‘The Cat Man Amongst The Pigeons’

Will ‘Gorgeous George’ and his Alliance For Unity split the unionist vote?

erial self promoter George Galloway has announced he is returning to Scotland to save The Precious Union.

His ‘Alliance 4 Unity’ party is supposedly to run candidate lists in each of Scotland’s eight electoral regions, with Generalissimo George himself standing in the South of Scotland Region.

The Union is so important to him, that he now has no qualms whatsoever about working with the Tory ‘class enemy’ to thwart Scotland’s right to self determination. Self determination apparently is fine for nations all around the world, but not Scotland.

These are changed days indeed:

Splitting the Vote

We know that having fringe indy list parties that can siphon off crucial SNP votes and (according to models based on latest polling) potentially lead to SNP seats falling to Labour (in Glasgow and Central regions) and the Liberal Democrats (in Highlands & Islands region) is a very bad idea.

Naturally, as arithmetic is not party political, we would expect that the same principle of a split vote endangering seats would also apply to unionist parties.

So how would support for George Galloway’s latest party (he gets through more than Nigel Farage), affect the unionists in terms of seats in projections from the Panelbase poll?

How great a defection would it take of Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem votes to cost the main unionist parties seats, and would this lead to any gains by the SNP or Greens?

No empirical research has been done so far on the appeal of Galloway and his A4U to the three flavours of unionist, so we cannot yet know which party or parties are most vulnerable to a haemorrhaging of votes to the A4U. Of course, the balance of votes between the unionist parties is also crucial, as one unionist party may suffer seat losses on a relatively small defection, while another may be able to withstand a significant loss. We shall examine this variable vulnerability presently.

As mentioned, we have, as of yet, no polling data at all to indicate any potential level of support for A4U, or which voters are more likely to be enticed by Galloway, so all we can do in indulge ourselves in some purely hypothetical modelling to see where the seats fall if unionist voters switch over.

Let’s start by examining just how vulnerable each unionist party’s vote is to the A4U, by modelling swings from only one party at a time.

Lib Dem Only Swing to Alliance for Unity

In our first round, we’ll have a look at swings to the A4U from the Liberal Democrats — currently Scotland’s fifth party, polling even less than the Greens.

Here’s the baseline prediction from the recent Panelbase poll:

It takes a 9% swing from the Lib Dems to the A4U for one seat to change hands — the Lib Dems lose a seat in to the Tories in Lothian Region.

However, no one is realistically expecting 9% of the Lib Dem electorate to be seduced by the charms of George Galloway. Of all the unionist parties, I’d imagine the Lib Dems will be by far the most resistant to his call.

Labour Only Swing to Alliance for Unity

Perhaps Galloway’s erstwhile comrades in arms in ‘Scottish’ Labour will have a greater propensity to fall behind him in his gallant fight to save the union?

Surveys suggest that Labour members are actually moving towards supporting independence and are increasingly frustrated by their leadership’s support for the union, but let’s see what the modelling reveals.

A reminder of the baseline poll projection again:

It takes a whopping 23% swing from Labour to the A4U before a single seat changes hands — Labour loses a seat in Central Scotland to the SNP:

Indy bloc up one seat.

There is no point in going further, as a 23% swing from Labour to A4U is already well into the ‘realms of fantasy’ and beyond any possible expectation.

Conservative Only Swing to Alliance for Unity

Now we’ve seen that a fairly hefty (and completely unrealistic) swing is required from Labour and Lib Dem voters in order for the first to change hands, let’s have a look at the Tory vote — is it more vulnerable to ‘tactical voting’ for A4U?

Intriguingly, anecdotal evidence already suggests that it could in fact be the Tories that could well be tempted by his strong pro-union stance, likely on account of frustration with the lacklustre performance of their own Holyrood standard bearer, Jackson Carlaw. Then again, it could also be his support for Comrade Nigel Farage, who apparently isn’t a terrible nationalist like the SNP:

Our baseline projection once more:

We see that it takes only a 0.7% swing from the Tories to the A4U to see the last list seat in the South of Scotland go from the Tories to the SNP:

Just as the fringe indy list parties can threaten SNP list seats, so a fringe unionist party — in this case attracting 5,640 votes in the South of Scotland — can lead to the Tories losing an otherwise narrowly won seat to the SNP.

That’s one seat down for the union and one seat up for the SNP.

How much larger a swing would it take for a further seat to change hands?

At a 9% swing from the Tories, two more seats now change hands: on top of the Tory loss to the SNP in the South of Scotland, they also lose a further seat to the SNP in the Highlands & Islands, and a seat to Labour in North East Scotland.

It takes a full 20% swing for any further seats to change hands. This time the A4U wins it first seat — now taking the Tories seat in the South of Scotland instead of the SNP — but the SNP now take a Tory list seat in Central Scotland.

Overall, bloc wise, no change from the 9% swing — indy bloc two seats up and unionists two seats down.

Again, a 20% swing is completely unrealistic and, indeed, a 9% swing is also beyond any rational expectation. But we can see that a very small — and very possible — swing of less than 1% can see the Tories lose an expected seat to the SNP in the South of Scotland.

Mixed Unionist Swing to Alliance 4 Unity

Realistically, A4U will attract unionist voters from all three parties in varying amounts. Until polling suggests otherwise, I’d not expect A4U to poll better than other fringe parties (less than 1%), but if and when polling puts the A4U on a percentage sufficient not to be lumped in with ‘others’, we can revisit these scenarios and recalculate with updated percentages.

Let’s examine the seat count at, say, a 5% defection from both Labour and Tories, and a 1% defection from the Lib Dems, which I think is probably beyond realistic expectations.

Are any seats going to change hands from the baseline projection from the recent Panelbase poll?

As with the Tory swing only example, the 5% swing from them will see the last South of Scotland seat go the the SNP instead.

With a 2% swing from Labour, and a 10% swing from the Tories to A4U, the Tories would now lose two seats to the SNP — in Highlands & Islands and South of Scotland. But, as mentioned, a 10% defection from the Tories is very improbable indeed.

But what if SNP voters ‘vote tactically’ for the AFI and ISP too?

How about examining a realistic defection from the Tories to the A4U and a simultaneous defection of the SNP vote to the AFI and ISP? How would the seats come out with even more variables?

Some Yessers assert that the two splits would ‘cancel each other out’:

Now, if you ask me off the top of my head, I have absolutely no idea what exactly would happen in terms of seats transferring and at what swings. Neither — and please bear this in mind — does anyone else who proffers you an untested opinion on this.

I could hazzard a very educated guess, but without any modelling to back it up, it’s just an assertion, mere opinion, not a fact.

The only way this question can be answered is through modelling the various scenarios.

So, let’s get down to the number crunching.

Whereas we saw that a 5% swing from the Tories to A4U will cost them a seat in the South of Scotland, if a similar 5% of the SNP vote also defects to AFI/ISP/Wings, etc, then the Tories will now keep this seat and there will be no overall change:

Unless the polls indicate otherwise, this is where we would sensibly stop. But let’s continue a little more, purely out of academic interest to test this assertion further.

At a 10% defection from the SNP to the fringe list parties, and a 10% defection from Labour and Tories to the A4U, we still see no change:

However, if there had been no 10% split from the SNP to the fringe list parties, the SNP would have picked up two Tory seats in Highlands and Islands and South of Scotland.

Lastly, let’s have a look at a 15% swing from SNP to the ‘instant supermajority’ indy list parties and similarly from Conservative and Labour to the A4U:

The indy bloc is now one seat down, as the SNP has lost its Central Scotland seat to the A4U (while the A4U also picks up three Tory seats).

For comparison, without any defection of SNP votes to the indy ‘splitter parties’, the SNP would be one seat up:

In other words, the assertion that there’s no risk in voting for a fringe indy list party — as any harm will potentially be ‘offset’ by defections from the unionists to the A4U — is demonstrably false. Defections to both fringe indy and fringe unionist parties won’t cancel each other out.

So this is yet one more delusion that independence supporters tempted to vote for an indy list party must not fall for.

Summary

Obviously, in the absence still of any actual polling data for both A4U and the indy list parties, this is all purely hypotherical. But while we don’t yet know the percentage polling for these fringe parties, what the modelling can do is to clearly demonstrate the harmful effects of splits on both sides of the constitutional divide.

Coming back down to earth, we can only hope that the vast majority of pro-independence SNP voters see sense and avoid the list-only ‘indy splitter parties’ like the plague, whilst simultaneously hoping that Unionist — principally Tory — voters do heed the siren call of George Galloway and put their cross in the box next to the A4U on their regional ballot papers.

In fact, Galloway has done the SNP a massive favour by standing in the South of Scotland, where the last list seat (currently predicted to go to the Tories) is highly vulnerable to the SNP on only a 0.7% swing. Obviously this is where the A4U’s biggest campaigning will be, and independence supporters can only but hope he does very well.

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