Monday, 10 May 2010

The Second Fronts: Scotland

That the Conservative & Unionist performance north of the border was disappointing does not need restating, and reasons for a swing to Labour will without doubt be picked over endlessly in CCHQ. For seats we need to take from Labour, including Dumfries & Galloway, Renfrewshire East, Ochil & Perthshire South, Edinburg South and Stirling, this red-blue battleground is the story.
However, there are other seats in Scotland. Here, I will take a look at the Conservative & Unionist performance in seats where the Conservatives were challenging the SNP or the Liberal Democrats, to see if the pattern is consistent with that of Labour-Conservative seats.

SNP: Perth & Perthshire North.
- An SNP majority of 1521 in 2005 rises to 4379 in the new parliament, but the Conservative vote goes up. A squeeze on the Liberal Democrat and Labour vote appears to have boosted the SNP – the conservative vote share rose by a single percent whilst the SNP rose six. Not a good sign, but 4379 is not an unassailable obstacle, especially if Labour or the SNP shed some votes to the Conservatives in an increasingly two-horse race constituency.

SNP: Angus
- A neighbouring seat to Perth & Perthshire North, and a near identical pattern: a squeeze on the Liberal Democrat vote boosts the Conservatives by one percentage point and the SNP by six, turning a majority of 1600 into one of 3300.

SNP: Moray
- Once Conservative, now a relatively safe SNP seat. Unlike Angus and P&PN, the SNP majority fell slightly (roughly 100 votes) in the 2010 election, with the SNP share of the vote rising 3% but the Conservatives 4%, from a fall of 3% and 4% from Labour and the Liberal Democrats respectively.

SNP: Banff & Buchan
- With an SNP majority of 11837, Banff & Buchan was Alex Salmond’s unassailable electoral fortress, with a vote built up over long years holding the seat. However, he was not the candidate in the 2010 election and the majority was slashed by just over two thirds, to 4027. The Conservative vote in real terms increased by more than 50%. In vote share, the SNP fell ten points from 51% to 41%, whilst the Conservative & Unionist candidate gained 12 points from 19% to 31%. Liberal Democrat and Labour vote shares do not fluctuate significantly, indicating a direct SNP to Conservative transfer of votes.

Liberal Democrat: Argyll & Bute
- A potential three-way marginal of sorts between the unionist parties, this constituency saw the Liberal Democrat majority fall by roughly 2200, from 5600 to 3400. In vote share terms, they fell 5 points, with the Conservatives static, Labour gaining a point and the SNP gaining three, but the Conservatives (just) retaining second place, with a one-point lead over Labour.

Liberal Democrat: Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine
- A Liberal Democrat majority of 7400 slashed to 3600 in this seat, where they experienced 8-point drop in vote share. The Conservatives gained two points, Labour one and the SNP 5, but the Conservatives remain the only significant challenger to the Liberal Democrats in this seat, with 8 points separating them from the Liberal Democrats and 14 from the third-place SNP.

Liberal Democrat: Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk
- The Liberal Democrat majority held in this borders seat the Conservatives were once evens to take, but a 3-point rise in Liberal Democrat support also saw a 5-point rise in support for the Conservative candidate.

A pretty mixed bag of results, with rising vote shares and narrowing leads but also evidence of anti-Conservative tactical voting. Nonetheless, there appear to be avenues of advancement here if the Conservative party can wrench itself away from the horror of a swing to Labour and disappointment in red-blue seats. I’ll be interested to see how these seats fare if there is a second election.

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