Labour front bench facing wipeout?

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by Hazel Lewry

It’s a question on the lips of many in Scotland, as we’ve seen massive changes in voter intention over the last 90 days.  There is a seat projection towards the end of this article.  It presently appears the SNP could gain from nine to twenty plus constituency seats.

There needs to be a statistical basis for such outlandish predictions.

In mid-January pollsters were predicting as much as a 15 point landslide for Labour, that’s swung to a nominal 2 point lead for the SNP (before the Ipsos/Mori poll) with the Liberal-Democrats facing near annihilation.  Being kind, labour has been haemorrhaging support at almost 0.2% per day.  Should this level of attrition continue it won’t be long before it’s only the party’s voting rump sustaining it.

With two weeks to go, and almost a week since the last poll was taken before Thursday’s Sun poll, we saw the swing continue.  Labour can be expected to see another 4% or so of their current support wither on the vine before polling day.  Will these disaffected Labourites abstain or switch?  This will hold the keys to many constituency results.  Misplaced loyalty may be a factor in creating substantial numbers of abstentions.

Disaffected Lib Dem voters are reportedly swinging towards the SNP by ratios exceeding 2:1 over Labour with the other party and independents collecting the remainder .  This is a very conservative estimate judging by the recent northern by-elections results and this week’s Sun poll.

Under present circumstances the above might be a kind result for the Red Rose, if they were only to lose another 4% in vote share before the election; however based upon the latest data it may well prove to be more, much more than that.  May 5th will tell.

In 2007 Labour were arguably moderately well led, at least in comparison to ’11.  They also had an almost universally tame media following them.  Wendy Alexander was no Alexander III, but she had at least a force of personality distinctly lacking in the Labour’s current dull and Gray offering.  The Sun hadn’t shone on the Nats and they were primarily relying on the stellar work of activists and ‘foot-soldiers’ in their campaigns.

Broadcast media was a cold and foreign realm for what is now Scotland’s Natural Pick.  A great many voters faced with the duality of this media onslaught and the voting tradition of generations apparently baulked at the last minute and cast their votes elsewhere.  The culture of fear created by the media was almost palpable for many.

In the face of this blatant propaganda and extreme adversity the SNP still increased their vote share by 3.8% overall, while Labour dropped some 4%.  Some described it an anomaly, a protest vote against unpopular policies, taxes and wars.

Labour in opposition then showed its true colours, the Labour red became a stop sign to progress for a nation.  A once proud party that could still have accomplished so much for Scotland and itself, by working with a minority government for the benefit of all Scots, instead stuck its head in the sand and became purely obstructionist.

The Nats enjoyed a 3.8% swing in ’07.  Now in ’11 they’ve got a solid record in government, a more informed voting public who now realize what they are truly about, a weaker opposition with the direction of a rudderless ship and a media no longer almost 100% hostile.  With the exception of the BBC, Scotsman, Herald, Record and their subsidiaries it’s almost balanced or pro Alex Salmond.  Endorsements have been rolling in from all walks of life for the First Minister.

The Sun saw its circulation rise recently, passing that of the Record, and the only significant difference was apparently giving its readers what they wanted, fair and balanced political reporting.  This paper may have swung its pendulum slightly past centre, but overall the media remains substantially pro-Union.  

It’s therefore reasonable to forecast that the current momentum the Nationalists are enjoying will continue, absent any great unforeseen disaster.

These projections don’t take account of some boundary and seat name changes, nor do they allow for feedback received from activists on the ground.  This type of analysis also doesn’t factor in the strengths and weakness of individual candidates which can create massive additional swings.  The result of resource targeting is difficult to quantify though they have been reported to be significant.

Incorporating activist feedback from both sides appeared to be skewing the data even more in favour of the SNP.  One group can certainly be said to be approaching the last stage of the campaign with a spring in their step, while the other, perhaps they’ve been pricked by the thorn of the rose one too many times.

Firstly, broadly aligned with ’07 a 4% swing [Labour to SNP] has been applied.  This allows the present swing is maintained and not greatly accelerated as is presently indicated.

There have been projections of as much as a 70% drop in the Lib-Dem vote, here we conservatively use 40%, adjusting that voting realignment as follows: 45% to SNP, 25% to Labour and 15% to Con with 15% other/not used.  Arguments have been made this is particularly favourable towards Labour.

Simply applying the above formula the “swing seats” play out as follows:

Aberdeen Central Labour to SNP Lewis MacDonald
Aberdeen South Liberal Democrat to SNP Nicol Stephen
Aberdeenshire West Liberal Democrat to SNP Mike Rumbles
Caithness Liberal Democrat to SNP Jamie Stone
Dunfermline West Liberal Democrat to Labour Jim Tolson
Edinburgh South Liberal Democrat to Labour Mike Pringle
Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat to SNP Margaret Smith
Fife North East Liberal Democrat to SNP Iain Smith
Ross, Skye and Inverness West Liberal Democrat to SNP John Farquhar Munro (retiring)
Tweeddale, Etterick and Lauderdale Liberal Democrat to SNP Jeremy Purvis

Then we have the seats newly in play, or those above that might change hands to another party depending upon the break in the former Lib Dem vote.  Party activists redoubling their efforts as they push tired and overtaxed resources towards May 5th might just sleep with a smile that night if fortunate in the following areas.  The amount of projected extra votes needed is in square brackets.  With a direct vote change of allegiance the quantity is in curved brackets, where applicable.  The incumbent in peril is then listed.  This data still treats the Sun poll as an anomaly.

Airdrie and Shotts Labour to SNP [464] (233) Karen Whitefield
Cumbernauld Labour to SNP [1048] (525) Cathie Cragie
Dumbarton Labour to SNP [542] (223) Jackie Baillie
Dunfermline West Labour to SNP [934] (468) Helen Eadie
East Kilbride Labour to SNP [639] (320) Andy Kerr
East Lothian Labour to SNP [1,193] (597) Iain Gray
Edinburgh Central Labour to SNP [517] (259) Sarah Boyack
Falkirk East Labour to SNP [764] (358) Cathy Peattie
Glasgow Kelvin Labour to SNP [455] (228) Pauline McNeill
Linlithgow Labour to SNP [45] (23) Mary Mulligan
Midlothian Labour to SNP [754] (328) Rhona Brankin
Orkney Liberal Democrat to SNP [107] (54) Liam McArthur

Then we have today’s IPSOS/MORI poll in the Sun which indicates a Labour vote collapse, however although continuing the trending and momentum swings previously seen in favour of the SNP it should be used cautiously as being potentially indicative of an aberration.  It does align with informal soundings and word on the street however.

Deducting a couple of percentage points from the Sun data indicates the following constituencies will fall from Labour Control with Eastwood potentially going Conservative and Airdrie/Shotts, Clydesdale, Cumbernauld, Dumbarton, Dunfermline West, East Kilbride, East Lothian, Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh North, Edinburgh South, Falkirk East, Glasgow Kelvin, Kirkaldy, Linlithgow, Midlothian, Orkney, Shetland and Renfrewshire all falling to Alex Salmond’s party.

Several more constituency seats come into play if the IPSOS/MORI poll is taken verbatim.

The large and dramatic swing has been attributed to the undecideds falling firmly into the SNP camp.  The cautionary aspect is there are still substantial numbers of voters to yet declare a preference.

The graph and tables below show the SNP rise and Labour demise since 1999 with respect to constituency seats.  There are three projections for 2011, a “low” a “high” and a projection relevant to the Sun Ipsos/Mori poll indicating a vote collapse.

The things to watch in the coming two weeks: what will be the response from Labour and Unionists in general as they realize they may be sleepwalking into a referendum that will spell the end of the United Kingdom as they know it.

Of course, none of this allows for postal vote anomalies.

Constituency Seats Won
1999 2003 2007 2011 Low Est. 2011 High Est. 2011 Sun Poll -2%
Liberal Democrat 12 13 11 2 1 0
Labour 53 46 37 38 28 20
Conservative 0 3 4 4 4 5
SNP 7 9 21 29 40 48
72 71 73 73 73 73