The SNP has surged since the referendum under Sturgeon's leadership. Photo: Getty.
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No really, the SNP are going to win at least 50 of Scotland’s 59 seats

The swing in Labour’s heartlands is even greater than the swing implied by national polls.

Four things have changed in the polls – and in election predictions – since this site launched in early September.

Labour lost their 3-4 point poll lead and are now resolutely tied with the Tories; Ukip have gradually dipped since November, but are still set to win 4 million votes; and the Greens nearly caught the Lib Dems in the polls before fading.

But by far the most significant change has, of course, been in Scotland. If the SNP surge had never happened, Labour would be set to win more than 300 seats and take power in May. Instead, we are predicting the SNP will win 55 seats, and an average of different forecasts hands them 46. In 2010 they won 6. There are only 59 seats in Scotland.

Few pundits believe these predictions.

Few pundits believe these predictions. Most people hesitate to give the SNP more than 30 seats (as a recent survey of hundreds of political academics proved). Very few can conceive of more than 40. And almost no one predicts the SNP will win at least 50.

And yet no poll has implied the SNP will win as few as 35 seats, and the vast majority suggest they will win more than 40. 18 Scotland-wide polls have been published over the past five months, and they have almost all suggested the same thing: the SNP will win 45-50 seats, and Labour will lose around 30 of its 41.

Labour are collapsing in their heartlands

At their most favourable, the polls suggest Labour will only lose half their Scottish seats. But no poll has been so favourable to Labour since February began, and constituency polls published since then have suggested that national polls are underrating the scale of Labour’s collapse.

Lord Ashcroft has polled 40 per cent of Scotland’s seats over the past two months. His polls have been devastating for Labour. He has polled 19 of Labour’s 41 seats. 16 of those polls have been in the harder half of seats for the SNP to win – the ones where Labour are protecting majorities of at least 29 points (for comparison, Ed Miliband won his seat, Doncaster North, by 26 points in 2010).

Ashcroft’s polls suggest Labour will lose also but 3-4 of their seats.

14 of those 16 polls have put the SNP ahead, all by at least 3 points (in other words, almost all are outside the margin of error). These polls imply Labour will lose all but 3-4 of their seats. That is significantly fewer than the 9-11 seats that national polls imply Labour will hold.

In other words, the swing to the SNP in Labour’s heartlands is even greater than the swing in national polls. The swing in national polls is 20.5 points, which means any Labour seat with a majority of less than 41 per cent would turn SNP on an uniform swing. [1]

But Ashcroft has shown an even greater swing than 20.5 points in the 19 Labour-held seats he’s polled. The swing he’s found has been just under 25 points, which would wipe out all Labour seats where they hold majorities of less than 50 points (David Cameron won his seat, Witney, by 39 points in 2010). The graphic below shows the percentage point difference between what national polls imply for the SNP in every seat and what Lord Ashcroft’s polls have actually shown.

The SNP are, on average, doing eight points better in Labour-held seats than national polls imply. In other words, the swing is four points greater, hence it is nearly 25 points. This is laughable. It’s the kind of swing one might type into our seat calculator for fun, along with predictions of a Green majority or extra seats for the Lib Dems. Yet this is what almost every poll has implied, and Ashcroft’s polls have more than confirmed.

National polls imply Labour will hold 9-11 seats. This underrates the swing in Labour heartlands.

This is why May2015’s election-forecasting model suggests the SNP will win 55 seats in one month, as it has since Ashcroft first polled Scotland in February (we actually predicted 56 seats at first – a figure that was later widely reported). That prediction is based on both Ashcroft and national polls. We use Ashcroft’s numbers in the seats he’s polled, and otherwise use a variation on uniform swing for the other 35 seats in Scotland. [2] If we ignored Ashcroft’s polls, we would be forecasting 48-49 seats for the SNP.

Why we’re confident in SNP 50+

We are forecasting an extra 6-7 wins for the SNP because of this extra swing in the heartlands, and we are increasingly confident in doing so. Ashcroft’s polls are not the only evidence of this.

John Curtice, who runs the exit poll room on election night and is the BBC’s chief psephologist, has used recent national polls to suggest the same thing. He has been given access to the disaggregated results of these national polls – in other words, he can break down the national poll into regions. By doing this, Curtice has also argued the swing in Labour’s heartlands is even greater than swing shown by national polls.

John Curtice, the UK’s pre-eminent psephologist, has used recent national polls to suggest this too.

He recently went so far as to suggest Labour could lose all but two of their seats, and end up with as few as the Lib Dems and Tories. (As we speculated a few weeks ago.) Academic forecasts have also been inching up towards 50 SNP seats since January. Elections Etc – the model created by Oxford psephologist Steve Fisher, another of the hallowed few that run election night’s exit poll room – now predicts 47 seats for the SNP.

Election Forecast ‘only’ predict 42 for the SNP, but that’s because they are discounting current polls based on how UK-wide polls have moved in the past. But there is little basis for doing this. The SNP surge is a post-referendum, once-in-a-generation change. It is an out of sample event. It is a stretch to suspect the SNP will fade because smaller parties have faded in UK-wide elections before.

If Election Forecast offered a ‘nowcast’, and just projected current polls into an election result rather than predicting how the polls will change, they would be predicting more than 50 seats for the SNP. The Guardian, whose model works on very similar principles to ours, already do. As for the bookies, in January they were predicting just 25-26 SNP seats. Now they are forecasting 42-43 (so much for following the money – the money moved as polls and predictions moved). We’re still taking the ‘over’ on that bet.

[1] The SNP are polling 26 points higher than in 2010 and Labour 15 points lower = 20.5 point swing.

[2] Because Scotland polls have scarcely moved in the past two months and there are comparatively few of them, Ashcroft’s polls are ‘static’. We do not change them in-line with changes in national polls, as we do for Ashcroft seats in England and Wales.

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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A new German law wants to force mothers to reveal their child’s biological father

The so-called “milkmen’s kids law” would seek protection for men who feel they have been duped into raising children they believe are not biologically theirs – at the expense of women’s rights.

The German press call them “Kuckuckskinder”, which translates literally as “cuckoo children” – parasite offspring being raised by an unsuspecting innocent, alien creatures growing fat at the expense of the host species’ own kind. The British press have opted for the more Benny Hill-esque “milkmen’s kids”, prompting images of bored Seventies housewives answering the door in negligées before inviting Robin Asquith lookalikes up to their suburban boudoirs. Nine months later their henpecked husbands are presented with bawling brats and the poor sods remain none the wiser.

Neither image is particularly flattering to the children involved, but then who cares about them? This is a story about men, women and the redressing of a legal – or is it biological? – injustice. The children are incidental.

This week German Justice Minister Heiko Maas introduced a proposal aimed at to providing greater legal protection for “Scheinväter” – men who are duped into raising children whom they falsely believe to be biologically theirs. This is in response to a 2015 case in which Germany’s highest court ruled that a woman who had told her ex-husband that her child may have been conceived with another man could not be compelled to name the latter. This would, the court decided, be an infringement of the woman’s right to privacy. Nonetheless, the decision was seen to highlight the need for further legislation to clarify and strengthen the position of the Scheinvater.

Maas’ proposal, announced on Monday, examines the problem carefully and sensitively before merrily throwing a woman’s right to privacy out of the window. It would compel a woman to name every man she had sexual intercourse with during the time when her child may have been conceived. She would only have the right to remain silent in cases should there be serious reasons for her not to name the biological father (it would be for the court to decide whether a woman’s reasons were serious enough). It is not yet clear what form of punishment a woman would face were she not to name names (I’m thinking a scarlet letter would be in keeping with the classy, retro “man who was present at the moment of conception” wording). In cases where it did transpire that another man was a child’s biological father, he would be obliged to pay compensation to the man “duped” into supporting the child for up to two years.

It is not clear what happens thereafter. Perhaps the two men shake hands, pat each other on the back, maybe even share a beer or two. It is, after all, a kind of gentlemen’s agreement, a transaction which takes place over the heads of both mother and child once the latter’s paternity has been established. The “true” father compensates the “false” one for having maintained his property in his absence. In some cases there may be bitterness and resentment but perhaps in others one will witness a kind of honourable partnership. You can’t trust women, but DNA tests, money and your fellow man won’t let you down.

Even if it achieves nothing else, this proposal brings us right back to the heart of what patriarchy is all about: paternity and ownership. In April this year a German court ruled that men cannot be forced to take paternity tests by children who suspect them of being their fathers. It has to be their decision. Women, meanwhile, can only access abortion on demand in the first trimester of pregnancy, and even then counselling is mandatory (thereafter the approval of two doctors is required, similar to in the UK). One class of people can be forced to gestate and give birth; another can’t even be forced to take a DNA test. One class of people can be compelled to name any man whose sperm may have ventured beyond their cervix; another is allowed to have a body whose business is entirely its own. And yes, one can argue that forcing men to pay money for the raising of children evens up the score. Men have always argued that, but they’re wrong.

Individual men (sometimes) pay for the raising of individual children because the system we call patriarchy has chosen to make fatherhood about individual ownership. Women have little choice but to go along with this as long as men exploit our labour, restrict our access to material resources and threaten us with violence. We live in a world in which it is almost universally assumed that women “owe” individual men the reassurance that it was their precious sperm that impregnated us, lest we put ourselves and our offspring at risk of poverty and isolation. Rarely do any of us dare to protest. We pretend it is a fair deal, even that reproductive differences barely affect our lives at all. But the sex binary – the fact that sperm is not egg and egg is not sperm – affects all of us.

The original 2015 ruling got it right. The male demand for reassurance regarding paternity is an infringement of a woman’s right to privacy. Moreover, it is important to see this in the context of all the other ways in which men have sought to limit women’s sexual activity, freedom of movement and financial independence in order to ensure that children are truly “theirs”.  Anxiety over paternity is fundamentally linked to anxiety over female sexuality and women’s access to public space. Yet unless all women are kept under lock and key at all times, men will never, ever have the reassurance they crave. Even then, the abstract knowledge that you are the only person to have had the opportunity to impregnate a particular woman cannot rival the physical knowledge of gestation.

We have had millennia of pandering to men’s existential anxieties and treating all matters related to human reproduction, from sex to childbirth, as exceptional cases meaning women cannot have full human rights. Isn’t it about time we tried something new? How about understanding fatherhood not as winning gold in an Olympic sperm race, but as a contract endlessly renewed?

What each of us receives when a child is born is not a biological entity to do with as we choose. It is a relationship, with all of its complexities and risks. It is something worth contributing to and fighting for. Truly, if a man cannot understand that, then any money wasted on a Kuckuckskind – a living, breathing child he could get to know – has got to be the least of his worries. 

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.