Friday 28 December 2018

Beware Boosterism

Because it's Christmas and loads of people are off work, comrades hanging about social media today might have seen this tweet doing the rounds. It is a summary of this year's election results, lumping together by-elections from across the year and Labour's results from May's local elections.

You can understand why folks would be keen to share it. Labour is put on 40.5% of the vote and is up 76 council seats with a tally of 2,445 to shout about. The Tories on the other hand finished the year with 1,451 councillors who faced election, down 84, and 32% of the vote. And for those interested in such things the Liberal Democrats have 579, up 85 (and a 14% vote share). And so these results allow for two inferences to be drawn. That Labour is doing better than polling suggests and the Tories much worse, and therefore the polling companies are minimising Labour's support - just as they did in the run up to the general election. Therefore it's safe to ignore the YouGov latest, and all those other polls the peg the Tories ahead. Unsurprisingly, we have certain sites with a reputation for a conspiratorial approach to politics gleefully republish it. It might be factually accurate, but utterly useless and politically misleading.

Labour's support in this "poll" is boosted by the performance in the local elections which, among other things, saw the best result in London for almost 50 years. The problem is for anyone wanting to read off the national picture from May is that the contests were more or less clustered in Labour held areas. It still picked up a good haul of seats, but, well, because London. It is not the rest of the country, nor is it every big city - as the results from Birmingham's mayoralty contest should remind us. One would presume next year, after a set of council elections in mainly Tory held areas register a depression of Labour's vote, that Skwawkbox will be reassuring its readers that the results are geographically skewed and therefore shouldn't be anything to worry about. Remarks that, coincidentally, apply to the by-elections that took place this year.

Bandying about results like this without any caveats might make some feel good, but it's dishonest, politically disarming, and is only setting folks up for disappointment. The job of commentary, particularly left wing commentary, is to analyse, make sense and suggest directions for one's party/movement or whatever. Boosterism of this kind is the enemy of clarity, and it's clarity what we need to identify and make the most of the opportunities presented to us.


Skwawkbox said...

Usually expect better from this site. The SKWAWKBOX article specifically draws readers attention to the fact that the May LEs were imbalanced toward Labour-held areas:

"Of course, May’s local elections were more in Labour-held areas than in Tory-held seats – however, if Labour had ‘failed’, as the media attempts to portray it, they would have lost seats compared to a strong position, rather than gaining them and increasing their lead over the Tories."


Phil said...

Then why bandy is around as if it's a huge success? Surely you're not guilty of pushing clickbait over a slow news period ...

Skwawkbox said...

The very idea of 'clickbait' is staggeringly ignorant, Phil. The Skwawkbox carries zero ads, clicks are irrelevant. Nobody 'bandied' anything as a 'huge success' - and, as already shown, the caveat about the locations being weighted toward Labour-held areas was there perfectly clearly, to prevent anyone getting too carried away.

But the performance can't be described as anything close to a 'failure' - and anyone suggesting Labour is only neck-and-neck with the Tories because current polling says so has a short memory, given the evaporation of the Tories' 25-point lead in 7 weeks in 2017.

Your article said "Bandying about results like this **without any caveats** might make some feel good, but it's dishonest, politically disarming, and is only setting folks up for disappointment."

But that comment is itself dishonest - or at best culpably misleading - since the article didn't state *anything* 'without any caveats', let alone 'bandy' it, because it was caveatted.

I'd usually expect better from you. This was poorly done.

Phil said...

C'mon, we all like views. Would any of us writing for as long as we have if we were getting page views in just double figures every day?

But fair enough, I do take your point. We have better things to do!