Saturday, May 21, 2005

More on BBC Backs Ken

The BBC's report of its survey among Tory Party chairmen is a classic of BBC Bias.

Its news bulletins and website lead on the proclamation:

'Most Tory Party constituency chairmen want Conservative MPs to choose the party's new leader, a BBC survey says.'

Really? But surely-and correct me if I'm wrong- that would make it much harder for members' choice DD to become leader, wouldn't it?

The BBC report goes on:

'Ex-deputy PM Michael Heseltine said he was encouraged by the support to give more power back to MPs. He said...the survey showed a "deeper movement than perhaps one might have suspected".

Which was good news because '....the voluntary party activists are relatively elderly and seemed obsessed with Britain's relations with Europe, which is why the pro-integration Mr Clarke had been defeated in a previous leadership challenge in 2001.'

I see.

Except...wait a second, what's this small print about the survey?

'Sixty-six chairmen in the 197 Tory-held seats responded, with 36 saying party members should not be able to choose.'


So in fact, the response rate was only 33 per cent, and of those, only just over 50 per cent said party members should not be able to choose. So when we say 'most Tory Party chairmen', what we actually mean is 36 out of 197. And, as Sean Fear points out, once you take account of all 600 odd constituency chairmen, 36 represents about 6 per cent.

Now I know the BBC is staffed by a load of hopeless innumerates, but come on guys...

But it gets worse:

'In the survey for BBC Radio 4's Today programme, David Davis was the most popular choice for leader.'

OK. Well, at least they got that right. Except...

'However the small number of responses - only 26 chairmen chose to answer this question - made Mr Davis' popularity very unreliable, the survey suggested.'

What does that mean? 26 chairmen backed DD, and the rest didn't say?

And why is it OK to base the screaming headline about 'most chairmen' on 50 per cent of a non-random 33 per cent sample, whereas the same rules aren't applied to the support for DD.

Roll on privatisation.

Update: CLN picks up the story, commenting that the BBC survey 'may or may not reflect the mood of the rank-and-file'. It points out we are not told what options respondents were faced with, and questions whether Association Chairmen are representative of the membership at large- 'many are aspirant parliamentary candidates who may be afraid to upset Central Office.'

It also asks: 'Why were only Chairman in Tory-held seats asked? This is not very representative. Through their MPs they would still have some indirect say in a MP-determined election. All other Associations – not least in target seats – would be disenfranchised completely.'
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