It’s election season again, which means yet another example of bad mathematics and dishonest representation through the door from the Conservative party. The Tories use charts in an attempt to represent how they are the only party to stand a chance of beating the SNP in whatever contest they are engaged in. I say the SNP because they are the party which holds the Westminster seat at the moment and are the party to be toppled if someone else is to represent the constituency. Prior to the 2015 election, the seat was held by the Liberal Democrats.
This post isn’t about the political merits or otherwise of the various parties, but the perpetual habit of the Tories in mis-using and abusing statistics in seeking to gain the allegiance of the voters in the ballot box or postal vote as the case may be.
Let’s start with the statistics the Tories seek to abuse. These are the actual results of the elections for Argyll and Bute Council earlier this month. Because Scottish local authorities are elected from multi-member wards using a single transferable vote (STV) system, the only data that we have to work with are the first preference votes, which are published by the Electoral Management Board here for you to look at yourself. I’ll summarise the data:
The number of eligible voters was 68,808 and 33,670 people cast a vote, a turnout of 48.9%. That means, even if the turnout at a general election is 60%, there are another 7,614 votes in play. Remember that.
The first preference votes were as follows:
The distribution of first preference votes represented in a chart are as follows:
This is how the Conservative leaflet that came through my door today represented the Council elections for Argyll and Bute:
There’s a wee difference. If you took the numbers and charted the data properly, it would look like this:
The Tories have done what you’d expect; scale down the heights of the columns for the LibDems and Labour. Hilariously enough, they’ve also scaled down their own column and shown the gap as visually greater than it would be if the figures they were using were honest. Remember, they’re not.
So, taking the Council election first preference data, and excluding the 35,138 people who didn’t bother vote, and all of those who voted for independents, Greens and Kippers, the data would look like this:
The Tories have actually under-represented their own share. And these are the people who claim to be good with finances.
So, what about their claim that they’re the only party to unseat the SNP? Here’s the result of the 2015 parliamentary election as shown on the UK Polling Report website:
It would still appear that it’s an SNP/LibDem contest. Bear in mind that 32% of the people who voted in the Council election voted for independents, Greens or Kippers and there were 35,000+ people who didn’t vote at all. It may well be that the Conservatives are the party who can unseat the SNP, but the data they use is dishonest and shouldn’t be used to persuade people.
I should state here that I am not expressing a preference for any party here, with the exception of abhoring Kippers and Tories. I should also state that I’m not a psephologist.