State of the Polls: September 2015

It’s politics season again, as both Westminster and Holyrood return to their duties after summer breaks – and while the fallout from the General Election has largely settled, there are still some major battles going on in British politics in political and constitutional terms.

Labour leadership contest

The Labour leadership contest has been a rollercoaster ride, but one that only became exciting when a sudden rise from nowhere burst through the mediocrity.  Jeremy Corbyn’s transition from no-hoper to front-runner has been a revelation, and has brought the Labour party into a frantic discussion of where it should be headed in search of the promised land of Government.

With almost two weeks to go until the final result is announced at the party’s autumn conference, here is how the polls show the race to be shaping up:

Burnham Cooper Corbyn Kendall
26% 18% 41% 14%

 

Date Poll Comp. Sample Burnham Cooper Corbyn Kendall
11-14 Aug Opinium 1762 28% 19% 36% 17%
12-13 Aug Survation 1007 25% 15% 28% 15%
6-10 Aug YouGov 1411 21% 18% 53% 8%

These are just first-preference votes, so it is possible that as the single transferable vote system unfolds with candidates dropping out that Burnham or Cooper could push things close, but chances are that the 15 point lead will see Jeremy Corbyn elected as the leader of the Labour Party and of the Opposition.

Corbyn is the candidate to beat, starting out from an issues-based platform rather than one of going for his name in lights like the other three.  Burnham and Cooper are both viable leaders, with Liz Kendall being an interesting, more right-wing take on a Labourite, but neither have inspired the public at-large in a way that they would need to in the hopes of taking office.  Merely looking back at Ed Miliband’s tenure is proof enough of that.  Only Corbyn has “that vision thing” to really set Labour and the Tories apart whilst igniting a renewed support from the left for the red team.

 

EU Referendum

One political outcome of the General Election that affects us all is the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.  The Bill setting the ball rolling is going through Parliament at the moment and has been subject to some changes already, mostly to do with the wording of the question and the campaigning rules.  It’s no secret that Prime Minister David Cameron wants to keep the UK in the EU, and the offer of renegotiation with the powers-that-be to get a “better deal for Britain” is a pacifist way of showing that progress is being made so that the radical choice of leaving is rejected by the voters.

At the moment Cameron’s gambit seems as though it will be pulled off, but the race is close.  Here is the results of the only poll from August on EU membership:

Date Poll Comp. Sample Remain Leave Don’t Know
18-19 Aug YouGov 1,676 44% 37% 20%

With don’t knows excluded the result is:

Remain Leave
54% 46%

We saw last year what the effect of a proper campaign period can have on a referendum’s result, and there should be no complacency whatsoever from the Europhiles if they want to keep Britain in the EU.  However, depending on the timescale of the referendum, it looks as though for now the status quo will remain.

 

2016 Scottish Parliament election

The SNP are almost certainly on course for another majority at Holyrood, with over 50% of the vote in both the constituency and the list votes at present.

Constituency vote

SNP Lab Con LibDem UKIP Green Other
58% 21% 12% 5% 1% 2% 1%

Regional/List vote

SNP Lab Con LibDem UKIP Green Other
53% 21% 13% 2% 1% 8% 1%

This would keep the state of the parties almost as present with a weakened opposition and the Lib Dems being wiped out by the Greens.  Here is a look at how those vote shares would play into seats:

Party Cons Region MSPs Change
SNP 70 8 78 13
Labour 1 25 26 -12
Conservative 1 14 15 0
Lib Dem 1 0 1 -4
Green 0 9 9 7
UKIP 0 0 0 0

In a week where the SNP revealed their programme of Government for the upcoming year of Parliament, it seems that the people of Scotland are more than happy with how they are being governed with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon enjoying a whopping 71% approval rate.

There is almost nothing on the horizon that could swing this vote the other way.  The setting of an EU referendum date might be the biggest event that could happen, but in that all of the major parties of Scotland would be pulling in the same direction.

The effect of Labour’s new leadership team might be able to win some votes back, but definitely not tip the scales in a big way.

 

Scottish independence

But for the SNP perhaps the more interesting news is that a poll now shows that voters would vote Yes in a potential second independence referendum.

Here’s the results from the poll announced yesterday:

Date Poll Comp. Sample Yes No Undecided
24-30 Aug Ipsos MORI 1,002 53% 44% 3%

This is the first time in history that the Yes vote has had a majority larger than the combined No and Don’t Know vote.

With Don’t Knows excluded the result would be:

Yes No
55% 45%

Familiar result, huh?

It really is stick or twist time for the SNP and neither option is an easy route to take in terms of keeping hold of power in Scotland or achieving independence.

In some senses the SNP almost have to push home their current advantage and go for another referendum in this parliament, as they are almost certainly at their high watermark in terms of parliamentary and public support for the party and independence.  The sizeable majority of SNP members that joined after the referendum will have done so to further the cause of separation, and to pass by this opportunity to make the final push when the finish line looks so close would be seen as a dereliction of duty by many.  The poll that supports independence also shows that voters are in favour of another independence referendum either if Scotland votes to stay in the EU and the rest of the UK votes to leave or, in a much more likely/even almost certainty, the UK Parliament passes its English Votes for English Laws legislation.

But on the other hand, another referendum would play into the hands of the arguments of the Unionist parties that the SNP is concerned with independence and nothing more.  Putting the constitutional question to the public again could simply entrench the No vote as many of those who now say they’d vote for independence would tire of being put through the campaign mill again and would believe that the SNP was neglecting their role in governing the Scotland we have just now.  Failure at the ballot box again would spell a certain doom for the independence cause for sure, even if it was a closer result – precedent in Quebec shows that it could prove the death knell for the SNP if there was another No vote.

So the decision for Nicola Sturgeon whether or not to go for it is perhaps the most difficult that any Scottish politician has ever faced.

 

Things are kicking off again and even though the polls point to what could happen, there’s no real certainty yet what the next few months of political theatre will bring – but I’d certainly buy some popcorn cause it’s going to be entertaining.

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