Polls are polls, ie just snapshots in time. If they indicate anything reliable it’s in the trends they show over time.
So over time Ashcroft’s latest marginal in Jim Murphy’s East Renfrewshire indicates the Scottish Labour leader may be inching towards political destruction:
Jim Murphy in trouble according to the latest Ashcroft poll. pic.twitter.com/Z0QxeNMME6
— Britain Elects (@britainelects) April 17, 2015
If we take the polling at face value then Labour appears to be facing its own 1997 in Scotland, with bells on. Their compensation is their abiding presence in the Scottish Parliament.
If Labour does lose even close to the scale being suggested we have a pre IndyRef Scotland, and a post IndyRef Scotland where all is changed and changed utterly.
As noted here on Slugger at the time, the debate over the Currency Union killed the SNP’s (premature?) bid for independence, but politically the IndyRef campaign has transformed the SNP’s political fortunes. This has the feel of long term change too.
A bit like the Gonzales government in post coup Spain it betokens a great deal more than anyone will ever reasonably expect it to deliver. Because it not as though the SNP has not had problems.
The decision to centralise the country’s various police forces into one Police Scotland has not been popular. Yet nor has it been politically damaging.
Like the former insurgent political parties in Northern Ireland, the SNP’s experience of unpopularity and marginalisation has taught it tough lessons the larger UK parties have not had the recent benefit of.
One lesson perhaps is that it is not simply enough to be critical of your opponents or to be reactive in your responses to them, but to look to set the agenda with your own thinking.
The possible loss of Murphy, Blairite and machine politician par excellence, not to mention Dougie Alexander, may be the price Labour (and not just in Scotland) has to pay before it starts learning some of those fundamental lessons all over again.
Here’s the thing that ought to be exercising Labour. Murphy’s firmly middle class East Refrewshire constituency returned a solid No last September. Ditto both parts of his neighbour Douglas Alexander’s Paisley and South Renfrewshire:
The swings indicated here, far from the working class heartlands of the Glasgow big Yes constituencies, are phenomenal (and possibly hard to believe).
There appears to be a fire sale on Labour seats in Scotland. Although it is true that there also indicate a slipping back towards Labour in Edinburgh.
And in 2010 we saw a significant discrepancy in the polling during the campaign as against the actual results. Many of the seats predicted to shift in marginal polling stayed exactly where they were, whilst others moved. [Perhaps this is why Ashcroft is not working for the Tories this time round]
Indeed as Kieran Pedley argues on Political Betting we could be facing into another 1992 when the pollsters took a beating for not controlling for the shy Tory effect.
He notes that the scale of the importance of the smaller parties in this election is unprecedented and accordingly the pollsters are by definition in very new territory. In Scotland he suggests that:
A rarely considered factor in this election is whether there are actually a few ‘shy Labour Scots’ north of the border. I admit that this is largely speculation but, such is the frenzy that has gripped Scottish politics since the independence referendum, this is at least possible.
This does not mean that Labour are suddenly going to beat the SNP in Scotland but that the scale of the defeat might not be as bad as expected – with significant implications regarding seats won by the SNP.
He also notes that there has been an 18% rise in the electorate from last time out, but that it is unclear how many of these will be enthused enough to vote in a Westminster General Election as opposed to a referendum on the future of Scotland.
Here’s the irony that Brian was pointing to over the weekend. Regardless of happens to Scotland, on a UK basis real competition for Number Ten remains between Labour and Conservative. As the Head of Legal blog points out:
If it becomes clear after May 7th that David Cameron no longer commands a majority and cannot continue in office, then in accordance with convention he’ll resign; and all precedent, all expert opinion and the Cabinet manual itself tell us the leader of the largest opposition party will be appointed Prime Minister. Miliband won’t first need to ask Sturgeon to go looking in her handbag.
And to return to those dodgy polls again, initially at least the SNP leader does not have a lot of choice in the matter since this is exactly what the vast majority of her newly expanded electorate want her to do.
— Sky News Tonight (@SkyNewsTonight) April 19, 2015
NOTE: This will be the feature of today’s #SluggerDaily Report on the UK General Election on the Periscope app. Redux version for everyone else at Slugger’s Audioboom: http://buff.ly/1F19vVv. You can pick them up LIVE every weekday at 10am.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty