Friday 3 June 2016

On a Difference of Opinion

One of the things the Better Together campaign tried to convince us of during the independence referendum campaign was that there was no significant political difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK in general, and England in particular. That always struck me as a tendentious proposition, but it's only in the last couple of weeks that I've run the numbers and discovered quite how false it was.

YouGov's startling remain/leave map is one of the pieces of information which started me investigating; the other was the claim by a Twitter user (I've forgotten whom) that Scotland wasn't really any more left wing than England.

Now, of course, what counts as 'left wing' depends on your standpoint; the particular Twitter user with whom I discussed this believed that Labour were left wing, and that the SNP were not. The Political Compass disagrees on both points, and I'd tend to trust the Political Compass as a fairly neutral observer on this. In any case, the question is not whether one party is or is not 'left wing' in an absolute sense, but whether one position is more (or less) left wing than another.

For the purpose of this exercise I am counting as relatively left:
  • Class War
  • Green Party
  • Labour
  • Respect
  • RISE
  • Scottish Green Party
  • Scottish National Party
  • Solidarity
and as relatively right:
  • British National Party
  • Christian Peoples' Alliance
  • Conservative Party
  • National Front
  • Scottish Christian Party
  • UKIP
Other parties, for example the Liberal Democrats and the Womens' Equality Party, are treated as centre. That is not a rhetorical ploy. If you assigned the Liberal Democrats as right, for example, it would change the absolute numbers but it wouldn't alter the fact that the Scottish and English polities are systematically different.

On the basis of the classification above, in the 2015 General Election a startling 75% of Scots voters voted for parties of the left; only 16.59% (11.78% of electorate) voted for parties of the right. Even taking non-voters into account, 53.75% of the whole Scottish electorate voted for parties of the left.

In that same election, only 35.9% of English voters voted for parties of the left - only just over a third. By contrast, 55% of English voters voted for parties of the right - amounting to 36.34% of the electorate.

There were substantially more non-voters in England than Conservative voters - thirteen million to ten million. If, as I suspect, many of those non-voters are essentially left-leaning but feel unrepresented by the existing parties, then England is more left wing than the election suggests. But even so, only if all the non-voters in England are left-leaning and all the non-voters in Scotland right leaning would Scotland and England be politically similar.

We're not. We started from different places and have evolved in different ways under different influences. So let's put this 'all one nation really' nonsense to bed once and for all.

No comments:

Creative Commons Licence
The fool on the hill by Simon Brooke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License