Alex Massie

The Guardian Buys A Miliband Pup

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If Labour members really want to vote for Ed Miliband then bully for them. Quite why they think doing so would advance their prospects of regaining power is something that's lost on me. But if they do want to plump for Miliband Minor then at least they should do so for the correct reasons and not on the back of an utterly bogus poll.

That's the poll that "found" that 72% of "undecided" voters would be less likely to vote Labour if its new leader decided that New Labour was still a Good Thing. Ordinarily the Guardian likes to think of itself as a serious newspaper for serious people. Lord knows why they decided that this campaign poll deserved to be treated as an objective finding. Somehow one doubts that the paper would have reported a poll sponsored by, say, Imperial Tobacco quite so credulously.

Luckily for Ed Miliband he seems to have plenty of pals at the paper. How else to explain this spin being presented as straight news? How do we know it is spin? Well, YouGov asked if respondents would be more or less likely to vote Labour at the next election if the new leader promised "not to move a millimetre from the New Labour approach followed by Tony Blair?"

In other words, it's a question designed to elicit a negative response. That's why Blair's name is in the question. I doubt this is accidental.

So, amazingly, what happens is this: when you ask people if they think a politician should be just like another, widely-disliked politician then, amazingly, many people say that actually they think you shouldn't really try and emulate the unpopular guy.

A bogus poll, then, that tells one precisely nothing about what voters really think. (Another sign it's bogus: apparently all of Ed Miliband's "ideas" are more popular, according to this poll, than anyone else's. Fancy that!)

Event the striking 72% figure is, essentially, nonsense:

Nine per cent of respondents said that this approach would make them more likely to vote Labour, 23% said it would make them less likely to vote Labour and the rest said it would make no difference – either because they definitely would or would not vote Labour anyway, or because they did not know.

Taking out the figures for decided voters and don't knows, the figures show that 72% of uncommitted voters would be less likely to back a Labour leader following the Blair line.

No it doesn't. It "shows" that only 23% definitely (even after being asked a leading question) would be less likely to vote Labour. The Guardian - prompted presumably by the Miliband campaign - appear to have made a number of entirely unwarranted assumptions about undecided or indifferent voters.

Still, grant Miliband Minor this: he's learnt from PR companies who are experts at producing nonsense surveys and polls and persuading lazy newspapers to treat these "findings" as news.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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