At the risk of ruining his career, I would like for the second time this campaign to commend the work of Channel 4 political editor Gary Gibbon.
He is one of the few remaining political reporters who is interested in politics as opposed to politics as a source of sub-showbiz, processology and gossip.
The reason for my latest salute is his blog of yesterday which explained in part the mystery of why the instant polls on TV debates seemed so dissonant with what actually happened.
The idea that ‘Cameron won’ the third debate, thanks in part to the ‘unstoppable momentum’ strategy of DC’s many media tummyticklers was set largely because of the polls.
Now when you hear a poll has been conducted you might assume that they are polling a cross section of the public. Not so, Gary revealed.
The YouGov poll, for example, one of the earliest, was weighted to match what the pollsters believed would be the profile of the audience. So they included more prosperous voters than the national profile, more broadsheet as opposed to tabloid readers, and more older people. All of these groups tend to be more conservative.
ComRes do not weight according to imagined viewership but according to what they call voting population profile. The sample watched on Thursday lined up as follows.
Con 35, Labour 24, LibDem 36.
Now look at how they voted in terms of who ‘won’ the debate. Cameron 35 Brown 26 Clegg 33.
Get the picture? Indeed, based on that you could argue that GB ‘won’ (as indeed in my view he did) as he was the only one to score above his party rating. But in a campaign riddled with dishonest and disingenuous media reporting, this is the latest example. As I know from the mass of interviews I and other Labour people did in the ‘spin room’ after the debates, the polls are presented by the media, instantly, as snap judgements of the population. They are anything but. They are skewed. Yet I have yet to see or hear any caveat attached to them in the public presentation. Until Gary’s blog.
I don’t doubt a fair few politically interested Channel 4 viewers and others will see his blog. But what a shame the majority are unaware of the bent reporting of these ‘polls’ that ‘gave the debate’ to not so Wonderboy Dave.
It all confirms me in my belief that huge numbers remain undecided and they are the people Labour now has to reach out to in showing that the fight of the next few days really is a fight for Britain’s future.
** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.
Two further gripes Alastair:
1. Why are all the papers, especially the Guardian, reluctant to publish the actual sample size of that famous Guardian/ICM poll? I NEVER READ a scientific paper when the author makes sensational claims without revealing their sample size. I have made 6 requests for this info, and I can’t get it.
2, Why did the BBC say ‘all polls comprehensively gave the Conservatives victory” in the morning? I actually complained to the BBC to say that you can’t say “comprehensively” on the basis of three polls, and that the BBC doggedly had refused to acknowledge the C4 poll where Gordon Brown did come top in their poll. This had all mysteriously changed by lunchtime.
Good to see this highlighted. I read it yesterday and thought it to be an excellent piece of journalism.
I wholeheartedly agree!
In my opinion as a Labour activist and based on my own polling done on #labourdoorstep (not just in traditionally Labour areas) there is a massive disconnect between what is being reported by the MSM/polls and what people are saying on the streets. Yes, there are huge numbers of undecideds out there, but the ones that have made their minds up are NOT flocking to the LibDems, nor is the Labour vote in freefall.
I, for one, will be back out on the streets speaking with as many of these undecided voters as I can between now and polling day to convince them to vote Labour and secure our future. Being in a Labour/Tory marginal (900 vote majority) my greatest fear is that traditional LibDems or anyone thinking of voting for them for the first time (perhaps prompted by the wave of ‘X-Factor’ type euphoria), imagine that they actually have a chance of winning this seat and doesn’t consider the reality that if they don’t vote Labour, they will get a Tory. For the few LibDems that have identified themselves on the doorstep or for those wavering between Labour and LibDem, I always advise them to vote with their conscience, but if that conscience includes not wanting a Tory MP/government then there is only one, sensible choice.
What is pretty obvious is that the debate ‘verdict’ results, as the three debates went on, got closer and closer to voting intention – surely because respondents had seen the impact of the previous ‘verdicts’ and so supported their parties (and it was getting close to election day) more than sample errors…?
The polls do create a sense of frustration and bewilderment and risk making us feel disenfranchised from the whole process of news reporting by the elements in the press that want to drive their agenda rather than the true picture of the nations opinion. Unfortunately many people do rely on TV and newspapers for their access to what they think is the truth and therefore the rift between the well informed (those who do read the blogs such as this and channel 4) and the easily impressed can only get wider and can make sections of the population increasingly resentful against each other. I hope that truth can prevail by election day.
I’m glad you did this blog hope this point reaches a lot more people. I posted the Gary Gibbons blog on Twitter yesterday and pointed out their selection process as unsurprising and YouGov accused me of distorting the facts… UK Labour Party then posted a near identical tweet and the same happened. Slightly twitchy if you ask me, especially as I used a little c for conservative. The fact the YouGov polls in particular have been used to create this myth of the country at large digging Dave means they need to be exposed as not necessarily biased but having a very select sample base that is more likely to a) watch the TV debates b) be conservative in nature… then people can make their own view re bias
Comres, YouGove, and Fleet Street will never have the power to hypnotise, influence or decide who I vote for. I decide who I vote for based on how the leader has conducted himself in normal times before the election, during the election and who best can take us forward and multi-task after the election. That party is Labour & that man is Gordon Brown who has my 100% backing on ALL his policies.
The 2010 general election is not about personalities – it is about policies!
This is a big choice election. The choice is about the economy and public services.
Labour has sensible policies. This fact should win the day for Labour.
The Lib Dems have eccentric policies. The absent government the Tories are proposing does not make people powerful.
Come on Alastair, we all know that this would not be your reaction if Labour were leading in the polls. It seems to me that this is your usual tactic of ‘shoot the messenger’.
You may complain all you like about YouGov’s methodology, but the fact remains that for the last two weeks or so, Labour have been 3rd place in virtually all the polls. Are you suggesting ALL the polls are rigged by polling companies working hand in hand with the ‘bent’ right wing media? This all sounds like desperate stuff from you.
This was supposed to Brown’s specialist area. He failed to impress me in the third debate, coming across as negative & aggressive – preferring to use scare tactics about a future Tory government instead of putting forward any positive message. The fact that he didn’t try to defend his record of the last thirteen years, spoke volumes to me. He looked like a tired, angry man whose time was up. A bit like New Labour actually.
E’phology presented as psephology.
Or “taking away the number you first thought of”.
Or fiddling the answer.
Or “getting the answer from the back of the book”.
Or an exercise in applied bigotry in the sense of not letting the opinions of “those people” into the poll.
I must say I do agree. I don’t think DC ran away with it. I did think that a little odd. I’l be honest and say I am not voting Labour on Thursday. Having said that I think GB gave a very good performance in the last debate and a very good performance against Paxman last night. Credit where credit is due.
Seeing TB yesterday on the news reminded me of how what could have been. When TB stood down as PM….there was everything to play for. GB has been a disaster as PM. I’m sure he’s a nice guy but you get the feeling that Murphy’s Law could have been devised especially for him. As the Guardian are suggesting this morning the Labour Party should have got rid of GB when they had the chance. A competent Labour leader (and they are many decent candidates) would have led to a united party and then a 4th election victory. The public don’t love DC. Cleggmania is transient. GB has really cocked it up and Mandy has not helped much in this campaign.
I do agree the media has turned on Labour and GB, but they were the same people who turn on the Tories in the Major years and if DC is successful the they will turn on him someday too. It is the nature of the beast so let’s stop bemoaning the lack of impartiality in the media as it is not a new phenomenon. Murdoch would not be so influential if govenments (both red and blue) has tighter regulation on foreign ownership of media outlets like they do in the US.
I am looking forward to observing the rebuilding of the Labour Party. It’s a straight fight btw Miliband and Balls. Who’s your money on Al?
thanks for drawing that to my attention. I was baffled by the polls because they did not reflect what I had seen and you do assume that polling companies are regulated in some way, or at least that their reputation is based on balancing and weighing out bias, rather than building it in! Incredible.
I’m surprised that Alastair and mates aren’t making more of the recent Paxman / Brown interview. I was getting a bit low reading all the Tory spin about Brown the loser,etc, until I watched the interview on iPlayer.
Brown argued his case powerfully. He was cogent, lucid, with a touch of humour at the right point, and ran rings round Paxo, which I thought I’d never see. How does Brown do it? The Sky News eavesdropping coup in Rochdale would have destroyed any other politician. Cameron would have been reduced to blushing deeply and looking pained. Yet Brown bounces back and plays a blinder in the debate and then against Paxman. If anyone has any doubts about whether Brown has the ideas and the grit to steer Britain through difficult times, they should watch the Paxman interview.
Please, Please, Please ask the PM to exclaim what he means by “taking money out of the economy”. I do understand but a lot of people won’t get it. My understanding of the “economy” in this case means the support the government gives the public sectors, like the police, schools, this also includes private sector contracts, etc.
The economy also means more than that, hence the confusion that urgently needs clearing if that point is to gain stronger traction.
GB is not helping himself enough. Why has he not mentioned the profit the nation was going to make from the takeover of RBS (estimated to be about £50 billion), why has he not compared the growth in the economy of 0.2%… that’s about £500 million growth, to the £6 billion the Tories were going to extract from the public sector. That makes the point stronger than just saying the Tories would take £6 billion out of the economy. THAT NEEDS TO BE UPDATED.
There`s still a lot to play for: I do think that the Labour vote will be closer to 2005 than the current polls are saying. Apart from the undecideds, most of whom won`t have shown their hands when polled, key will be what happens to those who are going off the Libdems as the moment of truth approaches. Will they go to IT Salesman DC? Will they simply not bother?
I`d like to see more respected, public figures show support for Labour – decent people who are known across the public spectrum and who can refer to the good record and so on. It`s been a difficult climate for a defending government to fight an election so a modest slip from the 2005 share of the vote would represent just 1 (relatively) poor result out of 4 elections. If the Tories don`t get enough to form a government (around 35% even for a minority government) that will be yet another bad result for them – 4 on the bounce.
Sky News presentation is now more Foxy than our great local football team – Leicester City. Pundits from Fox News are being interviewed constantly.No doubt hoping for’It was Sky Wot Won It’. The result of their ‘poll’ after the last leader’s debate was predictable and was second guessed by us correctly before they tolled their portentious conclusions of Cameron’s overwhelming triumph. At what point did the aftermath of the debates become an edition of XFactor and the discussion have to centre on ‘The Winner’ as if it was more of a beauty contest? ITV News last night had the grace to show that when half a selected random group listened to the last debate on the radio only, they thought that GB had the best arguments, whereas the half who watched the debate felt that Clegg (the majority) or Cameron(a few) had come over best. Policies not personalities -or else it doesn’t matter. It will become Celebrity Leader Debates next time if we are not careful.
A revealing piece of reporting by Gary Gibbons, and well picked up by yourself, to enlighten us to the vagaries of election reporting.
On top of this revelation, GB won the Ch4 poll, and perhaps more intriguingly, he also won the radio polls. The genesis of the lies about the polls, stems from the TV coverage, which is worrying,and spun in the morning papers. It needs to be given more awareness, without sounding like a hard-luck story, which is how Sly news and the Murdoch mafia would spin the accusation.
I do sense a growing awareness from people, even though it is slight, that there is something more than underhand tactics going on. We remember the ‘hanging chad’ election of Bush/Gore, and this election has the stench of that episode.
It is another example of the Aussie Oligarch attempting to install another puppet in western democracy.
When baby joey and ginger pubes stormed the Independent, it was because they were threatened by someone who dared to challenge them. Free papers reminding the public, that it is their votes, not Murdoch or Ashcroft, who will decide the outcome of this election, was definitely not in the script.
Free voices in cyberspace have given the mafiosa a problem too. Whatever is spun “on record” at Sly news, can be counter-spun to reflect reality online within seconds of the deception.
This election is far from finished, and they know it. That’s why desperate people are resorting to desperate measures. If the results don’t fit, they just make them up. If the stories don’t fit, they make them fit. If the election doesn’t fit……???
Oh Dear, a double whammy for Campbell. Labour to dive into third place in the election and Burnley back where they belong in the Championship! Still, it balances out, a little like Campbell’s shoulders….a chip on both!
Some time ago there was a policy of posting: “It just goes to show you can’t be too careful.” as a way of making a non comment on blogs and newspaper websites.
Maybe we should have a new comment to send around the right wing blogosphere and media outlets, based on what the Independent wrote that made James and Rebekah so cross.
“We, the British people will decide the outcome of this election, not Rupert Murdoch, or Lord Ashcroft.”
Start with Sky, the Mail, NOTW, ConHome. See how often your posting gets knocked back!
I watched the Paxman interview of Gordon Brown on iPlayer and it is an absolutely superb performance by GB.
I think that what matters about the third Prime Ministerial debate is what will stick in people’s minds until 6th May.
I suspect not a lot of what David Cameron said will remain in people’s minds for very long. A bit more of Nick Clegg statements will remain, but a lot more of Gordon Brown’s statements.
I think that in the debate Gordon Brown managed to shift the “vote Clegg get Brown” thing to “vote Clegg get Cameron”. His comment, “sorry to intrude on personal grief” when Cameron and Clegg were arguing over immigration was very effective in this regard.
The main message from Gordon Brown, of course, is that Cameron represents a risk to the economy. He will be mucking about with it for ideological reasons rather than pragmatism.
I think the Cameron = Risk statement will remain in people’s minds.
However while they will have absorbed that during the debate they won’t have registered that in a poll about which person they liked the best.
People don’t like the messenger of bad news. However they still need to get that bad news.
I agree with some of the points made earlier about making GB’s speak more people friendly. So many do not follow the economic or policy elements of government so talking to them at the level of politicians is a waste. I’m sure when he’s meeting people in small groups he is talking at a clearer level, but what is being broadcast, for the most part, just looks like policy bashing between parties.
It’s not helpful for the general public who need ‘on the ground’ stuff to relate to. When you’re working in politics, when you’re advising a PM, when you’re fighting a campaign – you’re all geared up for dealing with the other parties. The general public are not in that zone. So the writers and aides need to focus on a different level of speech and broadcast.
We need ‘people speak’ that will touch a chord within them. Items that will make them remember what it was like under the previous conservative government (just mentioning the 15% interest rate is probably enough on that!) And key points of simple successes that affected people on a work and home level during the past 13 years.
Round the dinner table last week 3 of 5 friends said they were voting Conservative – the generaly reason “well we can’t have four more years of bad government like this… it needs to change”. When confronted with my question “well how bad has it been for you? Exactly how bad off have you been? Where have you suffered?” None could reply. Further exploration showed that actually, they had prospered in more ways than they realised.
And that’s just classic non-thinking go-with-the-flow that people default into. Unless someone challenges the thinking. People think through the filter of their memories – GB needs to trigger those memories, and switch off that auto-non-thinking. I know he is capable of being a leader who can reach the people – this week, he has to show it.
Totally agree with you Alastair. Sky News makes by blood boil!
Michael ‘Meerkat’ Gove – CompareFeeSchools.com and CompareFreeSchools .com ?
I agree, Cromwell, Brown hasn’t explained what he means by “taking money out of the economy” referring to Cameron’s NIC bribe. Probably he thinks we’re all smart enough to understand. Gershon himself said up to 40,000 jobs could be lost to the economy – that’s 40,000 people not spending, not paying taxes, but claiming benefits instead. All Brown needed to say was “taking jobs out of the economy – 40,000 of them – just ask your guru Gershon.”
Of course Cameron did not ‘win’ the debate so got no boost in polls, but as you say it is amazing the resistance there is to Cameron – record Dont Knows – despite all the media backers they still at 2005 defeat level. Gordon Brown was really effective on the Conservative inheritance tax cuts for richest/same old tories which I was pleased he got in several times. It will have made a lot of people think. Especially as Cameron had the appearance of wealth and aristocracy and such a posh accent compared to Clegg and Brown
Good grief Alistair. How much more bad press do we need? If this goes on until polling day Labour will be lucky to come in behind the Greens.
Why can’t we allow people to say their piece. They have the right. We are blowing it good style! The media may be right-wing now, but for goodness sake we want votes don’t we??
I agree totally with Ben, who is asking for more talk of Gordon’s interview with Paxman. It was an excellent interview, and allowed Gordon to explain the reasons why Labour have made the right calls, not just in the past, but for the future. He quantified how Labour are proposing to deal with the deficit in a fair way, while ensuring the economy grows. Most of all he was allowed to explain the difference in values between Labour and the rest. Paxman was firm, but fair, allowing for one of the most insightful political interviews I can remember.
The biggest thing, for me anyway, was that Gordon came across as being relaxed and in control. It didn’t look like an act, because he wasn’t acting. This is when people warm to him.
Of course people want him to play the statesman, but only when it matters.
Congrats to Jeremy Paxman for doing three good interviews, which for me have added a lot to this election.
Who would have thought 3 half-hour interviews, could do so much.
I think GB has been much more impressive than the polls have reflected. I am afraid though that there is a definite mood of change for the sake of change in the people I meet. I think the minimum wage, the reduction in waiting times on the NHS, the tax credits scheme, the winter fuel allowance for pensioners are all great achievements. But why have we got the ID card scheme, the NHS mationwide database which has cost a huge amount, is open to abuse by so many people accessing it, and the weakening of the post offices – when the pensions were made available to be paid into bank accounts, the letters to pensioners didn’t make it clear that they could still collect it from their local post offices.
I want to vote labour, but ….(and the elephant in the room, the Iraq war)
The Paxman interviews were great because it brought conversation out of the policy slugfest that is ALL these debates have achieved. I still can’t get my head around why Sky was give the 2nd debate? We had the BBC and the commercial ITV, both public service broadcasters that maintain a neutral political bias, so why wasn’t C4 given the third? – Reaching minority audiences and the younger demographic…Sky has proved within this election how disgracefully and irresponsibly it has handled political coverage, it really is an outrage – “The media is never happier talking about itself” – PLEASE let’s get rid of this stranglehold
Brown did extremely well with Paxman, more comfortable and willing to answer questions directly compared to DC and NC..I just hope The Guardian’s recent left derailment won’t unsettle the left as much as they intend with such Big Story headlines as “Labour regroups, but week ends in another car crash” – It’s difficult to talk about coalitions at this stage, but do we need a clear strategy on what can happen?
If Labour win this, atleast we can say it was purely on substance
I am a great fan of Labour and of Gordon Brown as well but I must admit that I tear my hair out at the lack of innacurate reporting combined with Gordon being too modest about the Government’s achievements and successes. When I see Brown speak on Paxman for example, I am in awe of somebody with a massive intellect, integrity and foresight far beyond any of his two more polished rivals but Gordon along with the Labour party have let the Tories away with murder. Why was Cameron allowed to lecture Brown on poverty and inequality, A few simple facts (Winter Fuel Allowance, Tax Credits, Minimum Wage) should have been rammed right back down his throat. Cameron has done nothing for the poor and frankly he will say anything to anyone to get elected but why isnt Labour getting this across more effectively. I was raging on Thursday night because I though Brown would have had the perfect opportunity to give it to Cameron both barrels. He could simply have questioned Cameron’s judgement which is not just wrong, opportunistic but frankly dangerous. Remember Cameron has made political capital of short term judgements which, all in hindsight have proved to be wrong. They called Gordon Brown ‘The great regulator’ before the financial crash then blamed him for the banking crisis, they told us that nationalising Northern Rock was like taking us back to the 70’s and was a disaster before going quiet on the subject, they opposed the fiscal stimulus until most analysts observed that it was the right thing to do, they mocked the goverment for quantative easing accusing us of ‘becoming like Zimbabwe’ when it has actually helped speed our recovery and avoid deflation, they tell the markets that they will cut the defict faster and then promise the public NIC cuts. And on the national insurance rise, it is clearly obvious that in a financially tight moment, which we are in, that some people will have to be taxes a bit more. Obviously the business leaders would rather they werent hit with a rise but the Tory letter backed by 100 or whatever is clearly, clearly a vested interest on their parts. Why wasnt that shoved down Cameron’s face on Thursday night. Maybe the business leaders might avoid their NIC rise but will be delighted with the inevitable double dip and VAT rise that will undoubtedly follow a Tory win. If Cameron had stuck with his age of austerity message, at least it would have been a credible but wrong position, but he didnt have the guts to see it through, why wasnt he exposed for that. Labour have been unequivocally strong and clear from the beginning of the crisis in 2008. And why wasnt Ashcroft braught up again and again to highlight his bare faced cheek about transparency. ‘Mr Cameron, Mr Ashcroft’s money has undoubtedly had an effect on this election. You continously speak of transparency, so did Ashcroft lie to you or did you lie to us? It can only be one or the other, otherwise you didnt check So what are you incompetent or disingenious?’
Labour has a very proud record. But why wont they defend all the good things they have done and expose the Conservatives for the opportunistic, shallow lot they really are. I fear Thursday might go down as a missed opportunity. I can only hope that people are more intelligent and can understand for themselves. However I fear the 10 – 15% that dont understand might swing it for the Tories. I only pray that Blair, Mandelson and co get the message across in the last few days. Brown has an incredible brain but he does struggle to get the message across. And as for Clegg and Saint Vince, why isnt the kind of shredding Andrew Neil performed on him being used to highlight the Liberals lack of readiness for any form of goverment. And I think the more arrogant Clegg talks, the more he puts people off!
Please, use the last couple of days to portray a positive message about Labour’s achievements and expose Cameron and his lot for what they really are!! Maybe we can still squeeze a small majority!