Prepare for even more polls

YouGov launches daily tracker as poll puts Labour 9 points behind the Tories.

Get ready for the political weather to become even more determined by polls. YouGov has launched its daily tracker in the Sun, with polls initially published from Tuesday to Friday. This will rise to seven days a week for the final four weeks before polling day.

You may remember that YouGov experimented with a tracker during conference season last year. What was remarkable then was how much the polls fluctuated from day to day. For instance, following George Osborne's austere speech, the Tories' lead fell from 14 points to 9 points.

In an effort to remedy what's known as "early responder" bias, the polling firm has changed its methodology to ensure that it gets a more representative sample. PoliticalBetting's Mike Smithson reports that the polls will now consist of reponses received that day, regardless of when the invitations to take part went out.

There's no evidence in today's poll of a boost for Labour following Gordon Brown's interview with Piers Morgan on Sunday. Labour is down 1 point to 30 per cent, with the Tories up 1 to 39 per cent and the Lib Dems down 1 to 18 per cent.

Labour optimists are likely to point out that, on a uniform swing, this would leave the Tories nine seats short of a majority. But almost no psephologist thinks a uniform swing will take place on polling day. A variety of factors, including the unwind of anti-Tory tactical voting from the last election and the Conservatives' financial advantage, will allow Cameron to clean up in the marginals.

Realistically, Labour needs to be no more than 5 or 6 points behind the Tories for there to be any chance of a hung parliament.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.