Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Poll results sensational or only to be expected?

I'm not sure why people are so surprised that the SNP has shot ahead in the latest opinion polls. In case you don't know, latest polls show that we have come from being 10 points behind Labour to being 1 point ahead in the constituency poll and 3 points ahead in the list poll.

I had no doubt that this would happen although before you think I am getting overly confident I am sure this is just the start of the see sawing of opinion polls - we'll go up, we'll go down but it does put paid to the nonsense that any party has already won the election when there are nearly months to go.

As I said, I'm not surprised the voters are swinging back to the SNP. You see, the thing that the polls don't tell us is how passionately people feel. And whilst I appreciate most people I speak to know that I'm in the SNP, I only ever pick up passion and enthusiasm from SNP supporters. I know many Labour voters, in fact Labour members who are apologetic about voting Labour. The last time I heard anyone express any embarrassment about voting SNP was around 1985 and it wasn't because of our policies, it was just that we weren't that "cool".

I knock on doors and I have people THANKING ME and asking me to THANK THE SNP GOVERNMENT. I swear this happens with some regularity. I feel like crying when it happens and it makes me really proud to be part of it. I even speak to folk who intend voting Labour (often apologetic) but who will volunteer their views that "the SNP government's doing a great job".

Now they might also tell me things they haven't agreed with but their overall impression of the SNP is a positive one and even amongst some Labour voters, their overall impression is that it's something they'll probably have to stop doing one day because it is embarrassing. I don't give people a hard time, that's not why I'm on their doorstep but if they seem happy to engage in conversation I will ask them what it is about the Labour Party that they are so keen on. And 9 times out of 10 they can't tell me. There are vague mutterings about their parents being Labour voters and what the Labour Party "used to" stand for but that link is now pretty tenuous.

It's always been the way in huge swathes of the Central Belt that voters who go to the polls undecided or considering voting for a party other than Labour, find when they get there they can't quite bring themselves to do it. Their conscience won't allow them. I have heard this so many time over the last two decades. "I just couldn't Hen, I wanted to but my mammy would've turned in her grave", that kind of thing.

But gradually, bit by bit that's been breaking down as Labour has shown itself to be very far from the party it was in the days of that voter's mammy. The biggest breaking down of that attitude and that connection has come in the last four years and the difference is that they don't have to choose to believe what the SNP says or what the Unionists say about how we'd be in power. They have experienced it and seen it with their own eyes. That's why that emotional connection with Labour that has seeped into people's psyche is now starting to come away.

And what the SNP has to do is tap into people's consciences in the way that Labour had done, so that when they get to the polling station thinking they're voting Labour, they find they can't bring themselves to do it because they think "the SNP government is doing a great job", they don't remember ever thinking that of Labour / they, like the majority of Scots don't want Iain Gray as FM, they want Alex Salmond, they feel SAFER with him in charge / they know that voting Labour would be voting against the council tax freeze, voting for prescription charges again, voting against 25,000 apprenticeship for our young people.

And suddenly they discover that their conscience just won't allow them to go back, to undo all the good the SNP government has done. They'll still be voting with their hearts but whereas in the past all the Unionist scaremongering stopped them from opening their hearts to the idea of the SNP, now they've experienced 4 years of the SNP in charge and running a government, not an executive, 4 years of policies that make a difference to people's lives. And now they know it's not "dangerous" and the country hasn't ground to a halt, their hearts and minds are open to us

I also have no doubt there will be more polls between now and 5 May that show Labour ahead of us. That's just the electorate making up its mind, reacting to recent events, keeping us on our toes. Underlying trends are far more important than single polls. What this tells us, or rather reminds us, is that it ain't over till it's over and the SNP is in with a shout! The outcome will depend largely on how many consciences we can tap into between now and then. Speaking of which, that's what I'm off to do ...

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