Monday, November 07, 2005

Leading and Following

A YouGov poll for Sky News has concluded that 72% of UK voters support an increase to a 90 day limit for imprisoning terrorist suspects without charge. To be honest, I think government propaganda, propagated with the help of much of the media (for reasons I've discussed in the past) is succeeding to some degree, so I wasn't all that surprised to learn that a large percentage of UK voters supported the 90 day plans. It was disappointing, but not unexpected.

So, I've been thinking about democracy, how it operates, how it can be protected and so forth. Can democracy work when politicians can so easily manipulate public opinion with specious arguments? I had the basic idea for the post I was going to write. It was going to be another dangerous descent into the murky world of liberal elitism.

As a starting point, I had a look for the full poll results. I wasn't expecting to find anything particularly unusual.Truth be told, I just didn't want to link to Sky. The poll was conducted by YouGov and the results are available as a PDF.

Oh, look at question 2. That's surely a leading question, isn't it?
Currently suspected terrorists can be held by Britain's police for up to 14 days. After that they must either be charged with an offence, or released. The police want to extend this time to 90 days, because it can take up to three months to analyse material such as computer files in order to obtain the evidence needed to charge suspects. Which of these statements comes closer to your view?

The police genuinely believe that the current 14-day rule is not enough to protect Britain from terrorist attacks. - 76%

The police don't really need the extra time; they are simply using the debate about terrorism to extend their powers to hold people without being charged. - 16%

Don't know. - 8%
Well, indeedy. I'm not a professional pollster but that looks pretty dodgy to me. In short: Are the police genuine or are they simply exploiting the situation to increase their power. Er, that's an ever so slight simplification of the issue. What about the police being genuine but wrong? That's what I think. My only option would be to vote for answer 1 here. And that's the first step on the road to acceptance.

In fact, all the questions look slightly ropey. Question 3 uses "Critics of the police" as the opening words of the "undesirable " answer. No-one wants to be associated with "critics of the police". Nudge nudge, wink wink, it's the other one. Why not have a look. There are only 4 questions. (I know its a PDF but what's the worst that could happen?) Are they designed to steer you towards the right answer? Hmm.

I genuinely wasn't expecting that. As I said I'm no expert in polling but that one looks decidedly unbalanced. And it was commissioned by Sky News, part of the same stable as the Scum. I wonder where Murdoch stands on this issue?

Is it just me or is there something fundamentally wrong with an Australian media mogul with US citizenship, having so much influence on UK politics and public opinion? Not because he's Australian or American (I think he's both but that's by the by) but because he doesn't live in this country. How can his interference be justified? I don't get it. In the best Australian style might I suggest we all tell Murdoch to "piss off mate".* That's certainly my recommendation.

Anyway, even with a more balanced poll I suspect the majority in the UK would have supported 90 days. That means I'll probably still write that other post at some point. Just not today.

* After a long campaign, Sky TV has now been cancelled here at H2O. We're on Freeview. Huzzah!

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