Sunday, May 31, 2009

Only the Lib Dems can win any Euro seats at all

I'm assuming you've had your Lib Dem leaflet? Never let it be said that they are a party who found a vote winning strategy and discarded it too early. I refer, of course, to their infamous graphs.

Now, even under normal circumstances Lib Dem graphs can be, shall we say, ingenious with the truth when they have to be. They are dead keen to show that only the Lib Dems can win any particular election but it gets awkward if you don't actually have the figures to back it up. You have to start stretching the science a bit (like drawing a graph about a different area, different kind of election or one that doesn't even represent votes).

However, at these Euro elections they're taking their reputation for dirty maths to new heights. Either that or they don't understand how the elections work.

In 'Lewisham Central Ward Focus', for example, we are treated to bar graphs showing Labour at 26, Lib Dems 17, Greens 6 and Tories 3 with big arrows pointing at Greens and Tories saying "CAN'T WIN HERE"

This is intriguing for what is clearly labeled a Euro election leaflet. It proclaims that it's "Lib Dem or Labour round here" but the Greens will win at least one seat in London, the region people will be voting in, and the Tories will out poll the Lib Dems. So it makes you think what are these numbers? What have they to do with this election?

I'll tell you - they are the number of councilors on Lewisham council and they have nothing to do with this election at all. They appear to think the electorate are idiots, and will therefore vote for them.

So then let's look at the main Camden leaflet. It begins "Elections here in Holborn & St Pancras are always a close finish between your Lib Dem team and Gordon Brown's Labour Party." It then has some stats from the General election where "your Lib Dem team" fought Tony Blair's Labour Party.

Once again we have the big arrow pointing at the Tories saying "can't win here" which is why, they claim we should "Back the Lib Dem Team on June 4th." But not only can the Tories win seats in London it's inconceivable that they wont.

The Lib Dems are willfully using statistics from completely different kinds of elections and constituencies to give the appearance that a vote for other parties at this election is wasted when it blatantly isn't. No other party does this because they know, in the long term, serious voters will be put off by dodgy graphs.

I'm not the only person in London to notice this. They even do it in Scotland.

Now I know it's not the most Earth shattering revelation that a main stream political party might deceive the voters, assuming they are too thick to know what election they are voting in, but what on Earth do the activists think of it? They have to give these out knowing full well it's deceitful garbage. Don't they feel embarrassed when people pull them up on it? Don't any of them resent hawking sloppy merchandise?

When the Lib Dems first started using this tactic it was pretty effective but they've overused it and now loads of voters understand what they are up to, it certainly isn't just political nerds.

I mean, we're meant to trust their figures when it comes to budgets but just put aside their figures when they tell people any old bull shit on their election literature.

I had an email from a friend saying she'd had a leaflet in Cambridge telling her the Greens don't want the EU to do anything about climate change... ummm... if you're going to tell a lie go big I guess.

They then follow it up by saying Greens and Tories can't win here. Once again the Tories are likely to out poll everyone in the Eastern region. This sort of thing doesn't do them any favours to be honest.

A well placed, truthful bar chart can be a thing of wonder, but if you consistently use them to deceive the electorate surely the law of diminishing returns will apply because people see how the election result bears no relation to the claims made during the election. Unethical behaviour aside I suspect these graphs are a rod they've made for their own backs, and they seem utterly tied to the method no matter what the circumstances.


Rayyan said...

You really do get the best pictures on your blog, Jim! I've seen these Fib Dem leaflets around - one that had me gasping in disbelief was this one from Eastern region, which says "..there is no luxury of voting Green, it will only elect another Tory.. you don't have the luxury to vote Green this time".

Joe Otten said... the Eastern Region that is probably true.

But, actually, yes, I am pretty fed up with these bar charts myself.

Meanwhile, Jim, can I quote your headline?

James said...

Even when they're mocking themselves..

Green Gordon said...

I got fib-demmed against too, in the Springfield by-election. They did some amazing graphical gerrymandering to imply they were the second placed party in the region.

Someone needs to blog the leaflets alongside the actual results...

Sue said...

Hmmm! In the last proportional representation election(ie the London-wide member list for the London Assembly), Greens beat Lib Dems in Lewisham Central ward (which is 2 LD 1 Lab cllr). We got 16% (+1.4%) and they got 13.3% (-6.3%). The Lib Dem candidate Brian just pipped me to the post in the constituency vote for that ward, but we beat them overall across the entire Lewisham Deptford constituency in both the PR and FPTP. We beat them across the entire borough in the PR vote, but they got more than us in the FPTP vote. They seem to be better at campaigning in FPTP elections than PR ones.

Leftwing Criminologist said...

I remember in Huddersfield - the year after we got Jackie Grunsell elected to the council they came out with a leaflet showing 'last years results' with labour winning and them coming second!

Jim Jay said...

Go for it Joe :)

Hope this isn't a diversion but did people this story where a Lib Dem leaflet described an opponent as a "greasy haired twat"... you can't say it wasn't getting to the point I suppose!

Joe Otten said...

I think we're looking into who printed that leaflet, because it wasn't the people responsible for the campaign. Luckily only 40 were printed.

DarrenJ said...

There was a lot of discussion on Lib-Dem blogs last year about why they so often massively underperform in PR elections. After they got splattered in the London Assembly elections a number of Lib-Dem activists recognised that although they have always supported PR, when it comes to actually fighting PR elections they are pretty damned crap at it.

Lacking a strong identity and clear brand, they do best by pounding away year after year saying only Lib-dems can beat Labour/Tories (delete where applicable) here. That style of campaigning does not work across a region of several million people where a strong party brand and clear policies count for much more. Hence all these desperate attempts to fight PR regional elections as FPTP local elections, replete with dodgy bar charts.

Jim Jay said...

Joe, this is probably a stupid question but how do you know how many were printed and not know who printed it?

Strategist said...

Darren is right here. After being right royally shafted by the FPTP system for decades it's like the LibDems have become hardened to it and determined to fight the dirtiest of the lot. It's like a bullied child who grows into a bully himself.

And in this way a party with a long tradition of a principled stand on PR risks becoming a defender of the FPTP status quo.

They have proved that there is a place for a third party in a system which evolved with only two parties ever in mind, but that place is for a vote squeezing party. And they are forced to pull out all the stops to strangle any emerging fourth party, who must try hard to return the compliment.

It's a way of keeping yourself & your activists busy, but grown-up democracy it ain't.

Jim Jay said...

Another (non-green) blogger on the Lib Dem maths in the Eastern region


Joe Otten said...

No idea Jim, it's all a long way from me. All I was trying to say was, on the basis of what I heard, this was never one of our regular leaflets which are seen by the relevant people and printed in 1000s.

Jim Jay said...

Sure thing Joe - I know the feeling