20 February 2010

Introducing the QIB

I referenced this in my last post, but as it's a factor we may keep coming back to, it may be time to put some flesh on the bones. It's time to discuss the QIB.

So what is the QIB? It's the 'quasi-incumbency bonus'. Say what?

The QIB, as the present electoral systems at work in Scotland apply, can only operate to any real extent in Scottish Parliamentary elections. As we know, anyone who can be a candidate can stand both in a constituency, and on the regional list as well. And as we know, sitting MSPs who have been elected on the list can and do seek election to constituencies at the next election, much to the consternation of the sitting Constituency MSPs.

But that doesn't stop the Constituency MSPs amassing their own personal vote: Regional MSPs can build up some traction, but a strong Constituency MSP can counteract that.

The question is, what happens when the Constituency MSP stands down, and the Regional MSP is seeking election again?

And that's where QIB comes in: the extra kudos that the outgoing MSP had evaporates and the defending party has to start from is base level with a new candidate. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of voters start looking to the well-kent face of the Regional MSP, who's had 4, 8 or by the next election, 12 years to build up a profile and organisation in the community. They become, in effect, quasi-incumbents. And up to now, the figure suggest that they get a bonus for that. Hence, quasi-incumbency bonus.

So far, there have been five instances of the QIB, and we can quantify four of them. The one we can't put a figure on is the Falkirk West campaign in 2007, when Independent Dennis Canavan stood down and was replaced not by Labour's Dennis Goldie, but by the SNP's Michael Matheson, who had been Regional MSP for Central Scotland for eight years. Although Matheson had outpolled the Labour candidate in 2003, there was now the matter of the 14,703 Canavan votes whose preferred option was no longer available. Now, we know that when Canavan quit Westminster in 2000, Labour squeaked the subsequent By-Election by 705 votes. But we also know that that mushroomed to 8,532 a few months later in the 2001 General Election (though still considerably less than Canavan's own levels of support at Westminster). We also know that on the 2003 Regional vote in Falkirk West, Labour secured 10,719 votes to the SNP's 6,474. Even with Michael Matheson winning the seat in 2007, Labour still had a lead (albeit a small one - 504) over the SNP on the Regional vote.

Nevertheless, Matheson secured 7,000 more votes in 2007 than in 2003, but we don't know how many of them would have voted for him had Canavan not been on the ballot paper back then. So we can see that he has a QIB, but we can't derive an accurate figure.

So what about the other four?

In 2003, Henry McLeish stood down as Labour MSP for Central Fife, with Christine May looking to succeed him, but the SNP's Tricia Marwick stood in her way. Labour's share of the vote fell by 15.93% points, while the SNP's fell by just 0.32%. Nationwide, Labour's vote share fell by 3.92% - roughly a quarter of the loss suffered by May - but the SNP's vote fell by 4.97% in what was a grim showing. While the scandal enveloping Henry McLeish must have exacerbated the situation, the bottom line is that a national swing from the SNP to Labour of 0.53% turned in Central Fife to a swing in the other direction of 7.81%. Not only was this a springboard for Tricia Marwick to win in 2007, it also represented a QIB of 8.13%. Now, we don't know how much of that was a reflection of the Marwick v. May battle, and how much was based on McLeish's downfall, but would Labour have done quite so badly had Henry decided to carry on? Probably not. Could Tricia Marwick have stemmed the flow of votes from the SNP to the SSP had she not been a Regional MSP? It would have been far more difficult.

The same year, Ian Jenkins stood down as LibDem MSP for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, having served just one term. In what was a decent night for the Libems across Scotland, with the Party picking up an extra 0.98% - an increase is an increase - Jeremy Purvis saw the LibDem vote share drop by 8.86%, and Jenkins had barely had time to get his feet under the desk! By contrast Christine Grahame turned that 4.97% fall into a 2.40% increase: not only did she stem the flow, she reversed it. Would she have been able to do that, had she not been a Regional MSP? Again, not necessarily. Nevertheless a national swing from the SNP to the LibDems of 2.98% turned into a swing the other way of 5.63%. Christine Grahame picked up a QIB of 8.61%.

Four years later, Janis Hughes stood down in Glasgow Rutherglen. In 2007, Labour's Constituency vote share across Scotland fell by 2.74%. In Rutherglen, it fell by 3.62%. Not much of an effect, but it's notable that James Kelly shared a ballot paper with Robert Brown, LibDem Regional MSP for Glasgow. That year, the LibDem vote increased nationally by 1.04%. In Rutherglen, Robert Brown's went up by 3.67%. A Lab-LD swing of 1.89% was augmented to 2.33%. Brown secured the lowest QIB of the four: 0.44%.

The big one came in Edinburgh East & Musselburgh, where Susan Deacon stood down and Norman Murray was tasked with defending the seat for Labour against the SNP's Kenny MacAskill. That nationwide fall of 2.74% became 10.60%. The SNP nationwide increase of 9.16% went up to 15.53%. In short, a swing of 5.95% (which shouldn't have been anywhere near enough for the seat to fall) became a local swing of 13.07% - a QIB of 7.12%.

That makes, up to now, an average QIB of 6.08%. In effect, if these trends play out again in 2011, any Regional MSP seeking election wherever the sitting Constituency MSP is standing down has a head start of a 6% swing right from the get-go.

So if Tom McCabe stands and wins in the Westminster contest in Rutherglen & Hamilton West, that sees a vacancy emerge in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, the successor seat to Hamilton South, where Christina McKelvie challenged McCabe in 2007. If she secures the average QIB, she needs only a further 0.2%.

If - as is likely - John Farquhar Munro declines to seek re-election, but Dave Thompson stands in Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch, QIB puts Thompson in pole position.

If Cathy Jamieson wins Kilmarnock & Loudoun this Spring, and Adam Ingram again seeks election in Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley, he'll need a further swing of only 0.57%.

So now, all that remains is to check who is, and who isn't, standing where: it's well worth factoring this into predictions for 2011.


Malc said...

Love it Will!

Just wondering, can you factor by-elections into this analysis too?

Example - Moray. After Margaret Ewing died, both Richard Lochhead AND Mary Scanlon (as sitting MSPs) stood in the contest. But then, by-elections are a completely different monster entirely...

Will said...

I thought you'd like this one, Malc!

Not sure if By-Elections really work, primarily as there's no national swing to compare them to at the same time. Plus which, you'd have thought that the two candidates' QIB in Moray would cancel each other out, or hit the other parties, when what actually happened in Moray was the Labour vote going down the pan and a major spike in the LibDem vote....

fairliered said...

Does QJB work with families? I'm thinking of Ayrshire North & Arran where Patricia Gibson is the SNP candidate.
Husband Kenneth is the area's MSP.

Will said...

In this case I'd have to say not, fairliered, if only because I'm not aware of Katy Clark standing down, so QIB can't kick in...