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Daily catch-up: Is 'Leave' really ahead in the EU referendum campaign?

It is a QTWTAIN, of course; plus the origin of dinghy, shampoo, coach, howitzer and cravat

John Rentoul
Monday 18 January 2016 09:15 GMT
Graphic by Henrik Pettersson
Graphic by Henrik Pettersson

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


We had a ComRes poll in The Independent on Sunday yesterday, which was full of sobering findings for the Corbyn Labour Party. We highlighted the findings on the EU referendum, however. We reported voters' support for David Cameron's demands as evidence that the Prime Minister is likely to win the vote to stay in the EU.

At the same time, however, two other polls reported that the Leave vote was ahead. Survation had a 6-point lead for Leave in the Mail on Sunday, and Panelbase a 4-point lead for Leave in The Sunday Times (pay wall). We didn't ask a direct referendum voting question, but found a 2-point advantage for Leave when people were asked how they thought other people would vote.

But the reason we didn't ask how people would vote is that the poll was carried out online rather than by phone, and ComRes argues that online polls are not the best way to gauge voting intention in this one special case. The two most recent phone polls showed Remain ahead by 20 and 24 points last month, and, as ComRes says, "the British Election Study, which is the one face to face survey on the EU referendum that’s taken place in the same time period, [also] showed a large 17-point lead for remaining in the EU".

What does seem to have happened is that opinion has shifted somewhat in favour of Leave in the past few months. The other reason for being sceptical of referendum voting questions, though, is that the campaign hasn't started yet. A lot depends on the renegotiated terms of British membership that Cameron hopes to conclude next month, and we know from YouGov polling that the Prime Minister's recommendation has a dramatic effect on voting intention figures. That is why the huge support for requiring EU immigrants to pay taxes for four years before being able to claim benefits is significant: if Cameron can deliver it, he will be able to present his deal as a success.

Tomorrow, the British Polling Council publishes Professor Patrick Sturgis's report on the failure of the polls to predict the general election. My preview from two weeks ago is here.

In my column for The Independent on Sunday I say that the real leader of the opposition is ... Andrew Tyrie.

The Top 10 in The New Review, the Independent on Sunday magazine, was Words That Seem To Come From One Language But Actually Come From Another.

I started the list because Chris White liked the theory that bistro comes from Russian bystro, “quickly”. Sadly, it probably is French after all, related to bistouille, a northern colloquialism for “bad alcohol”.

But there were several other worthy entries. Dinghy and shampoo both come from Hindi (shampoo is from the Hindi for "press", as it used to mean massage). Thanks to Graham Fildes.

Coach comes from the Hungarian kocsi, a horse-drawn wagon, orginally from the town of Kocs in Hungary.

Howitzer, which sounds like onomatopeic Army slang, is from the Czech houfnice, a medieval catapult.

Cravat may sound French, and that is where the word comes to us from, but it the French for Croat, because of the scarf worn by Croatian mercenaries in France, so it is originally from Hrvat, the Croatian word for themselves. Thanks to Clive Carpenter.

I did a Top 10 Unexpected Etymologies a while ago, but my favourite since then is tweezers. Look it up in the Oxford Dictionary and prepare to be amazed.

Business news update from Rich Neville:

"They’re saying on the news that the merger between BT and EE is making a behemoth. Where did those other letters come from?"

• And finally thanks to Liz Buckley for this, from November 2013, Moose Allain's favourite tweet:

"If I had a hammer / I'd hammer in the morning, I'd hammer in the evening... I'm not allowed a hammer."

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