Somerton & Frome – who can win here?
Campaigning is really hotting up in the Somerton & Frome by-election. Candidates have been out on the doorsteps, and thousands of leaflets have been delivered. However a number of constituents have complained that the LibDem leaflet is misleading. It all hinges on the bar charts at the front of the leaflet. The bar chart comes under a heading “Its so close here.”
LibDems are fond of using the bar chart in elections in Somerset. They seek to project an image that it is a really close fight between the LibDems and Conservatives. The aim is to persuade people to abandon left of centre parties and unite around the LibDems.
There’s nothing wrong with that as an aim. The other left of centre parties may well be putting out a similar message. But there is something disturbing about the bar chart. It is fundamentally dishonest.
The bar chart might have some claim to accuracy if it was based on polling. But it isn’t. It is very specific that it represents the position at the last General Election.
In fact it grossly misrepresents the position at the last General Election in 2019. This is the LibDem leaflet:
The key thing to note is that the LibdDem bar is shown as significantly close in height to the Conservative bar. Being unscientific, you’d say the bar was more than half the Conservative bar, and perhaps as much as three quarters the height.
We measured it. The Conservative bar is 15cm tall and the LibDem one 11cm tall. Almost exactly three quarters the size of the Conservative bar.
Looking at Labour, their bar is shown as 2.6cm tall. That suggests a vote that was less than a quarter of the LibDem vote.
The Greens bar is even smaller at 1.2cm tall. This directly implies that the Green Party vote was 11% of the LibDem vote.
The one thing you can say for this bar chart is that the bars do reflect the order the parties finished in at the last General Election. But in terms of their relative performance, this is a misrepresentation pure and simple. Whether it is such a gross misrepresentation as to require sanctions is for others to decide.
But as a simple matter of fact, this is the true position at the last General Election shown in a bar chart:
You’ll immediately notice some differences. Firstly the LibDem vote of (being precise) 17,017 was less than half that of the Conservatives. Not three quarters as the LibDem leaflet shows. Remember the leaflet heading “Its so close here”. In truth it might be. But in the 2019 General Election depicted in the bar chart below the heading, it wasn’t. The LibDems got less than half of the Conservative vote.
Secondly the Labour vote 8,354 was nearly half that of the LibDems. Not a quarter as represented in the LibDem leaflet. Finally the Green vote was 3,259. According to the LibDem bar chart it was 11% of the LibDem vote which would have made a total of just 1,540.
The kindest thing you can say for the leaflet is that is exaggerated to make a point. But as we said at the top, if the bar chart was based on recent polling, the LibDems would be making a valid point. Maybe not everyone would agree, but it is a legitimate argument.
As it is, by claiming the bars represented General Election figures, the leaflet is simply wrong. And misleading. It is also a bit of an own goal. By putting accurate figures in the LibDems could have made the same point. One can only wonder why they chose not to. Because it was a choice.
Using incorrect figures rather smacks of dishonesty. Which is not a good look for a would be MP. Or perhaps these days it is?