Parliament may not be sitting right now, but the propaganda armies have not been stood down for the Summer recess: if anything, they have been mobilised as on a war footing, and the battles include a pincer movement to take out reality. That has been demonstrated by the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph this morning.
“‘Public backs Johnson to shut down Parliament for Brexit’ … Poll suggests voters want Oct 31 exit by any means and that MPs are out of touch” claims the headline, the accompanying article going on to tell “BORIS JOHNSON has the support of more than half of the public to deliver Brexit by any means, including suspending Parliament, a poll has suggested”. And how does a poll “suggest”? Do they have nod-and-wink categories?
There is more. “The ComRes survey for the Daily Telegraph found that 54 per cent of British adults think Parliament may have to be prorogued to prevent MPs stopping a no-del Brexit … The poll suggested the Prime Minister was more in tune with the public’s views on Brexit than MPs’, following his promise to deliver Brexit by Oct 31 ‘do or die’”.
That sounds unequivocal, but the giveaway is the quote marks around that main headline - as well as the “Poll suggests”, which means the responses to that poll were not in accordance with the Tel’s editorial line previously handed down.
Alan Travis had seen the polling question on which the Tel’s headline claim was based, though, and he had smelt a rat. “Shocking misreporting of this Tel/ComRes poll. Front page headline claims 54% support for shutting down Parliament. Poll detail results says figure is 44% in response to highly tendentiously worded question”.
So that’s a flat-out lie, then. As to that question, Fionna O’Leary was not happy. “Who thought a question in these terms was even a remotely sound polling question? It isn’t just that it is VERY leading. It also bungs in a series of activities without explaining illegality OR consequences (eg suspending parliament)”. So what was the question?
Here it comes: “Do you agree or disagree with the following statements? ‘Boris needs to deliver Brexit by any means, including suspending Parliament if necessary, in order to prevent MPs from stopping it’”. How ComRes came to put their name to that one is one of polling’s great mysteries. And how the Tel’s journalists agreed to have their names on the by-line of the resulting article - which lied about the poll - is another.
The response is quite clearly Agree 44%, with Disagree on 37% and Don’t Know on 19%. Of course, if the Don’t Knows are stripped out, you do indeed get 54% Agree, versus 46% Disagree, but that’s fraudulent. And the Tel’s hacks know it. Hence “poll suggests”.
The timing of a comment from YouGov’s Anthony Wells was telling: “Here's that piece I wrote a few months back explaining why agree-disagree statements are a bloody awful, biased way of asking questions. You know, just in case”. His NHS example is also telling.
Not only has the Telegraph been caught lying, it has signalled the start of what promises to be a very dirty General Election campaign. A campaign fuelled by disinformation.
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