Polls on Philip rigged by guns lobby

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The Independent Online
Members of the gun lobby yesterday admitted to an organised campaign to rig Thursday's phone-in polls on Prince Philip and his comments on guns.

They were carried out by BBC's Radio 5 Live and Sky News to test support for the Duke of Edinburgh's comments on 5 Live that if Thomas Hamilton had killed the Dunblane children with a cricket bat, the game of cricket would not face a ban.

His views ignited a storm of outrage from MPs and anti-gun campaigners. But the overwhelming majority of listeners - 68 per cent who phoned Radio 5 Live and 72 per cent to Sky News - apparently sided with the Prince. Yesterday, however, The Independent obtained evidence of a campaign to sway the polls. It was made by CyberShooters, 160 gun supporters who are members of an electronic mailing list and communicate on the Internet.

One message from the group advised: "Sky News are conducting a poll today on Prince Philip's comments. Tel: 0891 665531. Remember to dial 141 before you dial the number so that you can make multiple votes."

Another message urged: "Please register your support for Prince Philip. Phone the Palace ... phone the BBC ... e-mail the BBC." It also gave the appropriate numbers. A third suggested the text of a letter of support to the Duke, and gave details of how to address him. "Please bury him with letters of support. This is a `poll' we shall win" it concluded. A fourth read: "STOP PRESS. Shooters win Radio 5 phone poll by more than 2:1. 68 per cent agree with HRH. 32 per cent disagree. Well done, folks!"

Yesterday, it emerged that a chartered engineer, Peter Jackson, was behind the campaign as the administrator of CyberShooters. He was unrepentant. "I understand that criticism may be levelled against us for exhorting people to vote twice but the radio programmes don't say we can't. This is not a general election. This is a phone poll.The fact that the anti- gun lobby haven't done the same is possibly an expression of how bored they are all getting with it." He doubted his members had much effect on the results. "I think the earlier polls were rigged against us. When we tried to ring, the pro-gun number was constantly engaged. We wouldn't have had to do it if we hadn't had the press coverage against us from Day One." Letters, page 13