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Top Tory peer calls for crackdown on secret polls after ‘Labour landslide’ survey row

Lord Hayward has written to the elections watchdog calling for a crackdown on anonymously-funded polls and measures to ensure their results are not misrepresented in news stories

Archie Mitchell
Monday 29 January 2024 15:06 GMT
No one likes the guy shouting ‘iceberg’, says Tory rebel Simon Clarke

A top Tory peer and pollster has called for a crackdown on political surveys after a row over an anonymous poll showing Labour was headed for a landslide election win.

Lord Hayward has written to the elections watchdog calling for new rules on anonymously-funded polls after rebel Conservative peer David Frost organised a £40,000 survey that forecast a 1997-style victor for Sir Keir Starmer’s party.

Lord Frost has refused to reveal the names of those who funded the poll, which was commissioned by a group called the Conservative Britain Alliance, who and has now been linked to an orchestrated right-wing revolt to oust the PM.

Following the row, Lord Hayward wrote to Electoral Commission chairman John Pullinge and the UK Statistics Authority “in light of the imminence of a general election”.

Conservative peer Lord Hayward called for tighter rules on polling ahead of a general election expected this autumn (PA)

He said: “Recent events have highlighted the need for the ‘polling world’ to catch up with other aspects of politics and electioneering.”

He added: “Is it really correct that a poll can be undertaken with no credible identifiable ‘beneficial owner’?”

He went on to question whether British election polls are “adequately protected from external influence”, and whether polling companies should be able to correct the representation of their data before it is published in the media.

The Electoral Commission said it is “carefully considering” Lord Hayward’s suggestions, adding that it does not regulate the polling industry but some polls and those commissioning them may fall within its remit.

YouGov later had to clarify a suggestion by the newspaper that the presence of Reform UK is the difference between Labour securing a majority and not.

It said that was their own calculation based on an unreliable calculation.

The YouGov poll of 14,000 people, published in the Daily Telegraph, suggested the Tories could retain as few as 169 seats, while Labour would sweep into power with 385 – giving Sir Keir a massive 120-seat majority.

It predicted that chancellor Jeremy Hunt could be one of 11 cabinet ministers to lose their seats, in what would be the biggest collapse in support for a governing party since 1906.

Other ministers under threat include education secretary Gillian Keegan and defence secretary Grant Shapps.

It sparked suggestions that the poll was commissioned as part of a plot to destabilise Rishi Sunak’s leadership of the Conservative Party. The poll was cited by senior backbencher Sir Simon Clarke when he called for Mr Sunak to be ousted and warned the Tories face a “massacre” at the next general election.

Lord Frost was ordered by Lords leader Lord True to reveal the names of secret backers who funded the £40,000 poll or face losing the Conservative whip.

A defiant Lord Frost refused to reveal the names of the secret donors or confirm rumours that it was bankrolled from overseas. The group behind the poll is simply called the Conservative Britain Alliance, though there is no official record of their existence or membership.

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