The gamble

Remember how I warned about the danger of the Alba campaign message spilling over to the constituency vote? Once the idea that It’s OK not to vote SNP is ‘out there’ it’s simply not possible to confine it to the regional ballot. Regardless of how smart individual voters may be, the electorate is a dumb beast. It is a reckless campaign strategy which assumes the electorate will hear anything other than the shortest, simplest, most immediately striking part of any message.

The part of the Alba/Alex Salmond message which will have the most impact on non-anorak pro-independence voters is the idea that it possible to register an effective pro-independence vote while not voting for the SNP. When that message arrives at minds already disinclined to vote SNP for any of the myriad reasons Nicola Sturgeon has provided, the effect is amplified.

The fact that a psephologist such as James Kelly feels the need to so urgently beg people not to “put the pro-independence majority at risk by mucking around on the constituency ballot” rather suggests that the impact of this ‘contamination’ of the constituency vote by the Alba/Alex Salmond election message is already detectable. How much worse will this spillover effect get if/when Alba succeeds in gaining better access to the mainstream media? It obviously worries James. It should worry everyone who cares about Scotland’s cause. It won’t worry the electorate in the slightest.

There are vastly more bad gamblers than good gamblers. This is necessarily so because a gamble, by definition, offers many more ways to lose than to win. So there are massively more ways to be a bad gambler than there are to be a good gambler. Whether you are a good gambler or not is almost entirely a matter of chance. With just enough space left for judgement to appeal to an individual’s conceit of their own cleverness. The worst of bad gamblers are the ones who are convinced that they are not even gambling because their cleverness alters the odds. The best of the good gamblers are those who really are not gambling at all but rather exploiting the various follies indulged by bad gamblers.

Possibly the most common of these follies is the notion that the cards communicate. In some form and to some extent this notion afflicts all gamblers. The notion that some force other than random chance influences outcomes and that this force can be harnesses if one is clever enough. The worst gamblers don’t consider themselves gamblers in the true sense of that term because they are persuaded of their own ability to reduce the randomness of outcomes.

The gamble being taken by Alba/Alex Salmond is informed by the folly of supposing the electorate to have intelligence. They suppose themselves clever enough to reduce the randomness of what the electorate understands by means which are themselves defeated by the randomness of what the electorate understands. If they have considered the contamination effect at all they suppose the way to reduce the spillover of their message is to get that message to more voters in order that the message will spread throughout the electorate. But they’re not communicating with voters. And voters aren’t communicating with one another. The are communicating with the electorate.

The electorate is not a network. It does not possess intelligence. It is an inert lump. Complex messages cannot and do not penetrate or permeate. What may penetrate and permeate is only that part of the message which is left when all complexity has been stripped away.

The more effectively Alba/Alex Salmond broadcasts its election message the greater the number of individual voters whose choices are infected by the bit about how it’s OK not to vote SNP, rather than informed by the complex part of the message – the part with all the ifs and buts. That number is as intrinsically unknowable as the outcome of a true gamble. But Alba/Alex Salmond campaigners would not acknowledge that they are gambling on that number being close to zero. If they think about it at all – and vanishingly few exhibit evidence of such reflective thought – they think they have it under control. It is not a gamble because they are clever enough to know and/or manipulate the outcome.

They’re not that clever. Nobody is.

20 thoughts on “The gamble

  1. You write as though the SNP has some sort of Divine Right to Rule! But it’s surely a truism that the electorate gets the government it deserves? The growing arrogance and self-obsession of the SNP leadership seems to be producing an inevitable backlash (of which Alba is just a part). So surely no bad thing if they lose a constituency here and there, a much-needed lesson? Pride comes before a fall …

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The SNP are a vehicle for Independence, why on earth should you care about them “learning a lesson”? Do you really care about them long-term, or do you want Independence as soon as we can get it?

      SNP 1 and SNP 2, my postal votes are already off.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Then if your SNP1 vote succeeds, as it likely will for most of Scotland, then your SNP2 vote will be heavily devalued, almost thrown away in practice. You simply don’t understand how the system has been set up to prevent majority government.


      2. Which part of the virtual multiverse were you in back in 2011, when the SNP got an overall majority government – because of having 16 – sixteen – SIXTEEN – list seats? 2 of them in my region – West Scotland?

        You simply don’t understand that without those 16 list seats in 2011, there would have been NO Referendum in 2014.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Dave M – as I said in the other thread I’m not a member of the SNP (or any party) so I’m not the right person to ask about their general policies. As far as their manifesto is concerned about Independence, though I personally would have liked to see this higher, it will do for me:

        If the democratically elected Scottish Parliament passes the referendum bill and the UK Government then attempts to block it by taking legal action we will vigorously defend the Parliament’s will in order to protect the democratic rights of the Scottish people.

        Stupid useless format by the way, I couldn’t just cut and paste that so E&OE. Anyways, the Green manifesto backs up the SNP on this:

        The Scottish Greens will campaign and vote for a referendum within the next Parliamentary term and under the terms of the Referendums Act (2020). We believe that the UK Government’s refusal to respect a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament would not be politically sustainable and could be subject to legal challenge.

        So if the SNP has an overall majority, or the SNP and Greens have an overall majority, their manifestoes are very clear about the mandate they sought from the Scottish people, and that makes a strong case in court. And as Sturgeon says in the oBserver today:

        [about UK Gov] “For it to try to take legal action, as has been suggested, would be asking a court to effectively overturn the result of a free and fair democratic election.

        That’s as far as she can go, she can’t prejudge a potential legal case, she has standing. I have no standing at all, I’m just a randomer. I think it unlikely a court would overrule a parliament elected on a specific mandate, rather than one like “material changes”. An example is the Miller, and another is the far too long prorogue. Both were returned to parliament. The alternative of course is “democratically elected parliament v democratically elected parliament”. That’d be enough to make your wig go white.


    2. I write no such think. That all comes from your silly wee head. It’s not about the party. Try to keep your dumb tribalism under control. It’s about THE GOVERNMENT. I shall save the lesson on why its about the government for another day. Don’t want to overload you.


  2. There really is a small band with cabin fever from Covid whose warcry is “Depose Sturgeon, get rid of the wokists, send the SNP out in the wild for 5 years, and take back the party. Let the unionists be government for 5 years, that’ll teach Scotland. In 5 years then we [we !!!] can take over and rebuild. That’ll show the SNP, we need to punish them, yah boo sucks mnerrrr, take that, biff, pow”.

    If that worked Scotland would never become Independent. In 5 years Holyrood would be gone. The Trolls are like Big Mac’s – lovin’ it!


  3. There is always an unthinking element in an election, but politicians have frequently found that their contempt for the intelligence of the electorate is unfounded.

    Another mistake is politicians thinking they own the vote, eg the indignation at people who are going to vote SNP1/IndyParty2 and accusations of splitting the vote as if they have a right to that person’s vote.

    It would be interesting if anyone has done a poll on how many of the disaffected who have flocked to Alba were going to either spoil the first vote or simply abstain? There seem to be a lot of them. Most of these people will now be voting SNP1.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “It would be interesting if anyone has done a poll on how many of the disaffected who have flocked to Alba were going to either spoil the first vote or simply abstain? There seem to be a lot of them. Most of these people will now be voting SNP1.”

    There’s the rub. Any “spillover” to a non SNP constituency vote will be more than compensated for by those suffering SNP induced political accidie( like your truly) dragging themselves back to the polls who otherwise don’t wouldn’t see any point in turning up to support a “Forget silly Referendums: MY pronouns are…” cult.


  5. Gambling is a pejorative term associated with addiction and financial ruin . Daring might be a less value laden term , as in “who dares wins ” , an expression that connotes bravery , commitment and calculated risk taking in wartime . It’s unfortunate that A Salmond has an interest in horse racing though as a paid racing tipster rather than a punter, he can hardly be described as an inveterate gambler .

    Anyway Peter , there will be much relief that you hadn’t taken the hump , drawn stumps and left the park. I for one read your every blog and would miss your wordy perceptive take on the political scene .

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You know what, it is not up to ALBA to campaign for SNP in the constituency, although all the ALBA leaflets I’ve see have “Vote SNP 1” on them. That’s actually quite simple, and there is evidence that this could make the SNP’s vote higher than it otherwise might be (maybe another 2017 was on the cards) Anyhow, it is up to the SNP to push the logical SNP 1 message. Unfortunately that are muddying the message by also pushing the illogical SNP2 and themselves undermining the SNP1 message.


  7. Totally agree bushgeoff : cast your vote SNP 1 Alba 2 the rest is just background noise and drivel. As a football fan I like that score.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Nobody seems to have cottoned-on to the likelihood that the re-emergence of Alexander the Salmond, surrounded by a number of nutters, on the whole probably puts people off Scottish independence. The most unpopular politician in the UK smarming about ‘supermajorities’, and punting a political advert based on an 800 year-old war isn’t likely to entice the undecided. Even Ukip, which seems to be Alba’s role model, were very far from that insane.


  9. On the subject of undefined ‘supermajorities’: It is highly unlikely that more than half the electorate will bother to vote. The turnout is probably going to be significantly less than 50%. If you went by the covid votes that have taken place in Europe, turnout would be considerably less that 40%.

    It was 55% after being politically enthused by the independence referendum, when there wasn’t a plague, when politics was vaguely interesting, and campaigns weren’t conducted on Zoom.

    Liked by 1 person

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