Dreaming of a white election…
At this point in the year lots of you will be putting up your tree, boogying to Bing and sorting out your Christmas shopping.
What you’re probably not thinking about is donning the chunky-knit festive jumper and teetering along an icy pavement to cast your vote – but that’s precisely what some of you might be doing next week.
I’ve been keeping an eye on different forecast models and most of them are moving in the direction of colder and more wintry conditions arriving later next week.
They say a week is a long time in politics, but in meteorology it’s even longer, so indications this far out have to be taken with a large pinch of road salt, but the trend is there.
Some of the models suggest that parts of Scotland could have several centimetres of snow by polling day, but what impact could that have on the election, would snow help out one of the political parties? Lots of questions, but very much a big unknown.
I think every party at some point will have argued that ‘their vote’ didn’t turn out because of rain.
The wettest general election was in October 1924 with parts of Argyll getting more than 25mm of rain, but this didn’t seem to have any impact on turnout on that occasion.
In actual fact, it was one of the highest turnouts at any election in Argyll in the 1920s. Of course, political issues may have overridden weather woes, which seems to be the case here with a drop in the Liberal vote by a whopping 22%.
Shetland can claim to have the coldest general election day with temperatures staying below -1C in the February election of 1950. Again, this didn’t seem to deter voters with the turnout for Orkney and Zetland the highest for 40 years. This election came after the first full term of a Labour government, so it’s likely that political issues were the winner over weather again.
There’s been a lot of talk about the disadvantages of holding an election in the winter – the lack of light and the possibility of snow, but ironically the deepest snow recorded at a general election was in May 1979.
Knockanrock in the old Ross and Cromarty constituency had 7cm of snow on polling day, however the voters turned out in their droves with the highest turnout in nearly 100 years for the constituency.
It wasn’t just the Highlands affected during that May election with most of the country experiencing falling snow on the day, including coastal areas such as St Andrews, Girvan and Stornoway, which is astonishingly late in the season.
The general election in 1974 was also hit by widespread snow across the country.
I would say that it looks like the weather has little or no real effect on turnout in the UK. It looks as though the politics and big issues of the day are far more important to voters than being drenched, frozen or slipping in the snow.
It is indeed possible that given the outlook next week we could end up having our coldest and snowiest general election on record in Scotland, but it looks more likely that the electorate will brave the elements.
While details are tricky at this stage for next week, there’s a good chance that this cold spell will come off. I will of course keep you updated in the coming days.