The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On Danny Alexander’s chances in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey…

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The media and activists are obsessed with Nick Clegg potentially going down in Sheffield Hallam despite all the signs pointing towards a Lib Dem win. If they really wanted to get excited about a potential cabinet big-wig going down though then they should go into the Scottish highlands where a real interesting battle will play out between the SNP and the Lib Dems.

Whilst the public polling has Nick Clegg in a nip/tuck battle in his seat, the public polling has Danny Alexander getting a right mullering in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. As we all know, the public polls don’t generally name a candidate and the power of incumbency is diluted. Still though this wouldn’t account for the seemingly big hole than Danny Alexander finds himself in.

Still the so called, ‘ginger rodent’ seems cheerful enough and doesn’t think it is such a foregone conclusion. In what I have to say is one of the rare pretty fair long political pieces I’ve read in a while, BuzzFeed followed Danny Alexander around for a day in a piece published today entitled, Danny Alexander Fights To Save His Political Career: “The Tories Piss Me Off”.

The key for Danny is clearly to paint himself (as is the case with many Liberal Democrats MPs across the country) as not being Tories and that being in government has helped stop the Tories from pursuing their own agenda. This is not an easy sell and many will just not buy into it but the key will be to get a proportion to do so. Also of course trying to squeeze the Labour and Tory votes as he’ll try and make it an SNP v the world argument.

Speaking about the Tories taking full credit for the turnaround in the economy, Alexander said, ‘It sticks in the craw. It really pisses me off that the Tories try to claim credit for everything we’ve done in government. Tax cuts – none of that would be happening if it wasn’t for the Liberal Democrats in government. If we allow the Tories to govern by themselves, it frightens me actually, because I think it’s a wrecking approach. Beyond a certain point it becomes ideology.

This is going to be a key issue across the country. The coalition has turned the economy around, unemployment is down and continues to drop with every set of results, employment is unsurprisingly up as well along the same lines. The economy will always be the biggest issue in any election. Other factors will come and go but the economy is key and if the public believe that a party can improve the economy then that will often the key issue – especially for swing voters.

So the fact the public as a whole do not give the Lib Dems credit for things like the rise in the Income Tax threshold, something which David Cameron said we couldn’t afford to do in the first leaders debate in 2010, is something which sticks in the throats of many. This policy effects more people directly than any other policy in the coalition government because it effects everyone who earns more than £6,475, which was the personal income threshold under the last government.

If Danny can persuade enough voters that he (and his party) should take just as much credit for the economic recovery as the Tories, then the party will do ok on May 7. Danny’s issues in Scotland are not helped by the collapse of the Labour vote, which is drifting to the SNP in droves. Having two strong opponents is something you can feel comfortable with in our FPTP system but when one of those strong opponents loses a significant proportion of their vote to the other strong opponent then you have issues.

Looking at the betting trends and the SNP are very strong favourites ranging from 1/12 to 1/3 depending on your bookies of choice. Danny and the Lib Dems are between 9/4 and 11/2. The other parties are all beyond 10/1. Most of these betting movements have been predicated on the seeming strength of the SNP in Scotland coupled with Labour’s fall.

I was looking at some ICM fieldwork from the constituency taken in May last year and one table I found more interesting than others. According to the fieldwork, more of the responders voted SNP than Lib Dem in 2010, despite their being an 22% difference in the actual result (19% SNP, 41% Lib Dem) but according to this poll, of those who responded, 19% voted LD whereas 22% voted SNP. The fieldwork also didn’t take into account the likelihood of voting.

It all makes is rather interesting. The SNP are favourites and rightly so but Danny isn’t out of it just yet. If Danny Alexander holds on in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey then the Lib Dems will probably be in for a good night. If he loses then it means that Scotland will be voting very strongly for the SNP, leaving maybe only 10-15 non SNP seats across the country.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey is more of a bellwether seat for the SNP than it is for the Lib Dems but it is certainly one more media folk should be paying attention to, it will be a very good indicator for how the SNP and the Lib Dems are doing and how they’ll do on May 7.

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Written by neilmonnery

February 24th, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Politics

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