Thursday, 31 October 2013

Nicholas Watt Should Know Better?

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

I wasn't going to post any more until I saw this howler of a piece of bad journalism from Nicholas Watt, The Guardian's Chief Political Correspondent.  In his piece, entitled 'Labour support up 14 points after Miliband's energy pledge' Watt states that:

"Voters in the "squeezed middle" are flocking to the Labour party after Ed Miliband pledged to freeze fuel bills for 20 months if he wins the next general election, according to a new poll that shows a dramatic fall in support for the Liberal Democrats."

If you are a Liberal Democrat, that sounds very bad indeed.  And it only gets worse:

"in the wake of Miliband's speech to the Labour conference last month, the YouGov poll shows a 14-point increase in support for Labour among voters classified as members of the "squeezed middle" [ABC1s]. "Support for the Liberal Democrats in this group has fallen by 21 points while the Tories have seen their support fall by five points."

Wow.  Ed Milliband really did pull off quite a coup, didn't he.

There is only one small problem with this: YouGov's polls show support for the Lib Dems to be pretty static in the 8-10% range where it has been pretty much for most of this Parliament.  If the "squeezed middle" were deserting the Lib Dems in response to Milliband's speech, then the Yellows must be attracting similar numbers of C2DEs to compensate, presumably also in response to the fuel prices announcement.

Now, clearly, this is a nonsense.  And if we read a little further in Nicholas Watt's article we see why:

Labour has increased its support among this group from 32% at the time of the last election in 2010 to 46% this month – a 14-point increase. The Lib Dems have seen their support among this group fall from 29% to 8% – a 21-point fall. The Tories have seen a five-point fall – from 32% to 27%.

So the 14-point increase, is among a subset of the electorate, and is measured since 2010.  Now it all starts to make sense!

The Liberal Democrats lost about half their support after forming a coalition with the Conservatives, and most of that support went to Labour.  I know that cause and effect are often argued in politics, but to attribute Ed Milliband's speech a 21-point drop in Lib Dem support that happened over three years ago to  appears to be little more than cheerleading for the Labour leader. There may be more in Peter Kellner's article that Nick Watt has failed to convey in his article, but in its absence it appears that this useful little video from Fr. Ted might be of use to him.


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