parliament.

    Should Scotland not achieve independence over the next few years, don’t be surprised if the SNP at elections after the next one end up sending 40+ MPs to Westminster and form a powerful lobby to protect Scotland’s interests. On occasion they would hold the balance of power with that many MPs.

  34. “don’t be surprised if the SNP at elections after the next one end up sending 40+ MPs to Westminster and form a powerful lobby to protect Scotland’s interests”

    Its plausable, but not the most likely result

    They will hold their present 6, gain three- and that will be it. But they will get between 27-30% share of the vote certaintly… then in 2014 they will have their own long term record in office to defend (assuming they win relection at holyrod)- you seem to forget that the SNP are/will not be an opposition party in the next two GE.

  35. It amuses me that only SNP MPs would go to Westminster to “protect Scotland’s interests”. Presumably Scots politicians of other parties hate Scotland and want to act against her interests?

  36. Neil A

    Ah, you have spotted the great quandry then? :)

    But back on topic-

    Perhaps this top marginals poll is slightly irrelevant? Especially since the top should all go blue (except possibly North Perth & Perthshire- which is SNP held at mo, but with only around 1,500 majority)

    When is the next big poll out? Do we have to wait till the conclusion of silly season then? Sigh- I miss my daily politics with Andrew Neil!!!

  37. I don’t know that you’re entirely accurate yet Nick, there haven’t actually BEEN any august polls so far afterall :p

  38. Neil iam not saying it does not matter,look at it the scots will vote labour whatever the situation because 70% of jobs are in the public sector same in Wales.All iam saying is the next ge will be decided by the english vote.Iam saying the english voters know if you vote liberal you will get labour not something i would wish on anyone.By the way iam scottish living in england

  39. Dean – as we are often reminded ICM first then others refined their adjustments to cover shy Tories etc.
    One thing Cameron has done is sufficiently sanatised them so that Tory voters are no longer shy.
    Don’t believe the polls understate the Cons any more.
    Infact GB is so unpopular there may be shy Labour Voters??

  40. Jim Jam –

    ICM adjusted their methods to account for shy voters, not shy Tories per se. It doesn’t automatically favour the Conservatives, it works both ways.

    In practice ICM’s adjustment switched to boosting Labour over five years ago now. Andrew Cooper used to call them “Bashful Blairites” as opposed to “Shy Tories”. I suppose they must be “Bashful Brownites” now.

  41. Henry Macrory in CCHQ (who is normally right when he says such things) reckons theres a new poll out tonight.

    Presumably not ComRes, since John Rentoul normals puffs them, probably not YouGov since I’d normally notice them. Bit early in the month for MORI – perhaps ICM or Populus. We’ll see.

  42. I don’t think there is much doubt that the Tories will pick up most if not all their top 30 targets and I surprised that such a poll has been commissioned and the findings are surely expected.

    I would not expect the party to be concentrating on these seats but spending more time and effort and campaigning on seats further down the list. They must privately see most of top 60 being in the bag especially those held by Labour.

    Let’s hope that as we get nearer the election we get polls of targets in the range of 61-120. Much more interesting.

  43. Sounds like there is no exciting poll out after all. Just the Indy doing a poll of polls.

  44. @ David E Jones

    David – That’s the point I was trying to make, as you move out of the top 30 marginals towards 50, 100 and 150 etc then the polling will tend towards the ultimate figure seen in Knowsley, which itself will obviously swing slightly towards the Tories.

    As another contributor pointed out though the swing may not be uniform in which case we may see some strange results like the Tories taking seat 203 but Labour holding seat 47.

  45. What part of the increase in poll results for Scottish Conservatives might be due to a decrease in “shyness”?

    It is widely expected even by the most optomistic of their opponents that the Conservatives will “win” the next election. Why then should their supporters be ashmed to admit their voting intention? The majority (at least the UK majority will be doing the same.

    The responsible behaviour of Ms Goldie’s team has helped, as has the NewLabour government.

    It won’t make muchdifference in seats though, because in Scotland ALL the parties are regional parties and FPTP ensures that each wins in its strongholds. There is no doubt however that Labour is losing support, and the share of the vote (if not most of the votes) will go to the SNP. There may be some churn from former Conservative voters returning from the LibDems.

    If there is any consistent pattern at all it is that voters ask: “Do I have to vote Labour to be sure of keeping the Conservative out, and if not is the SNP or the LiDem best placed to do that?” If in doubt, vote Labour.

  46. It is a comforting Tory myth that Scotland votes Labour (and now SNP) because evil Labour Governments and Councils have created unnecessary public sector jobs and these employees show their gratitude by supporting Labour.

    This is back-to-front.

    There are historical and geographical reasons which account for a more leftish – even socialist – ethos and there is broad support for a larger public sector.

    The largest part of the public sector is now somewhat less than 20% better funded than in England and the morbidity excuse used to justify this is illogical and not the real reason.

    19thC Glasgow and Edinburgh burgesses WILLINGLY paid for charitable and Council health services from which the mainly the poor benefited and the difference is still there. They did so because of the success of the measures to deal with the second and third cholera epidemics [google “Loch Katrine”] and the consequential respect and sapiential authority which public health officials enjoyed.

    So to with Education. The different course of the reformation resulted in Scotland having four universities for three centuries (and making good use of two in holland) while England had only two.

    Private day schools cannot exist in sparsely populated areas and over most of Scotland schools have necessarily always been “comprehensive” even before the word was applied to the concept. State schools (often called Public Schools) benefit from articulate (and educated) middle class parents driving standards up.

    A higher level of literacy resulted in the Scottish enlightenment, and a national poet who promoted enlightenment values.

    In both health and education the private sector is smaller because the public sector is better.

    Rural conditions also mean that these may have to provide a national standard of service in uneconomic conditions and this applies to transport, postal, and rubbish collection services.

    Even ministers in the last Conservative government resisted some transport privatisation.

    For historical and geographical reasons Scotland is left-leaning even within the Conservative party.

    Some people think that for these reasons Scotland is different enough from England to justify it being a separate country.

  47. @John

    I think when Tories talk about Scotland and government jobs I think they are mostly thinking of the massive industrial projects (steelworks, shipyards etc) many of which began as legitimate markets but which during the postwar years depended more and more on subsidy as their competitiveness waned. It was the Thatcher government’s determination to end subsidies to loss-making state run industries that signalled the end of the Scottish Tories as a major force, and lets not forget that the Tories had at one time been the largest party in Scotland (albeit a long long time ago).

    Personally I think the Tories’ fortunes are very much dependent on those of the SNP. The SNP currently attracts a lot of the conservative-nationalist vote in Scotland that would naturally accrue to the Tories in England. If the SNP stays at 30% plus then there is nowhere for the Tories to really get increased vote share from. However I think the SNP will eventually face an internal tension between Nationalists in industrial urban seats and those in rural seats. Beyond wanting to control oil revenues, and blaming London for everything, I don’t think those voter bases have very much in common.

    However, I admit I don’t know all that much about Scotland, having only visited a few times.

  48. @John B Dick

    There are a few historical things there that I’d question:

    Dr John Snow, of London, is generally credited with linking cholera epidemics to water supply, and it was his discovery that led to the wholesale construction of sewerage systems in industrialised cities from the 1850s. Why would Scotland be different?

    Sparsely populated areas with poor transport won’t really allow grammar schools, but most of Scotland doesn’t live like that; they live in or around Glasgow and Edinburgh.

    4.4% of Scottish children are in independent schools, compared to 6.5% nationally. If you factor in the relative poverty in Scotland, I wonder if there’s any real difference.

    Scotland had many poets, and so did the rest of the UK; Byron, Shelly, Pope, etc, off the top of my head.

  49. NeiL A

    You are quite wrong. Craig’s reference above to 75% public sector employment was about now, not the unionised heavy industry a generation ago.

    Fundamentalist free-market rhetoric is based on an article of faith. Private = good, Public = bad.

    Having moved from one to the other and back again I found little difference in the level of incompetence, stupidity and alcoholism. Neither was I overcome with lassitude and inefficiency the moment I entered the public sector nor was I instantly energised by the entreprenurial spirit when I went private.

    When Scottish Conservatives were the only party in any part of the UK to garner a majority of the votes in a general election they were, for the reasons given in my previous post, of the one nation variety. They have not drifted away from the party, the party has drifted away from them. The broad church of Harold Macmillan has been taken over by free marketeer fundamentalists and English nationalists.

    There is no such thing as a conservative-nationalist vote. There is an Anti-Conservative vote, an Anti-NewLabour vote and an anti-Lab/Con vote. The SNP is in many constituencies best placed to pick up all three, the main exception where there is a long standing LibDem incumbent.

    The SNP present themselves as a pragmatic, non-doctrinaire centre-left party whose policies are designed for Scottish needs and sensibilities and take account of rural conditions. That is an attractive position given the ineptitude of previous Conservative and Labour governments and their inability to tailor their policies to Scottish conditions.

    Since the independence question is for a referendum when it comes, it is not important to the voter in elections, though the Labour party foolishly tries to make it so in negative campaigning.

    No tension between rural and urban nationalists exists because the party membership is (unlike the majority of SNP voters) focused on the main objective which is now in sight. Ministers are working exceptionally hard to impress, no doubt at some cost to their health and personal relationships.

    There is a place for a Centre-right party in Scottish politics. If it had taken the Bavarianisation route a decade ago it could now be in coalition with the SNP.

    Although it is more free to operate than is Labour, this is not generlly realised. It needs to promote three or four policies for Scotland which are distinct from the UK party. If these are to the left of New Labour, so much the better. Post Office privatisation is an obvious choice.

    It is the party with “Unionist” as part of its name that has most to gain from independence.

  50. There is no conservative-nationalist vote in Scotland? Really? That’d make it pretty much the only country in the democratic world without one. Do the Scots suburbs and “shires” really not have worthy Yeomen whose eyes mist over when they see the Scottish regiments march past? Solid burghers who are instinctively suspicious of the new and are nostalgic for a nobler time? Born and bred locals who are alarmed by immigration and distrust the perfidious foreigners in the countries across their borders? I am not saying that these kind of people are actually right, but they exist pretty much everywhere and generally vote for centre-right parties. At the moment it seems to me that Scotland is in a bit of an odd position at the moment, with the natural centre-right vote “poached” by what is essentially a single-issue party (and I fully accept that it is a pragmatic. non-doctrinaire party).

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