Duncan Sandes and the diddled Western Morning News poll

Independent – Pandora: Tory press office in a spin over poll fix: To coincide with Cameron’s holiday in Padstow, the Western Morning News ran an online poll this week to find out whether locals thought Cameron would make a good Prime Minister. With the poll going heavily against him, a zealous staffer decided to try and shore up some support… To spare his blushes, I shan’t reveal the press officer’s name, but his colleagues aren’t best pleased with him. “It was an over-enthusiastic response from a member of staff,” says a party spokesperson when I call. “It is not something that the party would condone at all.”

The Pandora peeps are going needlessly easy on this nitwit; he was outed by another newspaper two days ago:

The Times – Tories rig local newspaper poll?

—–Original Message—–
From: Sandes, Duncan [mailto:Duncan.Sandes@Conservatives.com]
Sent: 29 July 2008 13:59
To: [76 Tory constituency and councillor e-mail addresses across the South West];

Subject: WMN poll – please vote

dear all,
the Western Morning News is running an online poll to coincide with
David Cameroin’s visit to Cornwall, asking if he would make a good
leader.
the bad news is that, as it stands, 76 per cent have said “no”.
the good news is only 230-odd people have voted.
so, if you can spare 2 minutes can you please go on and register your
vote for “yes” – it shouldnt take too long to change the percentage
round.
if you follow this link:

http://www.thisiswesternmorningnews.co.uk/news

and look for the large blue box to the centre right of the screen.
can you also please pass this on to all helpers, campaigner,s members
you can think of so we can push the percentage the right way.

many thanks,

Duncan

Duncan Sandes

Conservative regional press officer – South West

1. Pay particular attention to his desire to ‘correct’ the poll so that it goes the ‘right’ way. He’s not doing anything wrong; he’s merely ‘righting’ a wrong!

2. Take a look at the comments under that story (and perhaps over at Bob Piper’s) and look for someone called ‘Simon’ (or ‘Richard’ or ‘Jim’ or ‘Laura’ or ‘Betty’ or ‘Archie’ or ‘ Veronica’ or…) who thinks it’s very important that he/she tell as many people as possible (as often as possible) how dull this story is and that everybopdy else is at it, too.

3. Note also under comments that only Justin (here, over at Bob’s) provides an example of someone other than the Tories doing anything like this. I’ve noticed many Tory bloggers and comment contributors making similar noises and playing this same game; they claim that the opposition is up to no good or guilty of equal/greater sins than the one they’ve just been caught at, but they never seem to come up with any evidence. Here, once more, I’ll happily show them how it’s done:

Other examples of Tory diddles and fixes include the sad tale of Grant Shapps, who, as Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party “with responsibility for campaigning”, unsuccessfully posed as a disheartened Liberal Democrat during the Ealing Southall by-election. Iain Dale, the only blogger who appeared to believe Grant Shapps’ story (that ‘someone’ accessed his YouTube account after guessing his password; ‘1234’), is himself no stranger to poll-rigging, and was recently caught red-handed inflating/misrepresenting his traffic figures (to this day he refuses to admit that he got caught cheating despite clear evidence to the contrary). It’s also definitely worth mentioning this similar example in Guildford; where some of the massive diddling of an online poll about the local council’s actions was traced back to a Tory member of the local council*. That senior councillor’s position was that he merely (and quite reasonably, in his view) “registered two votes to what I thought was a flawed poll”.

Now pop back up to #1 quickly, before we move on…

[*Psst! The since-censored list of recipients of Sandes’ email includes many Tory councillors.]

4. That local newspaper has reported this matter, but the report (an afterthought chucked in at the bottom of an unrelated article) is missing one vital detail:

Western Morning News – EXCLUSIVE: Cameron pledge on water bills: The Tories were last night accused of trying to influence an opinion poll on the WMN website. For two weeks, the online vote showed just a quarter of people who had taken part thought a Cameron government would be good for the Westcountry. But yesterday, Duncan Sandes, the Tories’ South West press officer, sent an e-mail to activists telling them to vote to “push the percentage the right way”. Last night, the result had turned around with just a quarter of voters saying a Cameron government would be bad for the region. Lib-Dem MP Nick Harvey said: “The change in ratings is not a reflection of a sudden change in the South West’s political colours but another example of political spin.” A Tory Party spokesman said: “It was a very over-enthusiastic response by a junior member of staff and we would not condone it.” Mr Sandes declined to comment.

The vital detail that’s missing?

Duncan Sandes, South West Regional Press Officer for the Conservatives, used to work as a reporter at the Western Morning News until about a year ago.

I would’ve thought that this warranted a passing mention at least. Sandes is messing about with a poll conducted by his former employer and suddenly he doesn’t have time to speak to his former workmates? There is, at the very least, an element of human drama that’s going to waste here… which I think is a pity.

5. Western Morning News is a daily tabloid newspaper based in Plymouth. It’s published by Westcountry Publications Ltd, which is owned by Northcliffe Media Limited, which is a subsidiary of Daily Mail & General Trust plc. A tabloid ultimately owned by the Daily Mail group that’s currently bragging; “(we) brought David Cameron to the West Country” and running a series of exclusives about David Cameron might seem to the uninformed outsider to be listing ever so slightly to the right, but I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that I have received assurances that the newspaper does not in any way favour the Conservatives:

Seeking a copy of some of Duncan Sandes’ past articles for the Western Morning News, I was initially refused, and so I asked if they’d like to go on record with that refusal.

I was quickly put onto News Editor Steve Grant, who wanted to know who I was and why I wanted to see them.

Keeping in mind that I was talking to the man most likely to have cleared the above article the above incomplete afterthought chucked in at the bottom of an unrelated article, I found his insistence that I share my name and background to be most amusing. I was even more amused when he declared the conversation at an end and hung up on me when I gave him my name (which I had already offered) and suggested that he use a search engine for anything else that he might need (if indeed this kind of thing mattered all of a sudden).

*sigh*

No matter. I called back and somewhere between the two calls we got down to it:

I explained that Duncan Sandes’ willingness to diddle a poll run by his former employer on behalf of the leader of the Conservative Party might make a curious person want to scan his past work for that employer… just case it revealed a teeny hint of pro-Conservative bias. I then asked again if WMN would share some of his past articles with me.

Grant replied; “That won’t be possible,” and then stated, “And it never happened. Not once did I see a single bit of bias from (Sandes). If I did then he wouldn’t have been working for me.”

Well, OK, then.

Given that things were that straightforward and confidence was high, and these articles were available via the British Newspaper Library etc. anyway, I asked one final time if I might see some of Duncan Sandes’ articles written for the Western Morning News.

Grant’s final response was firm and simple; “No!”

Ho-hum.








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 2 Comments

Man plugs news of leaks… film at eleven

Justin is now blogging about Nuclear Power for Greenpeace.

You might want to take a wee step back and seek some cover. (Over the horizon and into a lead-lined fridge should do it.)








Posted in Consume! | Comments Off

A question regarding identity and equity

Can anyone think of circumstances where it would be fair for a publisher/contributor to issue any comment likely to effect someone’s reputation without staking their own* reputation on it?

Also, should anyone expect to be taken seriously as a publisher if they allow this kind of behaviour on their site when it suits them?

When considering the latter especially, please keep in mind the increasingly extreme abuse, threats and allegations that eventually get thrown around when comment contributors aren’t expected to answer challenges or back up claims with evidence… if they’re on the publisher’s side.

I’m asking these questions for a number of reasons. Please let me know what you think.

Cheers all.

[*Applies if you normally blog/contribute under your own name or a pseudonym, but choose not to when you want to make a comment that you would rather not be associated with.]








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 5 Comments

Iain Dale’s idea of self regulation

“I’d be interested in your views on this. In my view, self regulation works perfectly well. I someone makes a complaint to me about an abusive comment – or something I have writen which they believe is incorrect or offensive – I look it up and then decide whether to remove it, amend it or leave it as it is. If people don’t agree with my decision they don’t come back to my blog. It’s a simple, free market, and it works.” – Iain Dale

There you have it… straight from the horse’s arse.

If Iain Dale publishes something on his ‘blog’ that you don’t like (up to and including anonymous comments from people who wish to undermine your reputation without risking their own) and you complain about it, one of two things will happen:

1. Iain will kindly* and graciously** remove or alter the content that you believe “is incorrect or offensive”

2. Iain will refuse to change it, and you will be free to walk away and leave him to it, thereby fixing the problem.

Wait… what?

How does that fix the problem for anyone but Iain?

(*Isn’t that big of him?)
(**Yeah, right.)








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 4 Comments

Red hot knitwear catalogue action

Another pleasant surprise for your eyes, courtesy of one of London’s leading tart carders.

I didn’t have a camera on me when I spotted this one, and so had to pocket it for later reference. My apologies if the fold mars the otherwise happy finish:








Posted in Consume! | 6 Comments

David Cameron is a moron

Evening Standard – Moment David Cameron became a victim of crime: He had chained up his bike in Portobello Road, less than a mile from his home, as he went into a supermarket to buy salad for dinner. However, when he returned five minutes later, the bike was gone. Mr Cameron had chained it to a 2ft bollard, allowing thieves to lift both the bicycle and the lock clear.

Daily Mail – Cameron left stranded as his bike is STOLEN as he shopped for salad: Onlooker Gary Yankee said the theft had perplexed 41-year-old Cameron, who was heard repeatedly saying: “But I locked it.” Mr Yankee said: “He must have been looking around for about five minutes as if he couldn’t believe it had gone.”

Well, it sounds like he’s a moron, but let’s double-check, just to be sure…

Here’s a photo showing the pavement outside the Tesco in Portobello Road. In the foreground you can see the perfectly serviceable rail that runs alllllll the way along the front of the store (i.e. the one that is used by locals to secure, bikes, dogs, etc.), while in the background you can see the type of bollard that David Cameron chose as the anchor for his bike.

[Psst! You can also see to the far left a bike that may or may not be chained to one of these bollards, which only proves that David Cameron may or may not be the only moron in the world.]

You can see a clearer photo of this type of bollard here.

What should be obvious from the height is that even an oompa-loompa with poor upper body strength could lift a bike ‘up and over’ if it were chained to one of these bollards.

What should be obvious from the design is that the only thing that makes one of these bollards marginally more secure than your average bollard is a wee lip at the top… which is a lot like saying “this cell without a door is more secure because it has steps”.

So, yes, David Cameron is a moron.

The thieves that nicked his bike are thoughtless parasites (or, possibly, shy perverts who only wanted some privacy while they sniffed his seat) but David Cameron is a moron.

Links:

London Cycling Campaign – Where not to lock your bike: Short posts, or even tall posts that a lock can fit over the top of – your bike will be lifted over the top.

Rolling Resistance – The Bollards of David Cameron: I don’t mean to beat the guy while he’s down, but putting a chain around such as a bollard isn’t really going to offer much protection from theft, just as that helmet hanging from his handlebars will do little to prevent injury.








Posted in Tories! Tories! Tories! | 5 Comments

I support Dave Walker

As Matt Warman notes under comments over at D-Notice, this issue highlighted in detail yesterday by Unity is in need of a ‘quick guide’, so I’m using his interim version here as an introduction…

In a nutshell, a long running mismanagement and industrial relations saga involving legal shenanigans, enforced contract changes, now up to 30 Industrial Tribunals and the loss over 2 years of a 200 year old chain of bookshops after a takeover that should have rejuvenated it.

Dave had reported the story in 75 posts, and has been Cease and Desisted – in the middle of the Lambeth Conference where he is very busy as Artist in Residence, just as the bookshop chain is being placed in bankruptcy in USA; it is a UK company.

Abstruse management saga becomes freedom of speech issue in middle of 3 weeks when press attention is focused on Lambeth Conference.

Cue shitstorm. Hopefully.

… and then sending you here for more.








Posted in Christ..., UK Libel Law | Comments Off

SOCPA stumbles off the books

SOCPA isn’t officially dead (yet), but – according to rikki, at least – it is effectively dead:

Indymedia – SOCPA Is Dead And Buried: towards the end of the proceedings, the judge closed the case without allowing barbara to sum up, and the case was adjourned for the judge to consider his verdict. what came out however, was a bombshell for socpa. barbara has been requesting the prosecution case summary for four months prior to this hearing, and only finally received it in court yesterday. hidden amongst pages and pages of print about the incident was the following remarkable statement: “OWING TO CHANGES IN SOCPA LEGISLATION THE UNAUTHORISED DEMONSTRATION OFFENCES CANNOT BE PROCEEDED WITH”

I may have to pop by Parliament and test this for myself…








Posted in The War on Stupid | 2 Comments

Hypersensitive links

The first incarnation of the Sun-Watch project is coming along nicely and will rumble into action shortly. Right now, I’m quietly going from invite to invite and making sure that each of our editors is happy in their work.

While you wait, here are a few items that a certain gang of right-wing thugs really hope will pass without too much scrutiny:

Guido Fawkes Paul Staines – New Statesman Owner Buys LabourHome: Guido has been hearing rumours that LabourHome was “in play” and that two bidders were after the site….

Gosh, I wonder where he heard that rumour… from his mate Alex Hilton or Jag Singh, the guy he shares an office with. Way to hype the sale, Paul.

[Note: I’d love to describe Jag Singh as Paul Staines’ business partner, but Staines likes to issue spurious legal threats based on barely-related technicalities, and we have been reminded that – on the books at least – the (hopefully former) bankrupt Paul Staines “is neither a shareholder, director or employee of MessageSpace and never has been.” Apparently he only takes and makes calls for them out of the goodness of his heart and all of his money seems to magically appear out of an unrelated magical portal labelled ‘advertising’. More on this later in the post.]

Adding to this hype is another member of their little gang, Iain Dale, who proves that he doesn’t always play down the left by… erm… playing down the left:

Iain Dale – LabourHome Gets Cash Boost: Contrary to what some left of centre bloggers have been saying (HERE and HERE), I actually welcome this as I think it is healthy for each political viewpoint to have a powerful online presence. Most sensible people on the left recognise that their blogging efforts have not received the same attention as those of us on the right. The advent of blogs like Liberal Conspiracy have liften the profile of the left of centre blogosphere, and despite their unbalanced antipathy towards me personally, I think that can only be a good thing for blogging in general.

[Note: Recent criticism of Iain’s habit of not linking to what he is talking about has obviously stung; this time there are VERY GRACIOUS and NOT AT ALL GRATUITOUS links to the content he is misrepresenting.]

Being happy for your mates receiving an unknown amount of cash for their leftish portal is not the same as welcoming input from the left. Especially when this hype for mates is framed by “the left are weak, the left are unpopular, any criticism of my is unfounded leftist whining and the product of a sick mind…” (pardon my paraphrasing).

What Iain Dale also glosses over here is that there are people who will not be taking part in his blog ranking scam because they know he is a liar and a cheat who’s not above fiddling the numbers in order to make himself look good.

[Note – The latest spin from Dale’s camp is that those who are unwilling to legitimise a rigged popularity contest are afraid of losing… in a rigged popularity contest.]

On the subject of outlandish claims based on meaningless/misrepresented figures, let’s have a word or two from Nadine Dorries, close friend to Iain Dale and regular recipient of helpful plugs, spin and positive angles from Dale’s hype machine:

Nadine Dorries – Heartbeats: It’s time to pack in blogging for the summer. At a recent meeting with my staff, I put forward the idea that maybe, now that we were receiving 700,000 hits per month, that just maybe I should carry on. They all, in unison, shouted NO! They are of course absolutely right, for reasons detailed below. I apologise to those who may have read the following blog which I wrote whilst on holiday last year; but as we were only getting 100,000 hits a month at the time, there are a lot of readers who haven’t read it…. When the hot sun has gone to bed and the underwater lights in the aquamarine pool twinkle and beckon; the jug of Sangria on the table next to me screams, “More ice”; the heady scent of Bougainvillaea fills the air; and Jose Gonzales plays seductively in the background, wooing me, egging me on. There is a beautiful Batik print on the balcony wall of the Madonna and child, it’s looking down on me; the warm sea breeze is causing the candles on the table to flicker, playing tricks with my eyes. Every time I look up, the Madonna tut tut’s at me and shakes her head in mild reproval. Unfortunately, I don’t think even the Holy Mother can help me once I have blogged on. It’s between me, the circling shoal of out to get me Piranhas; a loaded gun; an Exocet missile; a suicide wish; the Chief Whip; and the save button. I wonder why more MPs don’t blog?

[Note – Please don’t rush to send copies to Private Eye for Pseuds Corner; Beau Bo D’Or has already done so and earmarked the spotter’s fee for charity.]

Even if ‘hits’ weren’t a meaningless figure, Nadine assumes here (and not for the first time) that every download is a vote in her favour. Bless.

I love how she sees herself as a freedom fighter and champion of democracy when she is in fact, a lying scoundrel, a willing pawn of religious fundamentalists and, like Iain Dale, not above a little fiddling of the numbers.

Paul Staines has gently teased Dorries from time to time, but he certainly didn’t take the time to reveal that – via Dorries – an attempt was made to have legislation written by religious fundamentalists passed into law.

Now watch Paul Staines as he finally issues a statement regarding his relationship with the ‘Sunlight COPs’

Guido Fawkes said…

The Centre for Open Politics is in “beta”, pre-launch.

When they launch properly they will reveal who is backing them to the last penny.

For now, just so there is no doubt, suffice to say Guido has given them seed money funding to get them started. For the last four years this blog has been digging into political sleaze and campaigning against corruption. There is no existing vehicle for doing it – in particular to take legal action to enforce the existing laws.

The various quangos are passive and not aggressive enough in pursuing wrong doing. The Sunlight Centre for Open Politics aims to shine a light on the dodgy goings on in a way that an individual blogger – even with a large audience can not.

July 24, 2008 3:23 PM

Ah, so it’s a natural extension of his heroic and impartial mission to clean up politics. Glad we cleared that up.

Note how the statement is issued almost casually, near to a full week after the matter came up. A textbook tactic beloved of spin doctors. Never mind that the character he uses to sell his bullshit is supposed to be an enemy of spin.

More on this as soon as is possible. Staines isn’t the only one who’s stalling and my membership to Sunlight Centre for Open Politics is (still) “pending approval from the administrators”.

[Note – You may recall that we got the ‘it was only a beta test’ excuse (and many others) back when Paul Staines and his chum Alex Hilton equated homosexuality with paedophilia (1, 2, 3).]

And now we finally get back Paul Staines and the money that magically appears in his pockets.

The other day I was barred from Staines’ website (again), this time for being the recipient of abuse. (What?!)

Check out Paul Staines inferring that I use pornography to drive traffic to my site when he knows the opposite is true.

Then skip forward to about 1:03:30 on this video to hear Paul Staines admit that – in response to traffic patterns – he knowingly peddles the more crude/salacious material (and targets hate figures) on his blog in order to boost his audience.

What follows this revealing exchange is his answer to an audience member wanting to know the source of the profits he as been bragging about. I’ll leave you to chew on it:

“Advertising. Purely advertising. [pause] And selling stories to the… er… papers.”








Posted in The Political Weblog Movement, Tories! Tories! Tories! | Comments Off

Who in the Bush administration faces prosecution for what?

Not that anyone will actually go to prison, of course. That would be silly. But it’s nice to dream and informative diagrams are fun to play with:

Slate – Crimes and Misdemeanors








Posted in George W. Bush | 1 Comment