This weekend’s papers were full of briefing and counter-briefing by friends and foes of Boris. MPs, whatever they may claim, are keen students of polling, particularly if they hold a marginal seat. This sensitive topic was the subject of a Sunday Times article, the reporters having clearly been briefed that Rishi Sunak supposedly has the best chance of reaching voters in the “Red Wall” seats that flipped to the Tories in 2019, and also outstrips his closest rivals in the South Eastern “Blue Wall” Tory heartlands. This seems counter-intuitive, and the spin became even more incredible when the story went on to claim that an unpublished private poll from “Focal Data” for the Hanover Communications public affairs firm had found that Sunak would beat Starmer, whereas Boris would cause an historic record-breaking swing to Labour and put the opposition party in government. The article claimed that:
“The poll echoes a Survation survey for the Labour Party, shared with MPs last week, which found that only by keeping Johnson in place could Starmer win the next election. If the Tories swapped Johnson for Sunak or Liz Truss, Starmer would lose.”
Only one problem with that claim: Survation say there is no such poll. The CEO of Survation Damian Lyons-Lowe tells Guido:
Survation have not conducted “hypothetical leader” private polling for the Labour Party as reported in The Sunday Times… We also don’t view simple “leader name switching voting intention” to be of much predictive value.
The mystery of these unpublished polls gets murkier. The CEO of Focaldata, Justin Ibbett, also denied having conducted such a poll, and points out “if we were briefing it we’d ensure they got our name right, Focaldata is one word.” Who benefits from briefing the Sunday paper most closely read by Tory MPs with fake polls that falsely inflate the electoral prospects of Rishi Sunak?
UPDATE: Justin Ibbett, CEO of Focaldata, who tweeted on Sunday that he had not conducted a poll regarding a “hypothetical leader” now says his firm did:
Survation have re-confirmed that they have not conducted any such poll. We have changed the headline accordingly. Guido has asked for a copy of the Focaldata’s polling data tables which, under British Polling Council rules, have to be supplied within 2 working days of a poll being leaked or published.