The message from the pollsters for Scotland is somewhat grimmer: it is hard not to come to the conclusion that the snap election has taken all the parties not only by surprise, but – with the noteable exception of the Conservatives – has left them with no time to garner the necessary resources required to mount an effective election campaign. Again, this comes as yet more questions are being asked about Conservative funding sources that are bypassing scrutiny, and including donations up to a hundred thousand pounds. Sadly, this has meant that – even with their new financial resources as the third largest political party in Westminster and the vast increase in their membership – the SNP machine has been outbought by sheer mass of paper through letterboxes. It will be interesting to see how well the honed team of footsoldiers on the ground can resist that onslaught.
For it is an onslaught from substantively one party: the Conservatives. Labour are only targeting 3 seats, and the LibDems a similar number. As a result, Labour voter contact lists have collapsed in 31 seats (e.g. from 3,020 to 3 in the constituency of Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, and from 1,621 to 31 in Aberdeen South). The Scottish Greens, as guarantors of the independence referendum mandate in Holyrood, are only standing one candidate, their star Patrick Harvie, in Glasgow North. The Conservatives are targeting 15 seats…although early assessments made it hard to see where more than eight would come from. Eric Joyce noted this when he observed at the start of May that bookmakers seemed to expect the Conservatives to win two seats from the SNP, leaving a 52/4/2/1 breakdown. Similarly, two days ago WoS noted the best odds offered for all 59 Scottish seats, to conclude that the bookies were expecting a 48/6/4/1 breakdown – still well short of the 12 seats the press was predicting for Ruth’s party in the curious bombast of the council election results.
However, the weather has been bad today in Scotland, which may well act in the wrong direction for the eventual result with low voter turnout: the Greys have the greatest likelihood to turnout – especially using postal votes – and without a campaign based around independence the SNP was criticised in the council elections last month for not being able to inspire their usual turnout – although their votes acquired were massively increased, and the vote share only dropped by 0.03%. [Of course, it wouldn’t have been relevant for a council election to run it as a campaign on independence, but that didn’t stop Theresa May and Ruth Davidson trying to subvert the local elections into just that. Politics is a game to them, more than anyone else.] Today Joyce reiterated that if the anti-Conservative vote came out, the party would be exceptionally lucky to get 4 seats.
There has also been a certain mirroring of the two major parties fortunes down south…so as Theresa May has increasingly discredited the Conservative campaign, so Ruth Davidson’s support has begun to stall. Combined with Corbyn’s surge in popularity leading to Scottish Labour recovering in the polls (ironic, given that Scottish Labour have been his most virulent internal opponents within his own party, desperate for him to fail), some last minute polls have shown Labour taking back second place in Scotland from the Conservatives.
Most polls have had the SNP on 41-42% – some 7-8 points down on their 2015 ‘tsunami’ – which puts them close to the tipping point at which they will start to lose a lot of seats under First Past the Post Westminster rules. The Electoral Calculus tool prediction models the data to give the SNP 42-56 of the final 59 seats – at one end, doubtfully equalling their unbelievable success of two years ago, at the other…well, it may seem bad as it is much lower, BUT – it is still over 71% of the Scottish MPs. (see the Conservative Michael Forsyth graphic above for what that would have signified in the twentieth century in Westminster…)
Of course, this will be spun as a major disaster by opponents and media alike…but it would not be half bad as a result. It would also have them well-placed to fight the next General Election – again taking seats from other parties – with an appropriately long ‘non-snap’ build-up period. In the short-term, the potential loss of star performers such as Moray’s Angus Robertson, Gordon’s Alex Salmond and Perth’s Pete (yes, from Runrig) Wishart would be real blows – as well as the heroic Borders’ Callum Kerr (who has the most vulnerable majority of 328).
I fear, however, that the weather and an inability to motivate the 18-24s might extract a higher cost. The Greys have been an unusually abused section in this election, receiving direct attacks from Theresa May when Conservatives are normally happy to leave alone the most right wing and likely-to-vote demographic of the population, and it would be nice if that backfired up in Scotland as well as down south…but the Greys are also the most unionist demographic, and they will probably feel zero inclination to desert the Conservatives for abuse of their pensions, if the union is their most sacred concern.
The exit poll indication has been known to pundits such as John Curtice since 2pm, although they will not reveal it until the polls close, which will be within half an hour. It usually has some surprises, but is not far off the final mark. I may watch it through the gaps between my fingers…
“Not long now until the army of terrible grandparents tick the ‘fuck everybody but me’ box” (@TheSteveBurnio on Twitter before the polls opened)