Important Note: I wrote this quickly in my own brief ‘surge’ of energy. Regular readers will know that I can stumble over numbers. So, be gentle with any errors you spot. I have checked it to my own standardzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
I admit it. I used the word ‘trump’ as ‘clickbait.’ That, at 65+, I even know the word ‘clickbait’ is awesome, man, don’t you think? Anyway, back to the topic. The idea that at least a significant number of those former Labour voters, remaining after the flood of Yessers to support the SNP in 2014/2015, are actually prepared to support the Tories, as opposed to just abstain, because of their undying loyalty to Queen and Country is common in social media and in some mainstream media reports.
We had one, just one I admit, wee bit of evidence recently with this defection:
‘Scottish Labour hopeful defects to Tories over failure to back Brexit and push UK union. Braden Davy, who took on Alex Salmon (sic as the Romans say; something fishy here?) in his Gordon constituency last year, said he had become disillusioned with the Labour Party since then. He revealed he resigned from the party after the EU referendum.’
David Cameron clearly thought there was scope, in March this year (2016), in pushing the Unionist thing to attract voters in Scotland. He applied to register the Tories as the ‘Conservative and Unionist Party’ just before coming up to speak to the Scottish Conservative Conference.
Is there, however, hard, empirical evidence that former Labour supporters are prepared to vote Tory just because they put the Union above other criteria such as progressive policies like fair taxation or benefits? Well, there is this recent YouGov poll which does seem to suggest that is the case but the waters are muddied by Brexit. I’d argue, though, that British Unionism and EU Leave sympathies commonly overlap in the same people. Here’s how the Express reported it:
‘Labour is being ABANDONED by Brexit voters for Conservatives. LABOUR is being deserted by supporters who backed Brexit – with hundreds of thousands of them turning to the Tories, a new poll showed today. Around 35 per cent, some 3.3 million, of the 9.3 million people who voted Labour in the 2015 election voted Leave in June. Some nine per cent – around 297,000 people – have switched to the Conservatives.’
This was a UK-wide poll with a sample size of 3285 GB adults and fieldwork was done between 19th and 21st September 2016. There is no Scottish breakdown of the figures so I suppose we can say little about the Scottish participants really.
The related factor, sometimes used to further support the notion of Unionist former Labour voters switching to the Tories, is the so-called Scottish Tory ‘surge.’ I say ‘so-called’ because I’ve had ma doots right from the beginning about this ‘surge’. I’ll come back to this below. Some in the SNP clearly believe there has been such a thing:
‘George Kerevan: There’s no third way in Scottish politics after the Tories’ surge’
Not surprisingly, the Scottish Tory Leader absolutely believes in it literally, no inverted commas required:
‘Ruth Davidson hails Scottish Conservatives’ election surge’
Right, let’s get seriously factual now. Here are the results of the recent Glasgow Garscadden election. Any sign of a ‘surge’ for Ruth?
|Party||2016 votes||2016 share||since 2012||since 2007|
So that was a swing from Labour to SNP of 15.6% and to the Conservatives of 7.6%. Labour lost 22.8% so roughly two thirds went to the SNP, even at this stage two years after the post-Referendum flood of Yessers, and one third went the Conservatives? Not so much a surge as a wee wave?
What about the Dumfries and Galloway – Annandale North results? Here they are:
Conservatives 2,041 (56.9 per cent, +11.4 on 2012)
Scottish National: 749 (21.1 per cent, +11.7)
Labour: 611 (17.2 per cent, -8.2)
Green Party 152 (4.2 per cent, -7.5)
So that was a Conservatives ‘hold’ (Kind of like those dirty holds 60’s wrestler Mick McManus used to do?) with Labour losing 8.2% yet with both the Tories and the SNP increasing by more than 11%. So, even in the heart of Scotland’s only Tory stronghold, there’s nothing you could call a surge. Even if the entire constituency’s tiny Labour-voting population had gone Tory, there wouldn’t have been enough to produce a visible ‘surge.’
I know, let’s also have a look at the 2016 Scottish Election results. The Tories did get more seats even if they were all for coming in second and third place in the constituencies:
|Parties||Additional member system||Total seats|
So, in the constituencies that’s a surge of 8.1% and in the also-rans it’s 16%. In the constituencies, it’s still less votes than the collapsing Labour vote and in the also-rans it’s less than 4% more than Labour. Isn’t this really a very modest, flat calm, achievement?
It’s even more modest and accurate if you look at the UK General Election 2015 where voters were reminded that Ruth and her pals were actually in the same ‘nasty’ party with the same policies as George Osborne not to mention the creeps hiding in the right-wing then, but now emerging into power in the UK.
|Votes||Votes, of total (%)||Change (%)|
Even in apparent decline, Scottish Labour attracted nearly twice as many voters as the Scottish Tories when revealed as part of their UK association! That was a 30% tsunami for the SNP and actually a 1.8% FALL for the Scottish Tory vote! They didn’t even gain one seat. Some surge eh?
Here’s how a Prof’s revealing explanation was presented in the Guardian:
‘The Tories claim they succeeded in part by targeting blue-collar unionists, Labour voters who put defending the UK first. There is scant evidence for that. Professor Michael Keating, of the Centre for Constitutional Change at the University of Edinburgh and with the University of Aberdeen, said jumping straight from red to blue was an unlikely transition for a Scottish voter. While in some seats the 10% fall in the Labour vote and a 10% rise in the Tories suggested a direct link, it would be wrong to assume so, says Keating. Voting patterns suggest instead that Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, triumphed (sic) by attracting centre-right voters who once backed the Liberal Democrats – particularly in Aberdeenshire and southern Scotland, and by re-energising slumbering Conservatives who were never interested in Holyrood elections (until the tax powers came along).
Finally, Rangers FC, what part have they played in any Tory surge? SFA (good eh?) is of course my quick answer to prevent online abuse. Some social media commentators are in the habit of damning all Rangers fans as unthinking Unionists. Not me!!!
Like all good researchers I should ‘surface’ myself. I was a Rangers supporter from the ages of 5 to 12. In my primary school, we were all Rangers supporters, or else. I was a Labour supporter too until Neil Kinnock. I didn’t need to wait for Tony Blair to get the message! I am now a Falkirk-supporting SNP member, OK?
Here are the results from a poll by Panelbase for the Daily Record in May 2014:
The poll looked at voting intentions among the support of Scotland’s top clubs for the first time. Although the results are not scientific, the snapshot suggests that 48 per cent of Celtic fans will vote Yes, compared with 40 per cent planning to vote No. The rest are apparently undecided. Among Rangers fans, support for independence was placed at 45 per cent – with 41 per cent likely to vote No.
Back to the opening question: ‘Has loyalty to ‘Great’ Britain trumped progressive policies for fleeing Labour voters and produced a Tory surge?’
There is absolutely no evidence of any value, for either notion. I rest my case and ease my worried brow.