14 October 2009

A Green Gain

As of yesterday, Councillor Debra Storr (one of the Aberdeenshire Four) followed in Martin Ford's footsteps and joined the Greens, though she'll remain in the Democratic Independent Group on the Council. Even so, that gives Aberdeenshire two Green Councillors out of ten nationwide, making Aberdeenshire something of a Green growth area, even if the new officials are coming from defections.

The thing that the LibDems need to be worried about is this: while it is obviously the Trump affair - and the LibDem group's handling of internal dissent surrounding the future of the Menie Estate (which is why they have only themselves to blame for this) - that triggered the move, this may well alert present LibDem supporters to the possibility that the party is less in tune with their values than they thought, and that the Greens are a more logical destination. Certainly as the LibDems professionalise and try to look more like a mainstream party of potential power than a pressure group for - and I apologise for the old stereotype here - beardy sandal-wearers, those who would be more inclined to tell Donald Trump where to stick his golf course, regardless of their facial hair situation or choice of footwear, will have difficulty recognising the LibDems at this time and may feel less than comfortable in the party.

And this is what they want to watch out for: although we can't work out how people might have voted under other circumstances, looking at the swing to the SNP in Dundee East in 2003, where there was neither a strong independent nor an SSP candidate, then looking at the swings against the SNP in the Regional Vote that year, it's not too great a leap to suggest that the SSP under Tommy Sheridan cost John Swinney's SNP about a quarter of the support it could otherwise have got.

If the Greens manage to take a quarter of potential LibDem support in Scotland, the party has a problem next year. For quickness, i've resorted to using Electoral Calculus, but using their present predictions for the Scottish consituencies, and subtracting a quarter of the projected LibDem vote, we see that potential LibDem gain Aberdeen South would stay Labour, while four other seats that the LibDems would hold on the present projection would be lost: West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine and Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk to the Tories, and Gordon and Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey to the SNP. So the defection of two Aberdeenshire Councillors has the potential - and I emphasise that potential is all it is - cost the LibDems their two Aberdeenshire MPs.

Then there's 2011. James is excited at the prospect of the North East once again sending a Green to Holyrood. That might not be the only one. If nothing else were to change, other than a loss of a quarter of the LibDem Regional Vote to the Greens (a Scotland-wide swing of approximately 2.8%), the results for the LibDems would be a major problem.

Firstly, that Green North East MSP would be a reality, at the expense of Alison McInnes, the LibDem North East MSP. But the Greens would end up with one MSP in each region, with differing results:

In East Central Scotland, it would be a straight swap: Hugh O'Donnell out, a Green in.

In Glasgow, the LibDem fall in support would cost Robert Brown his seat, which would be gained by the SNP.

The Greens would cost Labour a seat in the Highlands and Islands, as they did in 2003.

Lothian would, unless the Greens started to field constituency candidates in Edinburgh, be the only region to see no change on the notional figures.

the Greens would cost the Tories an MSP in Mid Scotland & Fife.

Labour would lose a notional Regional MSP in South Scotland.

And the Greens would replace Ross Finnie in West Central Scotland.

What this means is that the LibDems would have no MSPs at either Constituency or Regional level in three of the eight regions: East and West Central, and Glasgow. When you add to that to the gaps created where the LibDems have Constituency MSPs but no Regional ones (the Highlands, Lothian, Mid Scotland & Fife and the North East on this projection), that's a lot of constituencies without LibDem representation: in 54 out of 73 notional Constituencies, a LibDem vote will not result in any kind of LibDem MSP - that's exactly three times the number of Constituencies on the new boundaries that won't have access to a Liberal Democrat at Holyrood. By contrast, the Greens, on this supposition, would achieve Scotland-wide representation with one MSP in every Region, despite winning fewer votes and seats than the LibDems. That must surely be a galling notion for the Liberal Democrats.

What I'm trying to say is that a couple of Aberdeenshire Councillors falling out with the LibDems over Donald Trump might not seem like a big deal, but if the idea that current LibDem supporters have, as Martin Ford and Debra Storr feel, a more comfortable home in the Green Party, then the impact they have on the LibDems (and other parties) certainly is a big deal. And the onus is on the LibDems to find a way of keeping the supporters they currently have - before they too are lost.

UPDATE The above figures were worked out on a straight LD-Green swing of 2.8%. Ironically, one quarter of the present LibDem support in each individual region would be better for them, even though some of the swings would be far heavier. On a more localised analysis, Messrs, O'Donnell, Brown and Finnie would retain their seats, and the Greens would not gain an MSP in those regions, but they would cost Labour an MSP in both the Highlands and South Scotland, the Tories an MSP in Mid Scotland & Fife and would eject Alison McInnes. So the biggest casualties of a Green resurgence from LibDem votes could end up being Labour. But the threat to the LibDems is still very real, especially in the upcoming FPP election, even if the Greens aren't the winners from that!


Malc said...

Cracking stuff Will. Of course its all suppositions and guesses... but anything that sees the Lib Dems lose seats is fine by me! :)

Will said...

Cheers, Malc, I've added an extra paragraph where I used a different method - so instead of a 2.8% LD-Green swing across the board, I transferred a quarter of the LibDem vote share in each individual region to the Greens, and it may not be as catastrophic for the LibDems as I initially thought (if anything, it's worse for Labour, which is still good IMO).

Even so, a party called the Liberal Democrats has to live up to its name and the way the Aberdeenshire party has dealt with internal dissent over Trump is neither liberal nor democratic by any stretch of the imagination. If they carry on as they are, they're going to get punished at the ballot box, and hard!

James Mackenzie said...

Very interesting, even if the recount was less tempting.

You know the Greens are also trying to:

"professionalise and try to look more like a mainstream party of potential power than a pressure group"?

Will said...

Of course, James, and I wasn't trying to suggest that you were not: I was simply attempting to draw from the themes I picked up from the LibDem Conference last month. Thing is though, Green principles being what they are - and providing a firm enough bedrock for you guys as you pitch for further progress - it's incredibly easy for you (and more so than for many other parties) to tell Trump where to stuff his wig. For the others, they are more willing to weigh up the future of Menie with the cash that could potentially come to Aberdeenshire and come to the conclusion that the cash will provide more benefit for more people.

Although, if it were me, I'd send Trump packing, for no other reason than I have this mental thing about golf and golfers that makes me resist anything that would promote the sport and increase its number of players. But that's beside the point.

What I would suggest, James, is that if the decision had been your party's to take, it's obvious which one you'd have taken and you'd have got kudos from some circles, but other prominent voices would have issued responses involving the words 'off' and 'nut'. You can't make a decision like this without pissing off a large amount of people. The question you have to ask is, are you ready to do that?

That said, the Green position is clear and a no-brainer given the consequences of the plan for the Menie Estate.

By contrast, the SNP position has also been clear and, in a way, something of a no-brainer given the money and jobs that could potentially come Aberdeenshire and Scotland's way, though I'd be very surprised if the SNP's PR people don't raise their eyes skyward and pray for Donald Trump to discover Trappism every time he discusses the matter. You'd think such an accomplished businessman would be craftier, subtler and less prone to stomping about like he hasn't outgrown his Terrible Twos and such an approach does himself, the proposals and their supporters no favours whatsoever.

The LibDems are the ones who've screwed up on this, by trying to face both ways : you had then LibDem Leader Nicol Stephen lambasting Alex Salmond for breathing the same air as Donald Trump, but you had LibDem Councillors booting out of the group anyone who had any sort of reservations about the plan. That's why they're in the mess they're in now over this, and that's why you're in a strong enough position to punish them...

stuart said...

"For the others, they are more willing to weigh up the future of Menie with the cash that could potentially come to Aberdeenshire and come to the conclusion that the cash will provide more benefit for more people."

I know what you're saying Will, but Martin Ford DID have to make the big decision, and not just criticise from the side lines. He had the balls to call the decision correctly, and instead of being given respect, he was unfairly critised by his party and the media.

It just goes to show that you CAN make the morally correct decision in power without constantly pandering to the usual lobbyists...

Stuart Winton said...

Stuart, yes you can demonstrate principles while in office, but I suspect that when push comes to shove and there's lots of hard jobs and investment on the line then there has to be compromise.

And even if princple is adhered to despite the above then there's the further problem that following a strict moral position might only result in being shown the door at the next election - perhaps the Evening Express's front page was reflective of public opinion, however Trumpesque it may now seem.

Principles are no use if not in power, thus politicians generally have to balance them against pragmatism and realpolitik.

Indeed, that's why radicals and extremists rarely gain much of a toehold - public opinion gravitates to the centre, roughly speaking, thus so do those who represent them.

Liberal for Life said...

As usual you are generating comment knowing only half the story as told by the defectors.

Cllrs Ford and Storr have had axes to grind with certain fellow LibDem cllrs in the Aberdeenshire Group for a while now, of that there is no doubt as their ongoing activities demonstrate.

I'll say two things -
1)People in glass houses should not throw stones; and
2)Its a case of the pot calling the kettle black - in many respects.

To now adopt a holier than though attitude toward those of us who remain loyal to the Liberal Democrats reflects their rather selfish approach to disharmony that can affect any party (family etc) from time to time.

Their real agenda will become clearer by the day, I assure you.

Will said...

LfL - interesting that you criticise holier-than-thou attitudes in a comment dripping with contempt for anyone who might say or do anything untoward to such lovely people as yourself.

The fact is, the Greens have posed a major threat to the LibDems for some time - costing them the win in Edinburgh South in 2005, for instance (though, frankly, Marilyne MacLaren didn't need any help in costing the LibDems victory) and any well-publicised movement of elected officials represents a real threat. I suspect you know this, hence the snippiness of your comment.

And in any case, you compare the disharmony to that a family might face: don't families break down when it's clear that the various people can no longer continue to live together?

neil craig said...

The "if a quarter of party A's vote went to party B then B would do better" game has obvious limitations. Particularly in a proportional system all parties lose on one side from shifting their position & gain on the other edge & to a greater or lesser degree, depending on what role principles pays, politicians take both into account. For the LibDems the reason for rehecting Storr is that the locals are quite obviously overwhelmingly angry that a bunch of poltitical parasites have decided to deprive their region of £1 billion worth of investment. Apparently quite a lot of voters aren't as keen on recession & economic destruction as our political class.

Clearly the LD leadership hope, that by pretending to be in favour of a successful economy they will keep some of the people who vote for them under the delusion that they are liberals even if they lose some activists who support them only as an eco-fascist stalking horse.