Sheet Heads: Real-Time Data Transparency Has Changed the Dynamics of “Most Sophisticated Electorate in the World”

It is a cliché that Tory MPs “are the most sophisticated electorate in the world”. In reality they are duplicitous, disingenuous and risk averse, with careerists swayed by herd psychology driven by rumour and misdirection. Or rather, they were.

As Nic Watt confirmed on Newsnight, real-time online publicly available lists of declarations sourced from social media, contacts and the leadership campaigns themselves have made things more transparent. They have reduced the potential for MPs to double or triple pledge their support in private and ended the bluffing that characterised Tory machine politics in the past. Andrew Mitchell’s claims “of we have it in the bag”, Heath’s surprise defeat, Liam Fox’s confident claims of victory – none of this will happen nowadays. Because of the existence of online real-time data, available to all via a browser – a public service pioneered by this website. There is now less opportunity to bluff.

Here is some insight into what has happened in the last few days: the Rishi campaign has decided in their wisdom to freeze Guido out – no briefing, no contact, effectively pretending we don’t exist as a fact of political life. Petulantly putting us in the penalty box for giving Rishi a hard time in the last leadership campaign. We started reporting and publicly recording the support of MPs for Boris on Thursday, and by yesterday evening the Rishi campaign was instructing their supporting MPs to contact us to confirm their support for him. As our records showed support for Rishi catching up with and then pulling ahead of Boris, his campaign reminded supporters to confirm their pledges to us. All can now see the relative strength of candidates’ support.

In this morning’s Times, Matthew Parris today claims that

“Momentum is being manufactured through creating an impression that Johnson is already on his way to victory. Mysterious reports on social media suggest he’s surging ahead among those MPs who are declaring — but the identities of some of these are undisclosed. They will (we’re assured) reveal themselves “later”. The sense of movement this creates is giving those many Conservative MPs who still keep their own counsel the idea that this man is a winner, and (say quieter MPs to themselves), “we’d better declare for him early, as we know he rewards supporters and freezes out the rest”.

Copy which Parris obviously filed yesterday afternoon before we showed Rishi surging ahead that evening. Unhinged analysis, shown to be so, as events unfolded before the ink was dry on his claims.

MPs who have not pledged can be seen by all sides. They are either genuinely undecided – waiting to see which way the wind blows – or biding their time for Machiavellian reasons, or simply ransoming their vote for the highest bid or best favour. What MPs can’t do is double pledge any more. If they tell a campaign they are backing their candidate the campaign expects them to go public. If they don’t go public, they are suspect.

As the pioneers of real-time transparency in this form, we decided to record the preferences of MPs who are whips or 1922 Committee officials or hold offices in the party which require them to be publicly neutral. Which is why we record higher numbers than our rivals. We verify those pledges directly even when campaigns assure us. Which is why when last night we hit 100 for Rishi, the Rishi campaign immediately confirmed to the media they had passed the threshold, despite other media organisations being well behind with their figures. We note with satisfaction that now some of those same media organisations are switching to quoting using our public plus private figures methodology.

Yesterday the site was visited three quarters of a million times, such was the demand for data.* This kind of transparency is now a fact of political life, the game has changed. Changed for the better…

*Team Rishi’s strategy of ignoring the website read by so much of the membership doesn’t bode well for their success if the contest goes to the membership.
mdi-timer 22 October 2022 @ 18:04 22 Oct 2022 @ 18:04 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Boris Heckles Newsnight

Classic Boris scenes on Newsnight yesterday evening as Nick Watt was heckled by none other than the PM himself. Upon hearing Watt predict ‘more letters going in calling for a vote of confidence in his leadership‘, the PM and his PPS entourage shouted “rubbish! rubbish!”. MP Lia Nici even tried waving her hands in front of the camera…

mdi-timer 26 May 2022 @ 09:21 26 May 2022 @ 09:21 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Newsnight Squander No. 10 Olive Branch

While No. 10 is trying to embark on a new, post-Partygate communications operation under Guto Harri, one thing is remaining strong: the refusal to put top ministers up for Newsnight. One of the few Cummings innovations to have survived…

Guido hears things could have changed recently, however. Following the arrival of the new Downing Street operation, co-conspirators will remember the programme was given a full day trailing Boris recently, during which political editor Nick Watt spent a whole day with the PM followed by a sit-down interview after that day’s NATO summit. All very good…

While this could have been a precursor to Newsnight once again fetching top ministers, the subsequent show’s treatment of Tory spokesmen resumed Downing Street’s anger at the BBC’s political bias. A particularly brutal treatment of MP Fay Jones by Kirstie Walk four days ago, during which she was told “So I wonder what your constituents make of that answer because I’m asking you for an answer“, has only renewed dislike of the BBC’s flagship show in No. 10. The boycott ain’t ending any time soon…

mdi-timer 27 April 2022 @ 10:30 27 Apr 2022 @ 10:30 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Anti-Vaxxer Denies Harassing Newsnight Editor Nick Watt

A second anti-lockdown crank has pleaded not guilty to the harassment of the BBC’s Nick Watt, who was accosted by a mob of protesters in Whitehall last month. Christopher Aitken, who admits being part of the mob yet still insists he “did nothing wrong”, was caught on camera chasing the Newsnight editor into Richmond Terrace following the government’s decision to delay reopening beyond 21st June. Aitken left court yesterday wearing a box on his head, and in the esteemed company of – who else? – Piers Corbyn. A trial is now set for 29th November…

mdi-timer 23 July 2021 @ 10:26 23 Jul 2021 @ 10:26 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Metropolitan Police Make Arrest in Relation to Nick Watt Incident

Yesterday, a statement from the Metropolitan Police claimed officers were not in the “immediate vicinity” of BBC Newsnight journalist Nick Watt as he was harassed by anti-lockdown cranks at Monday’s protest, however footage of the event show police idly standing by, mere metres from the incident. Based on the damning footage Guido will let co-conspirators decide whether police officers were in the “immediate vicinity” of the attack… 

The Met swiftly deleted that and instead tweeted:

“We acknowledge the concerns that have been raised about the police response during this incident. We take those concerns seriously and will be reviewing our actions with a view to improving the policing of events for all Londoners.”

The Met have also arrested Martin Hockridge, 57, in connection to the incident and he is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on June 29th. It’s been tough week for the Met who just yesterday were accused of “institutional corruption” over failures in the murdered private detective investigation. With the police force steeped in controversy Ms. Dick’s critics are up in arms again…

mdi-timer 16 June 2021 @ 10:23 16 Jun 2021 @ 10:23 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Anti-Cummings Tories Throw In the Towel

As British politics nears a full week of talking about Dominic Cummings, the peak of the scandal appears to have passed. Nick Watt reported on Newsnight last night that the group of anti-Cummings Tories are conceding defeat, while the Prime Minister’s performance at the liaison committee yesterday appears, despite the grandstanding from MPs, to have been the watershed moment many in government were hoping Monday’s Rose Garden speech would be. Even Keir Starmer appears to be now saying it’s time to draw a line under this episode…

mdi-timer 28 May 2020 @ 08:58 28 May 2020 @ 08:58 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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