Monday, 19 October 2009
A few days ago - prior to the SNP conference starting - Jeff made a list of potential gains for the SNP in the coming Westminster election. No doubt over the course of the weekend he drank in more optimism from the gathered masses in Inverness and feels pretty good about his prediction. Makes sense - conferences are meant to recharge the batteries, invigorate the activists to campaign and deliver some seats. Even so, I still think his list may be somewhat... optimistic. Saying that, I'd love to have some of what he is drinking!
Jeff's list of potential SNP gains (in order of ascending swing required to win):
Ochil & South Perthshire (0.75%)
Livingston (4.55% - from by-election)
Dundee West (7.3%)
Kilmarnock & Loudoun (9.8%)
Argyll & Bute (10.55%)
Aberdeen North (10.6%)
Edinburgh East (11.5%)
Edinburgh North & Leith (12%)
Linlithgow & Falkirk East (12.1%)
East Lothian (14.2%)
East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow (15.4%)
Plus an extra shopping list of:
North Ayrshire & Arran (12.95%)
Paisley & Renfrewshire North (13.45%)
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East (14.8%)
Glasgow Central (16.7%)
Anyway, I'm not sure what kind of national swing Jeff's predictions are based on, but by my reckoning only something in the range of a massive 14% LAB-SNP national swing would see some of the higher ones on the list go. And given the UK level is a straight fight between Labour and the Tories, I'd expect the latter to muscle in a wee bit on the fight in Scotland, grabbing a wee bit of the swing from Labour. In short, I can only see something like a 7 or 8% national swing at absolute best to the SNP from Labour. That isn't to say they won't win a couple of other seats which require a larger swing (as happened in 2007 - they failed to win Cumbernauld on a minor swing but grabbed Gordon & Stirling on massive swings) but I don't expect the "extra list" to come into play... or indeed much of the first list beyond Argyll & Bute. Saying that, there may be a couple of surprises (Gordon?).
Now the main criticism of my analysis here is that the swings are based on an election which will be five years old by the time the election comes round. And that is fair - we've had a Holyrood (2007) and European (2009) election since then, in both of which the SNP have polled remarkably well. Indeed, if the we transpose the European Parliament vote onto the Westminster constituencies, the SNP would end up winning more seats than Labour - from memory, everything north of Stirling, most of Edinburgh and some surprising bits of Glasgow (potentially goodbye to Glasgow South's blogging MP). So yes, there is potential for some shocks - and some big SNP gains.
But I'll return to the reason I'm suggesting some of them are not going to fall to the SNP, and that is that it is a Westminster election. While the party appear to be winning round people in Scotland - at least for Holyrood elections - this is their first real test of popularity as a Government. And I think they'll do fine - just perhaps not quite as well as some people think they will.
Coming off the fence, I'd give them 6 of 7 the seats they currently hold (minus Glasgow East) plus 6 or 7 more... but no more than 13 SNP MPs after the election. And here's a tip - the constituency where they need less than a 1% swing from Labour may be more difficult than you'd think. If Ochil and South Perthshire slips from Labour control, it might just be a Tory Gain rather than a Nat MP for the constituency.