That two horse race is on: Scottish Ashcroft polls show it’s Liberal Democrats against the SNP

As Scottish voters start to receive their postal votes in the next few days, they will have much to contemplate. To what extent will those who oppose independence be prepared to vote tactically to keep the SNP from winning Westminster seats.

Their decision may well be informed by yesterday’s Ashcroft polls which show potential SNP gains in all but one of the constituencies in question. Unfortunately, four of them were seats currently held by the Liberal Democrats.

I found the SNP fifteen points ahead in Charles Kennedy’s seat of Ross, Skye & Lochaber, up from five points in February. I also found the SNP leading by eleven points in Jo Swinson’s constituency of East Dunbartonshire, and by thirteen points in North East Fife, where Sir Menzies Campbell is stepping down after 28 years.

The poll found that Mike Moore is in a tough 3 way fight with the Tories in the Borders. He’s on 28%, the SNP on 29% and the Tories on 30%. It could barely be tighter.

All the polls show decisively, though, apart from the Borders, that it’s a clear two horse race between Liberal Democrat MPs and the SNP. The message to Tory and Labour voters is clear. Do they want an SNP MP primarily motivated by independence and forbidden from standing up for their constituents if their party doesn’t allow it, or a Liberal Democrat who will fight tirelessly for their area.

The East Dunbartonshire result is significantly different to the party’s own poll which I wrote about on Thursday. The big difference between the two, of course, is that the Ashcroft polls don’t mention the candidate’s names. The ballot paper, of course, does.

And you have to wonder that if the SNP actually thought they were that far ahead, why their candidate felt the need to even bother taking a posse to shout at Charles Kennedy’s staff the other day. 

Our campaign teams across all our seats know that they are in tough fights. These polls make no difference to the work that they are doing on the ground. They may well be useful in persuading Conservatives and Labour supporters towards us.

Speaking in Gordon yesterday, before the Ashcroft polls were released, Nick Clegg appealed to Tory and Labour voters in our held seats to vote Liberal Democrat to stop the SNP:

So if you are someone who is considering voting for the Conservative or Labour candidate, my message to you is this: lend us your vote and we can stop the SNP winning in your constituency.

The SNP are not the party of Scotland, they are the party of debt. They want to borrow more and more money – an eye watering £180bn – and their plans for full fiscal autonomy will cost the people of Scotland £7.6bn.

They will risk our economy and leave our children and grandchildren to pay for it for years to come.

The Liberal Democrats are working for Scotland in a way that is responsible, fair and keeps the country on track.

The SNP are shouting from the sidelines and are determined to keep a minority Labour Government on life support, limping from vote to vote towards the break-up of the UK.

Senior Labour figures are also found to be in trouble. New Scottish leader Jim Murphy is apparently trailing the SNP by 9 points in his East Renfrewshire constituency. I would be surprised if he lost, especially given the massive Tory vote still to be squeezed. Douglas Alexander finds himself 11 points behind a candidate who calls No voters gullible and selfish and about wanting to head-butt Labour councillors.

This story is far from over. Scotland will be one of the most fascinating electoral battlegrounds not just at this election but for some time to come. Sure, we would like to be reading in polls that we were ahead, but the message from these is that we have everything to play for.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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43 Comments

  • Why on earth is Nick Clegg attacking Labour in Scotland for possibly being supported by the SNP as a minority government? What’s the alternative? A Tory/Lib Dem minority coalition? That would be even worse for unionist minded Scots!

    The battle in Scotland is now effectively one between a nationalist minority and a unionist majority, where unionist tactical voting is going to be needed. Which means voting for lib dems where they stand a chance, and either Labour, or the Tories*, where they don’t, which is most of Scotland’s seats. The worst possible outcome for the Union would be for a politician to openly split the Unionist vote in seats where his party cannot win, as Clegg seems to be doing.

    *it hurts me to write this.

  • Thomas Robinson 18th Apr '15 - 10:39am

    Let’s be fair. Christine Jardine is an above average Lib Dem candidate who performed respectably in a recent Holyrood by-election. However, she came nowhere near winning.

    For all the vitriol poured over Salmond, he is a very big political “beast” and will comfortably take Gordon from the Lib Dems.

    I also tend to think that Michael Moore remains in contention to hold his seat partly BECAUSE he was sacked by the Lib Dems as Scottish Secretary, thereby automatically distancing himself from the Coalition, and giving him a slight chance of avoiding the coming Lib Dem disaster in Scotland.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Apr '15 - 10:46am

    G,

    Clegg’s comments were made specifically in relation to the 11 seats the Liberal Democrats currently hold.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Apr '15 - 10:50am

    Thomas,

    I disagree with your interpretation. Salmond is very much a marmite politician and I think that Christine is in with a good chance of winning.

    And as for Mike Moore, it would be a tragedy if he weren’t in parliament. I think it was a mistake to remove him. I think a referendum with him playing an active part as Secretary of State could have had a much bigger majority in favour. However, had he been S of S, he wouldn’t have been involved in the Smith Commission where he really made a massive and positive difference.e

  • Are the Alexander boys, Douglas and Danny, related ?

    For the Alexander family to lose one sitting MP may be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose two would look like carelessness.

  • Caron, the other big difference between the Ashcroft poll and the party’s polling is the question order.

    Ashcroft starts with likelihood to vote, and then the voting intention question. This is a standard approach across the polling industry.

    The party starts with the likelihood to vote question, then asks people’s opinions on the Lib Dem candidate and the leading opponent. It then proceeds to ask the voting intention question.*

    The difficulty with this approach is that it forces the respondent to view the local election as a two horse race. It encourages switchers to these two candidates, which ultimately biases the poll. In addition, asking the question about candidate popularity up top also makes it harder for people to give an answer where they state an intention not to vote for someone they’ve just claimed to like. Question ordering and phrasing matters. This is the obligatory ‘Yes Minister’ clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0ZZJXw4MTA

    I hope these party polls will be accurate. I want them to be accurate. But if they’re not, it’s our duty to hold those who commissioned them (at quite some expense) to account.

    * I should add that I do have doubts over Ashcroft’s two stage question, where he asks a general voting intention first, then a question prefaced with “thinking about your constituency”. This might dissuade people from switching with the second question, having already given one answer. In addition, the Ashcroft polls, as Caron says, don’t prompt with the candidate’s name. If I had to bet, I’d guess the results will be somewhere between Ashcroft’s polls and hte party’s polls.

  • I presume Nick Clegg is asking all LibDem voters to support the Labour and Conservative parties in seats which they are currently in second place.

  • g – playing the long game, the Tories haven’t won a FPTP election for a quarter of a century and are likely to fail again. Labour need another couple of terms of failure and we may see PR on the agenda.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Apr '15 - 11:26am

    No, they aren’t, John Tilley.

    Malc, I doubt you will see any party leader advise anyone to vote for another party, and that’s understandable. Willie Rennie was asked this directly on Scotland 2015 the other night. He said simply that he was the leader of the party and of course he wanted everyone to vote Lib Dem. That was the right approach.

  • George Flaxman 18th Apr '15 - 11:31am

    Sky News broadcast an interesting item earlier today from Joey Jones in Danny Alexander’s Inverness constituency. In talking to people on the streets about a third were talkative and open and pro-SNP. One bloke said Danny had done a good job, but that he wasn’t going to vote for him. Most people just didn’t want to talk. One old couple were adamantly but quietly not SNP and when politely pushed they agreed that meant LibDem, but they seemed embarrassed about saying it too loudly.

    To me it seemed similar to much coverage of the referendum last year. Almost as if it is unacceptable to say anything political in public that isn’t pro-SNP.

  • This plea for tactical voting to save LibDem seats avoids the real question…why are the voters deserting you. Winning a seat with tactical votes does not win back the hearts and minds of the public.

    Caron to beg for votes on the basis of “anyone but THEM” is failure of ambition. Are the LibDems now reduced to this!

    You are out of touch with the Scottish people and your own traditional support. MPs such as Danny Alexander became more Tory than Tories accept this and get back to the middle..

    I support PR like most on this site. However that will require the LibDems to rebuild their voting base to benefit. This attempt to cover it up by becoming even more undemocratic by reforming the “better Together” club will in the long term make it worse.

  • George Flaxman – Danny’s a goner.

  • @ Caron and g

    If you are really going to support tactical voting then the lib dems shouldn’t stand a candidate.

    It is a bit bad for a party to ask someone to stand and then offer them anything less than 100% support.

    Focusing your resources on areas where you feel you have the best chance of winning is one thing, but for lib dem politicians and activists to be asking the voters to vote for someone other than their candidate really is beyond the pale.

    If the party really feel that they cannot win in a certain area and cannot support the lib dem candidate in an area then they shouldn’t stand one.

    And by the way, I consider tactical voting in general to be wrong. You have no business telling the voters who can and cannot win, anyone standing can win, and the voters decide who that winner is, not you guys. The voters can pick and candidate they like (including the lib dem) so anyone standing can actually win.

  • George Flaxman 18th Apr '15 - 12:40pm

    Tabman – My point wasn’t specifically about Danny Alexander, it was about dissenting viewpoints. There were no Labour views, no Conservative views, only happy-slappy SNP views. Rather reminiscent of 1930’s Germany I thought.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Apr '15 - 12:48pm

    @JulianGibb It’s “undemocratic” to argue that people vote against the SNP, is it?

    While we have a dreadful electoral system that does not reflect how people actually cast their votes across the country, tactical voting is bound to factor in people’s thinking. I think even the SNP might have favoured it in 97 against the Tories.

    And nobody is as arrogant as to assume they can control a whole block of voters. Voters don’t belong to any political party. It is legitimate, though, to suggest to people that they could vote for us in order to stop a party supported by a minority of the electorate from having a disproportionate influence on the next parliament and destabilising a union which, though in need of reform, the majority of people wish to keep.

  • Tabman
    g – playing the long game, the Tories haven’t won a FPTP election for a quarter of a century and are likely to fail again. Labour need another couple of terms of failure and we may see PR on the agenda.

    I agree.

    But I am not prepared to sacrifice my country for voting reform. Thwarting the minority nationalist viewpoint has to be the political priority next parliament for all parties.

  • It is proper to note that for most of us tactical voting is not an issue. In 1997, 2001 and 2005 my vote was in a constituency that has returned a Conservative MP since 1868, and my vote in 2010 was, and will again be in 2015,
    in a constituency that has returned a Conservative MP since Dec 1910.

    How exciting it would be to live in a constituency which was a marginal and in which my vote would matter, and how mean-spirited are commentators on this thread who would advise voters in such a constituency not to vote tactically !

  • @Flaxman
    Is comparing Scotland to Nazi Germany meant to be a contribution to inclusive and mature political debate?

  • @caron

    It’s not undemocratic to ask people not to vote snp, but it is undemocratic to say that candidate x can’t win here you must choose from candidates y or z because you simply can’t have x. Any candidate can win, the voters decide who it is.

    Tactical voting is not a good route for any party to go down because you can’t have it one way. If it’s choose us where we are one of the two strongest parties in order to stop the other then it must also be please vote for someone other than our candidates where we are weak.

    And if the party or it’s activists are really asking the voters to vote for someone other than their own candidates then I suspect that the party is in far more trouble than you realise.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 18th Apr '15 - 1:20pm

    David, it’s perfectly democratic to point out to people the reality of our voting system. If any candidate could win, we’d not have such a distorted situation where parties with almost a quarter of the vote nationally end up with 8% of the seats.

    The party isn’t asking its own supporters to vote tactically, Nick asked Conservative and Labour voters in Lib Dem held seats where it is clearly a Lib Dem/SNP 2 horse race to vote for us on this occasion to stop the SNP.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Apr '15 - 1:21pm

    I don’t feel I or much of the media understand what is going on in Scotland. Are the SNP going around saying they won’t put up taxes besides on the richest? How have they achieved such widespread support?

    I read something about people feeling betrayed by the Conservatives on devolution, but I find it quite nauseating when even some senior Labour figures blame the collapse of Scottish Labour on the Conservatives.

  • Tony Greaves 18th Apr '15 - 1:27pm

    How interesting that this thread descends to fairly trivial argument about tactical voting and who will win where.

    The really interesting revelation in Caron’s original piece is about the SNP standing orders. When they refer to MPs does this just mean Westminster MPs or MSPs as well? Anyway if the SNP get 40-50 Westminster MPs and the try to enforce these SOs, they will get into serious trouble and start losing members. In a practical sense they are unworkable (quite apart from the shocking Stalinism behind them).

    For Liberals, of course, an important purpose of SOs is to protect the rights of members not to trample on them.

    Tony

  • George Flaxman 18th Apr '15 - 1:30pm

    AndrewR – Who have I excluded ?.

  • “the party isn’t asking it’s own supporters to vote tactically”… C’mon you can’t have that sort of thing one way. Or do you honestly not understand that?

    The parties message should be vote for whoever you support, the voters can have anyone they like and here is why we think you should vote for us and why we think the lib dems are the best party to vote for.

    You have just had a five year term in government with collective responsibility for everything the government did. You now need to stand on that record and defend it whilst acknowledging that the voters can choose anyone they like. Support us even if you actually support the others isn’t defending that record and definitely works both ways. Like I said, if the party can’t even do that then they really are in big trouble.

  • Thomas Robinson 18th Apr '15 - 1:38pm

    George Flaxman.

    I don’t care who you have excluded (though Andrew R may)-but anyone who compares Scotland 2015 to Germany of the 1930s is, at best, making a fool of themselves.

  • Realistically, the problem with squeezing the Labour vote in Scotland is that out of the three (Labour, Lib Dems & Tories) the Labour voters are more likely to run to the SNP than voters of the coalition parties. That’s a double-edged sword.

  • George Flaxman 18th Apr '15 - 2:30pm

    Thomas Robinson – Back to my original point after AndrewR’s divergence. No home country was in my original posting, just the one constituency.

    Any constituency where there are only pro-nationalist protestations, and the only divergent views are “I don’t want to say anything” or “no comment” has a problem. Compare it to any country you are happy with.

    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then I’m afraid you may very well have a duck.

  • For the four seats identified add another 6, maybe even Orkney. We are a moment in political history a huge number of nationalist MPs akin to the late 19th century with the Irish, and we know how that ended up. Likewise it has been apparent for 4 years that Scotland was going to be a Liberal Democrat disaster zone. But the party has been complacent whilst all has crumbled around it. Some consolation, England is not much better, with the present swing to the Conservatives even Cheltenham and Thornbury could be lost. What I would say to Caron and others, just look at the body language of those you are talking to. It is not good at all. It is like the jury not looking at the defendant before they find the person guilty.

  • Caron I completely disagree with you that Jardine has any chance of winning Gordon. Salmond may be marmite but he is a very experienced politician, knows Gordon very well, the Lib Dem vote share has imploded in Scotland and he will be riding the SNP wave. The idea that Jardine could win against these odds is virtually impossible. In fact I think Carmichael could very well be the only one of the Scottish MPs to survive, Moore clearly has a fairly good chance but I believe the rest, including unfortunately Kennedy, are finished.

    This election seems to be an election of the parties denying reality. The Tories are in denial that they clearly will lose enough seats that they can’t form the next government, Labour are in complete denial of their Scottish predicament, the Lib Dems are in denial that they are about to lose about half of their seats, UKIP are in denial that they will be utterly irrelevant in the next parliament and the Greens are in denial that their ‘surge’ has wilted and they will be marooned on only one seat. The level of self delusion of all the parties is astounding.

  • The Oracles of Delphi are out in force again today dispensing their psephological wisdom. It’s the same Labourites and separatists, day in, day out, saying the same things over and over again, all of them basically boiling down to: “Sucks, yaboo! You’re gonna lose!”

    Just to reiterate what Caron has been saying. With FPTP, tactical voting is essential if we want to stop the Tories getting an overall majority, or if we want to stop the SNP winning a landslide in Scotland on a minority vote.

    The Labourites who never tire of telling us how much they hate us, some of them are going to have to vote Lib Dem on 7th May, otherwise they may find themselves with a majority Tory government. I do not care much for the Labour Party, but I will be voting Labour on 7th May in order to help oust a Tory in theTory/Labour marginal where I live. On tactical voting, I practice what I preach.

  • Caron, if all that’s left is for us to hope for tactical votes to save the union, no wonder the campaign is lethargic and enthusiasm lacking.
    Talk to me on May 8th when the Grandeeswill have had the day they’ve been hell-bent on taking us to since 2010 and, hopefully, the re-building can begin – but I’m only playing if the Preamble is not set aside again.

  • Theakes wrote:

    “with the present swing to the Conservatives even Cheltenham and Thornbury could be lost.”

    So the Ashcroft polls in those constituencies, based on 1,000 voter samples, count for nothing in your estimation?

    For your information, when the Lib Dems first won Cheltenham, the Tories were on 42% nationally. So much for your conjured up uniform swing.

  • “You are out of touch with the Scottish people and your own traditional support. MPs such as Danny Alexander became more Tory than Tories accept this and get back to the middle..”

  • JJ 18th Apr ’15 – 6:52pm
    “……This election seems to be an election of the parties denying reality. The Tories are in denial that they clearly will lose enough seats that they can’t form the next government, Labour are in complete denial of their Scottish predicament, the Lib Dems are in denial that they are about to lose about half of their seats, UKIP are in denial that they will be utterly irrelevant in the next parliament and the Greens are in denial that their ‘surge’ has wilted and they will be marooned on only one seat. The level of self delusion of all the parties is astounding.”

    I don’t know who you are JJ but your description of “The Denial Election” seems 100% accurate.

  • Philip Thomas 19th Apr '15 - 9:12am

    I don’t think the SNP are particularly in denial, or the DUP (electorally speaking, that is).

    And, with the honourable exception of our dear leader, who may yet be proved right (“we will do so much better than anyone is expecting”) I don’t think we’re in much denial either. The situation is serious but not hopeless.

  • Philip Thomas 19th Apr ’15 – 9:12am
    (“we will do so much better than anyone is expecting”)

    The problem with a statement like that is that afterwards, when the vote is counted and we know how many MPs there are, whatever the result is he will pop up and say “ah yes, but thesis not as bad as anyone expected”.

    He expected to double the number of Liberal Democrat MPs we got in 2005 when under Charles Kennedy’s leadership 62 Liberal Democrat MP were elected; so does that mean that he will resign on 8th May if we Liberal Democrats get fewer than 124 MPs ???

  • Sesenco 18th Apr ’15 – 10:49pm ……..The Labourites who never tire of telling us how much they hate us, some of them are going to have to vote Lib Dem on 7th May, otherwise they may find themselves with a majority Tory government. I do not care much for the Labour Party, but I will be voting Labour on 7th May in order to help oust a Tory in theTory/Labour marginal where I live. On tactical voting, I practice what I preach……

    Perhaps if you consider the overwhelming bias of LDV anti-Labour threads, compared to ones critical of the Conservatives, you might understand why….Where were all the threads criticising Osborne’s refusal to identify where the £12B cuts are coming from? Yet LDV managed to conjure umpteen separate threads criticizing Labour’s tuition plans….
    I make no secret of the fact that I am/was a LibDem far more in tune with Labour than the Tories and yet, since my first election (at 21 in those days),I have only felt the need to vote Labour once (1n 1997)…However, I cannot see me voting LibDem again unless there is a complete change in the party’s values as currently espoused by Clegg, Alexander, Laws and by the majority LDV output…

  • Sadie Smith 19th Apr '15 - 1:36pm

    I do wish I did not have to be concerned about some Scots MPs.
    It is a wonderful country. I began my education there. For decades it had a much better education system than England. I think its legal system is interesting. Above all it seemed to be outward looking and internationalist,. We have excellent LibDem members and MPs who still have most of the attributes. It would be a great shame were Charles Kennedy in particular to lose. Our MPs have had wider interests as well as Scotland. That is why I worry about the SNP.
    I want Scots to still hold high office in the UK while there is effective Home Rule.
    And one of the main reasons the SNP is strong is due to the crass way the PM handled the result of the Referendum. If this was a cunning plan for this election, I hope many Scots see through it and reject it.

  • The most advantageous thing that Liberal Democrats in Scotland can do, after the election, is to separate themselves from the federal Party and henceforth support candidates as an independent organisation under a new name — as Alliance does in Northern Ireland. I suggest the name “Scottish Liberal Party.”

  • John Tilley

    “He expected to double the number of Liberal Democrat MPs we got in 2005 when under Charles Kennedy’s leadership 62 Liberal Democrat MP were elected; so does that mean that he will resign on 8th May if we Liberal Democrats get fewer than 124 MPs”

    You seem very concerned that he will stay on. I can see the LibDems doing better than polling but not achieving a result that will make it possible for Nick to stay as leader.

    Do you think that would be an attractive prospect for him either?

  • @Psi I can see Clegg being put under house arrest like Kerensky.

  • @ Eddie
    “Are the SNP going around saying they won’t put up taxes besides on the richest?”

    Yes. By and large the SNP’s looser spending plans (which may not in fact be all that different from Labour’s, it’s just that Labour have been much vaguer) are financed by higher borrowing rather than higher taxation. They have been quite honest about that.

    They clearly had no intention of jeopardising popularity – even in a social-democratic Scotland in the grip of identity politics – by inviting the average voter to pay more for higher spending on public services. Instead it is to be financed by well-off folk south of the border (especially Londoners) and – to a much greater extent – by future taxpayers. Borrowing is, after all, deferred taxation.

    I’m not sure Jeremy Browne was right on today’s Daily Politics to characterise the SNP’s economic policies as ‘hard left’. That certainly applies to the Greens, whose spending plans, tax plans and wider economic policies are other-worldly. The SNP I think are campaigning on a populist soft-left platform that is not as different from Labour’s as it suits both parties to imply.

    Increasing departmental spending by 0.5% per year probably would be consistent with some reduction in the deficit, albeit a mostly cyclical reduction that would leave a substantial structural overdraft. (Indeed, after initial cuts, the Lib Dems plan to increase total public spending by more than 2% per year in the final two years and the Tories by a similar amount in the final year.) The SNP’s rhetoric, however, implies a much more radical transformation that is at odds with both their actual plans and their record in government at Holyrood.

    “… I find it quite nauseating when even some senior Labour figures blame the collapse of Scottish Labour on the Conservatives.”

    Any port in a storm I guess. Much easier to blame the tribal enemy than to recognise that they are reaping the whirlwind of years of arrogant complacency in what they treated as a fiefdom.

  • Simon Hebditch 22nd Apr '15 - 6:07pm

    The manufactured hysteria about the SNP reminds me of the last days of the Scottish referendum when the mainstream parties threw everything it possibly could at the Yes campaign to “save the union”! What has happened to the idea of a constitutional convention to devise a new political settlement across the four nations of the UK? All our leaders have simply retrenched to their original position of no change. The fundamental mistake by the No campaign was to fail to argue the case for a genuinely federal UK with all the institutional changes that would be necessary to achieve that. Linking that failure with the refusal to put a devo max option on the ballot paper amounted to crass political incompetence from all our leaders.

    Now, the failure to advance a progressive case for federalism has led to the current chaos.

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