The Guardian is not a good newspaper, it is merely the least bad newspaper

Speaking of political reptiles, here are some more, dinosaurs this time:

One female Conservative MP tells a story about how, in the weeks after the influx of new female Tories into the House of Commons at the last election, some of her male colleagues struggled to tell them apart. Instead they resorted to calling any or all of the new women “Caroline”.

It’s telling that they used a racist jibe they couldn’t get away with any more, keeping the structure but swapping out the target group. (Well, I can’t tell’em apart…) But the thing that strikes me about this is that even the Guardian was so keen to tell us that David Cameron was a really nice person. (You’ll notice the absence of the bit of the story where the whips were ordered to reduce everyone responsible to a greasy patch on the floor.)

At this point I’m tempted to go off on another round of my war against Martin Kettle. But Kettle is just part of the problem. The problem is that the Guardian just isn’t a very good newspaper if what you want is news, rather than Useless Twat/Vacuous Catblogger columns and FT How To Spend It-lite and news stories that tell you more about its internal faction wars than about their subjects.

For example, the paper was badly behind the story that Labour was pulling out a progressively bigger polling lead over the Tories through 2011 and 2012. This shouldn’t be difficult; it’s the most basic kind of horserace journalism. But they insisted on only ever mentioning the ICM poll they commissioned themselves, as if there were no other polls. The ICM poll has a methodological quirk that causes it to read a few points higher on the Lib Dems and lower on Labour than the average of the other polls.

Specifically, they assume that don’t knows break the way they did at the last election, so if you voted Liberal last time and now won’t, you’re still counted as a Liberal.

All polls have assumptions; you have to pick your bias. But once you’ve done so, you can hardly pretend it doesn’t exist. But that’s basically what they did, until the magnitude of the shift became enough to stand out even despite the polling issue. Then, they decided it didn’t matter, and what really mattered was the question on which party was better on the economy. The Tories were still leading in that one.

Until they weren’t any more. And so, political editor Patrick Wintour shifted his ground again. Now, what matters is which party people think was responsible for the crash. Which party they think is better on the economy is apparently a matter of no importance, and it is staying that way because the article doesn’t include a link to the crossbreak.

Despite all the Guardian‘s trendy-dad stuff about open platforms, their Google spreadsheet of all the ICM polls doesn’t contain the question on the economy, and their site search is as pitifully useless as it has been since the website has existed. There is a link to an ICM web page buried in the spreadsheet, though, so off we go.

There’s this, a press release about the poll, but that’s still not a full set of tables. The November 2012 poll has tables, but not this one. But there is a quote:

Finally, the poll asked ‘blame game’ question on whose fault it is that we still struggle with what now could be a triple-dip recession. The previous Labour government still receives the highest level of rebuke (29%), but the Coalition’s austerity cuts are now increasingly picked on as the cause. When the questions was last asked in May 2012, only 17% believed they were responsible, but now 23% are convinced they lie at the heart of the economic problems Britain suffers from.

It’s not clear whether this round of polling actually asked which party would be better on the economy, now. ICM rotates its questions. It would be strange to hold the Tories responsible for an economic event that happened on Labour’s watch, even if I’d pick “the entire political class”, but it’s also not clear if that’s what ICM asked. The quote is compatible with the question referring to the second, and indeed third, recessions. (Update: it refers to the double/triple dip, and respondents weren’t asked who was best on the economy.)

Either way, since May, that question shifted 5 percentage points towards Labour, but Patrick Wintour desperately wanted it to be bad news for Labour and that’s what he put in the paper.

Now, of course, there are some journalists at the Guardian. Specifically, the third string political reporter is usually far better than “Unseasonably Mild” Wintour or Nicholas Watt aka “Watt? You might well ask”. Allegra Stratton had this role for a while, and now it’s Juliette Jowitt, whose scoop about the “Carolines” is at the top of the post. Stratton moved off to Newsnight; a promotion, but you do hope they don’t make a habit of losing young women from the political beat.

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