Sometimes, it’s worth a look at what the bookies are saying about elections. They’re a measure of where bets are being placed, of course, and not a perfect outcome predictor by any means. But it’s worth noting that what are passing in the media as ‘predictions’ of a dozen Scottish Tory seats are based upon pretty crude assumptions about uniform swings and extrapolations from local authority results which often provide a very poor read across.
Readers here might look first at Wings’ super piece about the bonkers distortion by the media of the local authority results in Scotland. Journalists don’t like Wings much, but the simple fact is that if you’re looking for forensic analysis then you’re much more likely to find it at Wings than in the pages of much of the papers. I guess that’s why most Scottish journos prefer to keep Wings in a box labelled ‘cybernat’: it must all be very confusing and threatening for them. For now, it’s worth remembering that most papers and journos hugely want a Tory resurgence, not least to make Scottish politics more interesting, so they’re super-keen to talk it up. By extension, they’re keen to talk up the idea of an SNP decline too, so you won’t read much about the bookies’ odds there because that isn’t convenient for them.
Anyway, the predictions in the papers are for the Tories to get a dozen seats, mainly at SNP expense. In fact, the bookies have the Tories down as favourites only in the two borders seats, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine and, wait for it, East Renfrewshire. They have the Lib Dems as favourites to win back East Dunbartonshire. Indeed, if the present bookies’ odds played out, they’d leave Scotland with 52 SNP MPs, 4 Tory MPs, 2 Lib Dem MPs and one Labour MP.
That last one, a reference to Edinburgh South, by the way, is both interesting and perhaps predictable. It’s quite obviously nonsense that there are simple binary choices in East Renfrewshire and Edinburgh South. Indeed, the bookies think it’ll be the Tories winning in the former (with Labour quite a long way back) and Labour winning in the latter. I imagine the bookies are factoring in two important details. First, the former has a history of voting Tory and when they swung to Labour it was very much New Labour they fancied. These are exactly the middle-class unionists who have gone home to the Tories in the face of what they’ll view as bonkers left Corbynism. Whereas Edinburgh South has a Labour MP now, a less strong historical Tory base and a liberal tradition which at the moment seems likely to assist, the bookies think, Labour keep its one Scottish seat.
We’ll find out soon enough.