John Curtice: Corbyn surge and tactical unionism key factors behind loss of SNP MPs


Brexit less of a factor in Scotland than England and Wales in historic election

THE UK’s leading polling expert, Professor John Curtice, has said that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s success and unionist tactical voting in Tory gains were twin factors behind the SNP’s loss of 21 MPs in the General Election.

Speaking to CommonSpace, the professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde said that the ‘Corbyn surge’ towards the end of the short seven week campaign, combined with the willingness of some Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrat voters to switch to the Tories, squeezed the SNP vote.

He also noted that the SNP had simply taken fewer pro-independence votes on 8 June than in the 2015 General Election, when the SNP won an unprecedented 56 seats.

He said: “Virtually all the opinion polls show that around 75 per cent of those who voted [Yes] in 2014 and stated a preference for the general election voted for the SNP.

“That’s down from an almost 90 per cent figure in 2015.”

Speaking about the impact of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who had a euphoric campaign charatersied by mass rallies, he said: “The late Labour surge was strong among younger voters and that seems to have shaved a bit off the SNP vote.”

“The late Labour surge was strong among younger voters and that seems to have shaved a bit off the SNP vote.” John Curtice

He went on to say the SNP had suffered at the hands of “the impact of the Corbyn surge…the SNP undoubtedly lost out as a result of some of that.”

Polls by Lord Ashcroft have found that roughly twice as many voters went from the SNP to Labour, at 12 per cent, as went from SNP to the Tories, at six per cent. Asked if this confirmed independence support as essentially leftwing Curtice said: “I’ve not looked at that aspect of the Aschroft poll, but it certainly makes sense. What else will be true is that, in so far as Labour was losing votes it was probably losing them to the Tories.”

Curtice also said it was perfectly clear that the Scottish Tories had benefited from some tactical voting by unionists.

“Nine of the 12 constituencies the Tories won, its perfectly clear that Labour and Lib Dem voters switched in favour of the Tories,” he said. “The differences between the unionist parties on Brexit doesn’t seem to act as an impediment to that movement.”

Curtice also said that Brexit had played less of a role in the election in Scotland than in other parts of the UK.

Read more –‘Don’t wobble’: Independence figures respond to the #GE2017 setback for SNP

He said: “The relationship between Brexit votes and how people voted in the Scottish elections is less strongly related to peoples voting choice than is their September 2014 vote. The other reason why Brexit is relatively un-important is that, in England in Wales, there’s a very strong relationship between how well the Tories did and the size of the Leave vote.

“Then Scotland stands out by a country mile because you’ve got a higher remain vote than anywhere else.

“Putting all that together, I’d suggest Brexit was relatively unimportant north of the border.”

In the aftermath of the SNP’s reduction of seats, which saw the party lose figures like deputy leader Angus Robertson and former party leader Alex Salmond, former MP for East Lothian George Kerevan criticised the party’s campaign and called for the SNP to move to the left.

Party leftist Tommy Sheppard has announced he will seek nomination for SNP Westminster group leader, a position formerly held by Robertson.

Picture courtesy the Liberal Democrats 

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