Since writing my blog Some Home Truths For The SNP – and Scottish Unionists – from #GE2017, I have noticed how it seems that the “Labour voters voted Tory” rhetoric seems to have become the mantra for some about the unexpected level of SNP losses. Some of this is being put down to the “Corbyn Effect”.
I state quite categorically that if you want to understand the SNP losses, you need to be honest with yourself and not buy into what you want to hear. Whilst there was some Labour-to-Tory voting, it was far from being the main reason for SNP losses. Right across the board, the evidence is overwhelming: The results are due to SNP voters from #GE2015 going Tory at #GE2017.
I have already explained in my Home Truths… blog that you need to go back to the General Elections of 2005 and 2010 (which yielded near enough identical results) to find your baseline. You may then realise that the SNP vote in 2015 included a lot of tactical voters; so they weren’t so much SNP voters to lose, as fair-weather voters to retain. The fact that the SNP retained half a million of the additional one million that voted SNP in 2015 tells the other half of the story.
My Home Truths… blog was based on the results of the vote across Scotland nationally (as arguably more pertinent to a referendum). The constituency vote nevertheless confirms my conclusions, albeit with a slightly more convoluted story to tell.
Here is the breakdown of the 24 seats that are not SNP, with my brief conclusions as to why, and from an SNP point of view.
- Aberdeen South – Tory gain from SNP – Loss of SNP votes to Tory, also loss of Labour votes to Tory;
- Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine – Tory gain from SNP – Loss of Lib Dem votes to Tory – loss of SNP vote to Labour & Tory;
- Angus – Tory gain from SNP – Loss of SNP votes to Tory;
- Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock – Tory gain from SNP – Loss of SNP votes to Tory, some Labour to Tory;
- Banff & Buchan – Tory gain from SNP – Loss of SNP votes to Tory;
- Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk – Tory gain from SNP – Loss of Lib Dem votes to Tory;
- Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross – Lib Dem gain from SNP – Loss of SNP votes to Tory;
- Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill – Lab gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote to both Labour & Tory;
- Dumfries & Galloway – Tory gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote to Tory, some Labour to Tory;
- Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale – Tory hold – Loss of SNP vote to Tory;
- Dunbartonshire East – Lib Dem gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote to Lib Dems & Tory;
- East Lothian – Labour gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote to Tory, some loss to Labour;
- Edinburgh South – Labour hold – Loss of SNP vote to Labour;
- Edinburgh West – Lib Dem gain – Loss of SNP vote to Tory;
- Glasgow North East – Labour gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote to both Labour & Tory;
- Gordon – Tory gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote mostly to Tory, massive loss of Lib Dem vote mostly to Tory;
- Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath – Labour gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote to Tory, some to Labour;
- Midlothian – Labour gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote to Tory, some to Labour;
- Moray – Tory gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote to Tory;
- Ochil & South Perthshire – Tory gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote to Tory, loss of Labour vote to Tory;
- Orkney & Shetland – Lib Dem hold – SNP loss of vote to Lib Dem and Labour, loss of UKIP votes to Lib Dems;
- Renfrewshire East – Tory gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote to Tory, loss of Labour vote to Tory;
- Rutherglen & Hamilton West – Labour gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote to Tory, some to Labour;
- Stirling – Tory gain from SNP – Loss of SNP vote to Tory, some Labour to Tory.
In 20 of these 24 seats, the primary reason, or (arguably in some cases) equally primary reason (underlined), that led to the SNP losing 21 seats (and fail to take one of the others), is because of voters that voted SNP in 2015, voting Tory in 2017.
For example, in Banff & Buchan, the SNP vote fell 21 points, as the Tory vote rose 19. The Labour vote increased by 3.7. You can’t explain the result there in any other way than it being lost by 2015 SNP voters going Tory.
Even in seats gained by Labour, this is down to SNP voters mainly going Tory, with some going to Labour. The Midlothian result is a good example of this, where the Labour vote was up six points, however the Tory vote went up 13.5. The SNP drop was 16.2.
This is echoed in SNP seats that they held. In the Airdrie & Shotts constituency, the incumbent SNP’s Neil Gray had an 8,779 majority slashed to 195. Whilst the Tories finished third, with Labour second, Labour’s vote only increased by 3 points, whereas the Tory vote increased by 15.5. The SNP vote went down by 16.3.
In Kilmarnock & Loudoun, the SNP held it fairly comfortably, despite a drop in their vote by over 13 points. The Tories finished third but their vote increased by just over 14 points, with the Labour vote down only very slightly.
Yes, there was some tactical voting from Labour to Tory in some constituencies, and it did make a critical difference in one or two of them, but again, this would not have mattered but for the number of SNP voters that went Tory.
Far fewer Labour voters went Tory than people seem to be saying. As a consequence of this, people are also assuming that this is down to the “Corbyn Effect”. However, the evidence of this is slim, or the effect in Scotland has been relatively small, compared to England. It may be more accurate to say that Scottish Labour’s voting slide was halted by this, rather than their vote increased.
As my Home Truths… blog showed, Labour’s vote across Scotland was only up by ten thousand, however look at Edinburgh South, where the vote to Labour increased by almost seven thousand in just that one constituency.
The Labour incumbent, Ian Murray, saw his vote increase by almost 16 points – where the SNP lost six thousand votes – a fall of 11.3 points. This particular constituency was one of the few that bucked the overall trend of SNP-to-Tory voting. Clearly the SNP lost votes to Labour.
However, it does back-up my overall view that there are a lot of tactically-minded floating voters, who voted SNP in 2015, didn’t want to vote SNP in 2017, but could vote SNP again.
The difficulty for the SNP is determining if these floating voters float one way or another based on Independence, or based on other SNP policies in place for governing within Scotland. This is compounded by the fact that these reasons are not mutually exclusive, and it could be a combination. So then it becomes a case of what are people more concerned about at the time.
One can argue that you wouldn’t vote SNP at all if you were against independence, but in 2015, independence was essentially off the table, following Indyref. Many floating voters may have tactically voted SNP to take advantage of the SNP surge, in order to slash the Scottish Labour vote. They may have gone the other way now because of a potential vote on independence again. But there is also the possibility that SNP policies, such as on income tax, swayed voters to Tory.
Again, as per Home Truths…, the good news for independence is that we are talking here about support for the SNP, not so much the support for independence. It seems people easily forget that support for Indy exists across party lines and many people are still loyal to their party, even if their party policy is against indy.
Also, this election, on top of Indyref, demonstrates how voters (and how many voters) can switch their voting intentions during a campaign period. Therefore, any refusal to deny a referendum or vote – and therefore a voting campaign – on a snapshot of popular opinion, is to deny a proper democratic process that may enable the opportunity where what could be regarded as a minority view could become a majority view. Also realise that such a policy within a so-called democracy would make it harder to remove an incumbent or incumbent view rather than keep a level playing field.
Whilst previously the Governments of the day have relied on the mainstream media to help it maintain its vote, or at least a hegemony, social media and other outlets, such as Common Space, The Canary, Byline & Media Lens, are breaking through this.
There is no doubt that many people have learned to look for other sources of news and political views, rather than from the main TV channels or from the printed press.
The “Corbyn Effect” in Scotland may have been slight, where Scottish Labour are so distrusted, but there is no doubt that it had much more of an effect in England, resulting in a hung Parliament, from Labour being nowhere in the polls several weeks ago.
I cannot say that I predicted this, but I did say at GE2015, that England and Wales were denied a viable, left wing alternative to austerity. I believed that if they were offered this option, that it would at least improve the fortunes of whoever offered it, if not lead them to prevail.
This, in spite of the prevalence of a hysterical right wing press that has constantly bombarded this Labour leader like no other before. His manifesto and message managed to cut through, thanks in no small part to social media and other newer media outlets.
All this should be taken as a positive by independence campaigners. We should remember that before May called the General Election, we were making headway on the case for independence even without a campaign; demonstrating in particular why the financial argument against Indy is actually quite poor, and is more of an argument for Indy.
We were also pointing out how Better Together’s campaign pitches and promises have turned to dust since 2014 (The Smith Commission, Brexit), so a completely new case for remaining in the UK will need to be made.
Despite this setback for the SNP, I believe it clears away some of the obfuscation there was from the road ahead. The SNP needs to keep Indy on the table and help bring together the wider movement under a broader umbrella that isn’t just SNP.
The movement needs to press on so that it can have the opportunity to make the case for Indy again, as the relative position of Indy now, as opposed to back in 2013 (or Labour before GE2017), is much stronger and much better placed to win out next time.