Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mindtracking PMQs – Crowdsourcing v Punditry

Yesterday’s Mindtracker for PMQs was very interesting datawise for political geeks, over a thousand people (1,150 people between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m.) twiddled their knobs online, so the poll is statistically valid. In comparison Frank Luntz typically has only 30 people polled in a room.  Watch the video above to see how people responded in realtime.  The chart below shows how viewers scored the PMQs exchange at key points:

pmq-mindtracker-chart

Overall yesterday was a win for William Hague. Crucially voters who defined themselves as being in the centre scored the contest as a win for Hague, even those who defined themselves as being on the left tended to think that Hague won the argument.  If you want to drill down the full analysis and get a look at a bigger chart it is all here.

Next week following PMQs the experiment will run across a number of blogs from across the spectrum.  Will be very interesting to compare differing responses from different readerships…

“Coulson, Coulson, Coulson”

coulson guardianAn excited Labour spin-doctor called Guido yesterday evening and said “we’re going to do to Coulson what you did to McBride”… “it’s going to be Coulson, Coulson, Coulson all day”.  Guido isn’t convinced that comparison being made by Alstair Campbell with McBride is a good one in this situation.  The comparison with Alastair Campbell himself is a better one.

Before spinning for Blair, Campbell had been a loyal servant of Robert Maxwell when everyone knew the pension stealing crook was a rogue.  Before dining at Maxwell’s Mirror boardroom table Campbell had knocked out a few porno fantasy stories to make ends meet.  This was before he went to Downing Street.

Before spinning for Cameron, Coulson dined at Murdoch’s boardroom table and oversaw an aggressive “get the story by any means necessary” culture at the News of the Screws.  The hacking of mobile phones was a simple trick known to many a tabloid reporter.  (Call the mobile number, when it went to voicemail tap in the network default pin code.  If the phone owner hadn’t set a pin code you were in and could listen to voicemails.)  When the News of the World’s royal reporter was caught at it, Coulson resigned saying he took “ultimate responsibility” for the hacking affair.  He also avoided having to explain himself to the PCC in so doing.  This was before he went to Millbank - that is the key difference between this situation and the situation with McBride – it happened years ago in a former job, not yesterday.

Coulson won’t be in any danger of having to resign unless evidence emerges linking him directly to phone hacking – and you can safely bet there won’t be a smoking gun memo or email.   When Coulson won the Press Gazette Newspaper of the Year award in 2005 he said “The News of the World doesn’t pretend to do anything other than reveal big stories and titillate and entertain the public, while exposing crime and hypocrisy”. Guido suspects that the newspapers that will be wringing their hands over illegal hacking won’t include the Telegraph, Mirror or the MailNow that would be hypocritical…

Incidentally, despite dark hints to the contrary from the likes of Kevin Maguire, Guido has never met or spoken to Andy Coulson. Not even an email. Now Kevin, he met McBride and got emails from him, didn’t he…

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Newsnight’s Politics Pen

Tim Montgomerie and Iain Dale have got quite worked up about the Newsnight line-up for its Politics Pen experiment. Essentially the charge is they had four Labour insider / cronies vetoing public expenditure control policies from wonks (and a comedian).

pen_participantsThe political Dragon’s Den / Politics Pen types were Lord Digby Jones (former Labour Minister), Deborah Mattinson (Gordon Brown’s pollster), Matthew Taylor (Blair’s Head of Policy) and Greg Dyke (former Labour donor and luvvie of the nineties).

Not being known as one to miss a chance to bash the BBC you might be surprised to hear Guido thinks the Newsnight editor Peter Rippon has a point.  He can balance this panel in another show with a panel of right-of-centre panelists giving the thumbs up or thumbs down to advocates for quangos and big spending departments. 

The next panel could listen to those making the case for spending just as the previous panel listened to those making the case for expenditure control… they will do that, right?

Crowd Sourcing Opinion v Commentariat Opinion

Mindtracker
Until now we have had no way of knowing what the public really think of the party leaders performance. Instead, the members of the commentariat simply form their insider consensus, unsupported by anything other than their own shared metropolitan prejudices.

For example, the current consensus among the pundits is that it’s not a good idea for Cameron to get angry with Brown. “Too much like Flashman” think the hacks. But lots of voters are angry as hell at the PM and want to see him get a great big slap in the face (hence the popularity in Dan Hannan’s viral video in which he gave the PM the full hairdryer treatment).

Are the pundits right? What do swing voters actually think? At the moment that knowledge isn’t available to anyone unless they have pots of cash to spend. In the U.S. Frank Luntz charges corporate clients a small fortune to run dial groups (as seen on Newsnight) which capture exactly how voters feel about what politicians are saying. If you have the money, the effect of every word and weird facial expression can be measured precisely.

Now that technology is about to be democratised… it is time to cut out Sir Michael White and find out what voters actually think.  Let the crowd-sourced experiment begin – click here or on the button above and you will be able to record your responses blow-by-blow to today’s PMQs clash.  We’ll have the results back later…

PMQs Live-Chat : G8 Edition

Jonah’s Sticky Wicket: Plea to Lobby Hacks from Cricket Fans

cricket

Mrs Fawkes will, Guido suspects, be cheering for Australia, her husband doesn’t have a dog in the Ashes fight.  So this plea is made at the heartfelt request of many English co-conspirators: can hacks please refrain from asking the PMS at this morning’s Lobby briefing if the Prime Mentalist is backing the English cricket team?  The players have a difficult enough challenge ahead of them without the Jonah jinx on their backs as well.  We really, really don’t need to know what Wacko Jocko thinks of the English cricket team…

Wencher Drencher Dripping with Sarcasm

The “Romsey Redhead”, Sandra Gidley MP claimed £50,000 more in expenses than her neighbouring Hampshire MP.  For some reason she seems to resent the new rules on making full declarations about payments in kind, judging by the sarky piece on her blog about her latest declaration:

gidleyI was asked to spend some time on the “wencher drencher” for charity. The event – on 5th July – was organised by the Rotary Club of Romsey Test and total work time was approximately 25 minutes. This consisted of 5 minutes to get changed. 15 minutes sitting on the device, waiting for people to hit a target and then getting tipped into water a number of times and 10 minutes drying off and getting changed afterwards. A gentleman presented me with a punnet of strawberries (value £1.50) for my efforts but I am afraid it would have seemed rather rude to ask his full name and address so I didn’t.

Pictures would have been appreciated.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mandy Extends Willy, Metaphorically

Jonathan Djanogly’s Agent Resigns Ahead of Constituency Meeting

All is not well in the Huntingdon Conservative Association. The agent for Jonathan Djanogly MP, Sir Peter Brown, has just resigned saying in his letter of resignation:

Jonathan Djanogly MP“I have served the Party professionally for 42 years, nearly 25 of which have been in the Huntingdon Constituency. There have been momentous times, not least working with a British Prime Minister whose service to the Country and his Constituency were exemplary. The strength and depth of the Association has been of great pride and joy to me personally. As for the future, I intend to serve my four year term representing the Huntingdon Division on Cambridgeshire County Council. This will be my sole aspect of political work.”

Not incredibly hard to read between the lines here when you know that Djanogly faces a constituency meeting on Thursday where his expenses will come under scrutiny.  Constituency sources say that despite the MP paying £25,000 back to the fees office, Sir Peter was unwilling to publicly support Djanogly, so he resigned as his agent.

Some of the focus is on the cash claimed – without receipts – for a cleaner, allegedly that cash went to an au pair.   The Thursday meeting is open only to paid up local Tory members.

Tory Bill Wiggin’s meeting with angry voters was “open to all” or was it?  Either way it didn’t go to plan:

Lords Savage Brown’s YouTubed Parliamentary Standards Bill

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution report on the Parliamentary Standards Bill was out yesterday, and they didn’t pull their punches:

Download the BillWe are particularly concerned by the hasty manner in which policy-making has taken place, with negligible public consultation, and the subsequent ‘fast-tracking’ through Parliament of a bill which will have major constitutional implications… the bill is the product of a desire to respond to a demand to see something done, as the Government put it, rather than the outcome of a law-making process suitable for a bill with serious constitutional repercussions… The bill will accordingly have to be substantially recast. To do so under an accelerated passage is in our view wholly unacceptable given the questions of constitutional principle and detail that it raises… We are wholly unpersuaded by the Government’s case for this bill to be fast-tracked. There is an undoubted need to restore public confidence in the parliamentary system. It is not, however, clear to us that a cobbled together bill rushed through Parliament will help rebuild public trust; on the contrary, if Parliament cannot be seen to be scrutinising proposals with the thoroughness they deserve, public confidence in parliamentarians is likely to be further undermined. Governments should find the strength to resist falling into a temptation simply to see something done, which is no substitute for properly prepared policy and legislation.

Brown is BonkersAs the Lords say, it is a hastily cobbled together rush to “do something” – the wrong thing.  The report diplomatically describes the Prime Mentalist’s expenses announcement on YouTube as “constitutionally unorthodox”.  Stark raving mad would be many of his own backbenchers description.  The Kelly inquiry into MPs’ expenses from the Committee on Standards in Public Life won’t report back until the autumn.  It is carrying out wide public consultations.   This fast-tracked Bill is like something out of Alice in Wonderland, just as the Queen wanted ‘sentence first – verdict afterwards’, Gordon in Blunderland wants ‘legislation first, consideration afterwards’Bonkers.


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