Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Reliable Sources"

Earlier this evening the Labour PPC for Skipton and Ripon, Claire Hazelgrove, put this comment on Twitter:

"Have now heard rumour from a number of reliable sources of new MORI poll placing the Tories on 37, and Labour on 34. Let's wait and see!"

The actual results of the IPSOS MORI poll concerned, taken some time ago but only published this evening, came out a couple of hours later and were rather different from that rumour: they were

CONSERVATIVE 43% (Up from 37% in the last MORI poll)
LABOUR 26% (Down from 31%)
LIB/DEM 20% (Up from 17%)
OTHERS 11% (Down from 16%)

Which only goes to show that if there is one thing sillier than reading too much into one opinion poll it is paying attention to rumours about an opinion poll.

MORI use different methods to adjust for sampling error to those of other pollsters. For example. they do not weight their samples by past vote, and they only includes those who say they are 100% certain to vote. This means that MORI predictions tend to fluctuate more than those of other polling companies.

So although the actual result of this poll is a nice Christmas present for the Conservatives we cannot assume that the actual position is as favourable as this, and nor can we afford an atom of complacency. There is still everything to play for and no party should take the results of the coming election for granted until the returning officer has announced them.

The other lesson from Claire Hazelgrove's twitter is to demonstrate a pitfall that politicians (and everyone else) always need to watch out for: don't equate "reliable sources" with "people who are telling me what I want to hear."


Jane said...

I am inclined to agree with the analysis in the Guardian (Sun 20th Dec). The volatility in the polls is evidence that a lot voters are no longer loyal to any one party. This could well be based on how people feel on the day with regard to how they perceive the economy’s performance.

Labour may have experienced euphoria briefly after an apparently positive response to the ‘kicking of the bankers’ in the Pre-Budget Report.

Now the dust has settled. The PBR has been criticised by the CBI for the cost to business of the increase in the national insurance rates and middle England is set to grown under tax increases next year. The electorate have realised that the above inflation rises in benefits are to be clawed back and the sacrifices will be all in vain with regard to reducing the huge national budget deficit.
The gap on Labour held by the Conservatives appeared to have narrowed, in some polls and risen in others. ICM in the Guardian puts the Tories on 40%, Labour on 31% and the Lib Dems at 18%. Labour up two points, while YouGov in the Sunday Times shows them gaining 4 points. ComRes in the Independent On Sunday has Labour back at 24% and the Angus Reid poll puts them at 23%
The timing of the polls may be instrumental here, but Labour must be worrying again, that “life is not worth living” for them. Alan Johnson’s intensification of the class war shows the return of desperation, by calling David Cameron’ “inner circle public school boy millionaires”.

However retro-Labour is quite capable of stirring the politics of envy, by reverting to class war. The old former communists are coming out of the wings. This is despite the fact that many in Labour’s ranks went to public school or had their children educated privately. Would the likes of this former postal worker, for the sake of principle, refuse to change places, with someone in what he perceives to be a privileged position? I do not see the majority of Labour MP’s and their “alternative” old boy network balking at champagne and caviar lifestyles. Which of the fat cats quangos and overpaid bureaucrats would voluntarily forego a comfortable lifestyle courtesy of the taxpayer?

I do not think the electorate really care what school their MP attended, but they do want to elect a competent Government. Labour’s lack of courage in tackling the national debt does not look good on their CV for who is to form the next Government.

I am certain that David Cameron is far to sensible and cautious to become complacent, but Labour have far more to fear from the polls. This is reflected in the type of politics to which they are resorting.

The reversion to class war rhetoric reveals how tired and stale the likes of Gordon Brown and Allan Johnson have become. Turn the record over, you are both becoming tediously boring!

Tim said...

Wouldn't it be amazing if voting for any of these parties made the slightest difference to any of our lives!

Who do you vote for if you want a referendum on our continued membership of the EU ?

Who do you vote for if you don't want Britain to take part in any more commodity wars ?

Who do you vote for if you want justice for the Chagos Islanders ?

Who do you vote for to end foreign ownership of British newspapers ?

Chris Whiteside said...

Jane - agree

Tim - if you don't think that there are significant differences between the Conservative, Liberal, and Labour parties, you are entitled to your view but I think you are dead wrong.

And there are parties standing whose platforms include a range of different positions on the issues you mention.

Tim said...

Wow ! The 'you're wrong, I'm right' mantra - if you get to Westminster, you'll go far ! If you look at opinion polls over the last few years what is interesting is the growth of the share for 'others'. If you take this in tandem with the slump in turnouts at elections, I believe it tells us something. Many voters are totally disillusioned not only with how bad Labour is but also at the sense of nothing different to vote for. Some of these people are turning to UKIP and the BNP as there is clearly something different on offer - although not necessarily palatable to all. Historically in Britain there was a choice in elections between ideologies, this has now totally vanished, you either vote for the free market capitalist or the free market capitalist or the........ Who knows who will win the next election ? but here's guessing nothing substantial will change

Chris Whiteside said...

Tim, there is a gigantic difference between saying, as I did, "you are entitled to your view but I think you are dead wrong." and saying

"you're wrong, I'm right."

The form of words I used explicitly acknowledges that the other person has the right to hold a different opinion from the speaker.

While the present government was presenting itself as "New Labour" your argument that there was no fundamental ideological difference between the Conservative and Labour parties had a great more to commend it than has been the case since Gordon Brown adopted class war rhetoric and policies, throwing everything "New Labour" stood for into the rubbish bin.

When you say that many people are totally disillusioned, however, I agree with you. And that is a serious challenge to all those of us in politics to offer something better.

Tim said...

So offer something better, something different, something idealogically better. BUT YOU CAN'T AND YOU WON'T ! Give me some examples where you differ fundamentally on ideology from Labour

Chris Whiteside said...

We can offer something better and we are.

We won't set out to create "dividing lines" by deliberately bashing sectors of the population to score party points.

We won't be setting out to increase the number of activities which are banned, but to reduce it.

If we give a promise that there will be a referendum before something happens, we won't break that promise. And specifically, we will legislate to ensure that any future transfer of power between Britain and the EU will have to be put to a referedum before it is ratified.

We believe that the present rate at which Britain's debts are increasing - the annual interest on the money the government has borrowed is currently going up by £6,000 a second - is completely unsustainable, will do great harm to Britain, and that stronger action is needed to reduce the crippling burden of debt which is being accumulated.