Letters: Opinion polls no longer have credibility

The following letters appear in the 21 September edition of the Independent

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After the recent general election, I hoped you would stop featuring opinion polls on the front page and treating the results as if they had validity.

There may have been a time when a representative selection of the voting public took part in opinion polls. Not any more. Most of us are so fed up with unwanted phone calls that we hang up on pollsters before they ask a question.

The only people who still respond are those who think their opinion is out of the ordinary or won’t otherwise be heard. In this latest case, some people were evidently so astounded by Jeremy Corbyn’s win that they needed to tell someone that he still doesn’t look to them like prime minister material.

Those who expected him to win, or hoped he would, weren’t moved by the same sense of overwhelming surprise and simply put the phone down.

If you must print the results of polls, please add one statistic: tell us how many people refused to respond for every one who did. Without knowing that, there is no way to judge whether or not the polls represent public opinion.

Mary Uhl



“Corbyn ‘loses a fifth of Labour voters’” (19 September) because he doesn’t look like a prime minister. Considering the obsession our culture has with “celebrities”, I am surprised the proportion is this small.

Anything with surface gloss attracts attention, even though the interior is a complete vacuum. Maybe the other four-fifths think a little deeper and show there is hope for us yet.

Michael Skipper



Corbyn “loses fifth of Labour voters”. Has anyone calculated how many former Lib Dem and other voters he has gained? At last a man of apparent integrity and principles in politics!

Jane Gibbs



Why is there such an obsession with Jeremy Corbyn’s potential as a prime minister? Without some major political upheaval this won’t arise until 2020 at the earliest.

Right now, this country is in desperate need of an effective opposition which can rein in the excesses of our current government. This is far more urgent than worrying about Labour’s performance in an election that is over four years away.

It looks like the Conservative Party has again set the agenda and managed to divert attention onto the non-issue of “Prime Minister Corbyn” while it continues unchallenged with its extreme agenda.

Ashley Herbert



Amol Rajan (“Who’s to blame – the mainstream media or Corbyn?”, 19 September) implies that The Independent is above the extremes of the rest of the mainstream media, yet its lead story that day was the type of cheap spin regularly practised by the Tory press – a poll based on loaded questions.

Given that Jeremy Corbyn had been the subject of the most outrageous media “coverage”, the results were a foregone conclusion. A paper, self-styled as independent and “more responsible” should be above such shallow journalism – and shouldn’t fill its front page with it.

Norman Evans

East Horsley, Surrey


Amol Rajan avers that as an “atheist republican” he would prefer Holst’s “I Vow to Thee, My Country” to “God Save the Queen” as Britain’s national anthem (19 September). Seriously?

Gustav Holst didn’t write the hymn, he composed its music. The lyrics are by Sir Cecil Spring Rice. Rice was a royalist, and while the monarchy is not explicitly mentioned in the hymn, it is obviously assumed.

In any case, it not only promotes a nauseating, chauvinistic and militaristic love of country “that asks no questions”, it also describes an explicitly Christian love and longing for “another country”, namely heaven.

So why not go all the way with Jeremy Corbyn on the national anthem – one that eschews ideology and is not hard to sing. It’s called “Minute’s Silence”.

Rev Kim Fabricius



Cameron risks destroying the NHS

I implore David Cameron to have a long, hard think about what his party and Jeremy Hunt are doing to doctors in this country.

Many of us believe that Cameron’s goal is to have a fully privatised system. The persistent, frankly distasteful undermining, devaluing and bullying that has been displayed in recent months has sickened us.

I won’t waste time explaining why the new junior doctors contract is a disastrous idea. This has been well documented. It will create a bitter demoralised workforce which adopts a clock-in-clock-off mentality. The NHS would never have survived if doctors had ever before worked like this.

Does Cameron really want to be remembered as the PM who destroyed the medical workforce within the UK and at the same time destroyed our National Health Service? This is exactly what is happening. We are creaking, and this contract would send most of us over the edge. Some of the brightest minds in this country will simply move abroad. A UK medical degree and postgraduate training are still regarded extremely highly. For how long this will be the case?

Richard Branson’s philosophy on how to treat a workforce is: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to. If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.”

Last week, as I stayed at Brasenose College, Oxford, on a course organised by the Cochrane UK organisation (I am a clinical academic trainee) about leadership in the health service (I paid for this). I imagined what sort of man Cameron thought he might become when he was at Brasenose. I wonder if he dreamt of being PM? I doubt he ever thought he would be responsible for turning so many UK doctors against him.

For the first time in the nine years since I graduated as a doctor, I last month told a work-experience student not to bother applying to study medicine. This left me feeling hollow. I don’t want to feel hollow anymore. I want to get on with my job, which I believe I have been brilliantly trained to do in a unique and special system. Please, Mr Cameron, don’t be responsible for ruining UK postgraduate medical training.

Dr James Plumb

Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire


Now Cable wants to fight the Tories

According to Sir Vince Cable, progressive centre-left politicians from Labour and the Liberal Democrats need to come together to stop the Conservatives monopolising power in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory.

Is this the same Vince Cable who was a key member of the Liberal Democrats who kept the Tory-led Coalition in power for five years? The same Vince Cable who was the Coalition’s Business Secretary? The Coalition that was so despised across England, Scotland and Wales that the Liberal Democrats were all but wiped out in the last general election, losing all the gains so painstakingly built up over many years under Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy?

Julius Marstrand



Scots subsidise the English

Alan Stedall (letter, 19 September) not only ignores the facts on cash flows between the UK nations, but also is surly towards the people in Scotland who have been subsidising him for the past 30 years.

Perhaps he considers that Messrs Osborne, Darling and Brown approved falsehoods when they signed off the annual Treasury balance sheets. And that the lower tax contribution per head from people in England than in Scotland is irrelevant. 

It is time he looked at these balance sheets and learnt some manners.

David Welch

Banchory, Aberdeenshire


Something lost in mistranslation

Kaleem Aftab’s two articles on the documentary film about Charlie Hebdo (19 September) both translate the title L’humour à mort as “Comedy has died”. That would be accurate if the title were L’humour est mort, but it isn’t. The film’s title means “Humour till death/humour till we’re dead/humour right up to the end.” Your translation is almost the opposite of the true meaning.

Professor Max Gauna



How to make song and dance at the World Cup

By what mangled understanding of the UK’s constitutional arrangement has it been decided that the English rugby team should sing “God Save the Queen” before starting a game?

Surely a more appropriate song would be “D’ye ken John Peel?” or “In an English Country Garden”. And instead of the haka (or equivalent), couldn’t they do a little morris dance?

Vic Johnstone



Name for a man who sells all his tractors

Presumably, once Norfolk farmer Paul Rackham (“Want to plough your money into tractors? You’ll have a field day”, 19 September) has sold his collection of 185 tractors, he will have to be known as an ex-tractor fan.

David Head

Navenby, Lincolnshire