Conservative "poll blow" won't land on Ed

Leaked polling data suggesting David Miliband is considered more fit to be prime minister can be dis

Conservative polling, leaked to the Times (£), has suggested that Ed Miliband is not considered as fit for the job of prime minister as his brother David.

53 per cent of respondents apparently said they thought David was more suited to the top job, compared with 36 per cent for his younger brother, and Labour's new leader:

"Mr Miliband is seen as a nice, compassionate figure. However, voters do not believe that he has a clear plan for the economy and fear that their lives would be worse off with him in charge"

While undoubtedly piling yet more pressure on Ed to deliver the speech of his life this afternoon, this leak also highlights once again just how crucial David Miliband's choice about his future in politics could be to Labour's time in opposition.

Straight-forward popularity in leadership elections has never been a particularly good measure of electoral success, as Ken Clarke has proved time and time again -- in 1997's Tory contest, he was the first choice of more people than the other four candidates combined, only to lose out to William Hague in the actual poll. Of course, the situations are not directly comparable; the Conservative contest was conducted via a poll of MPs, rather than a full electoral college as Labour's was. But in one sense, Ed Miliband's challenge is similar to William Hague's, facing as he does a newly-elected prime minister still enjoying reasonable personal approval, having just beaten an apparently more popular colleague in a close-run contest to lead his party.

As much as David Miliband himself might urge unity and a break with "class war", his presence cannot help but encourage constant comparisons with his brother.

However, there is no reason why this poll should have a significant impact on either Ed Miliband's ability to set a new agenda or Labour's boost in the polls today. Despite the Times' decision to run this as their front page today, their article lacks sufficient information to draw any firm conclusions. It was apparently conducted "this month during the Labour leadership contest", and "involved more than 2,000 respondents online" who were asked for their views "after watching their campaign videos". Without more information about when precisely the poll was conducted, who the respondents were (party affiliation and so on), and whether responses were based purely on campaign videos, it is impossible to consider this a serious "blow" to Ed Miliband.

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

Getty
Show Hide image

The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

0800 7318496