Many years ago, when the Liberals were still just the Liberals and the split in the Labour Party that begat the SDP was yet to come, the former would manage around 14 seats at a General Election (that was their tally in February 1974, declining to 13 in October that year and 11 in 1979). Even in 1992, the Lib Dems managed just 20. This prompted regular wipeout predictions from the press.
Not last time, it wasn't
And there was no greater harbinger of Liberal doom than the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, which always had “Libs In No Seats Shocker” in reserve for the run-up to Polling Day. Every General Election brought the same crap from Rupe’s downmarket troops. And every time they would get it wrong. But hope springs eternal, and to prove it, they’re at it again.
“Sun poll: Lib Dem big guns face boot as MPs in meltdown at election” screams the headline. The more gullible of the target demographic may be taken in. But after the flash graphics, the numbers look less impressive: the total sample size of 1524 voters looks credible, until you realise that these were spread over a total of 76 constituencies. That’s just twenty for each one.
But look at the underlying numbers
And there aren’t 76 Lib Dem MPs, but 57 of them. So where does this number come from? Supposedly, this takes into account boundary changes, which certainly makes seats like Bradford East look tricky. But why the higher number? What was the rationale behind this? As YouGov did the polling, and their man is quoted in the piece, why not say so? Was it a phone poll or face to face?
We aren’t told when the polling took place, only that it was “an exclusive poll and analysis”. How can a poll that questions only 20 voters in each seat be statistically significant? And isn’t it a fortunate coincidence that the results match the narrative that this paper has been peddling unremittingly for the past forty years? Peter Kellner wants to talk of “big stinks” – his involvement is one of them.
At least one thing has changed over the years: this time the Sun is actually suggesting that some Lib Dems might survive this fantasy wipeout election, although only seven of them. But it’s a change from the “Libs In No Seats Shocker” of old, even though the poll that underpins the story gives off more than a slight aroma. Maybe on this occasion they could be right.
After all, if you keep on repeating the same story, it might be true one day. Eh, Rupe?
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