The Liberal Democrats have been accused of misrepresenting their position in the polls in certain constituencies, including Oxford East, by using misleading data from an independent pollster in its campaign material for the upcoming election.
On leaflets and other campaign materials, the party has used data from Flavible Politics, which is not a member of the British Polling Council. The data has been criticised for inaccuracy in its technique of taking national polls and then applying them to local areas.
In Oxford East, the party will be represented by Alistair Fernie, the chair of the Department for International Development and a previous human rights campaigner for Amnesty International UK.
Fernie told Cherwell: “We don’t think our leaflets are misleading. Flavible is a credible organisation with a transparent methodology for making constituency projections based on national polls.
“Our leaflets make clear that these are projections not polls, and give sources.
Both projections and polls can be unreliable, but people find them interesting. The important thing is not to overstate or mislabel them, which we have not done.
“The reason we use these projections is that we want to explain to voters that Oxford East is a Lib Dem vs Labour contest in this election:
“Firstly, the Tories can’t win here – they have not won more than 22% of the vote in general elections for nearly 20 years, and have no councillors.
“Secondly, a lot of people in Oxford East are thinking of voting differently to the way they did in the 2017 General Election, because of Brexit and other reasons. We are hearing this on the doorstep, but until there are any Oxford East polls, projections from national polls are the best way to give some sense of what might happen.”
Oxford East is currently a Labour constituency represented by Anneliese Dodds, who managed to keep her seat in the 2017 election with a comfortable win of 65.2% of the vote. This was an increase of 15.2 percent from the previous election, in which Andrew Smith won percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats were the third-most popular party in the last election, winning only 9.1 percent of the vote and lagging behind the Conservatives, who came in second with 22 percent.
The party has been using Flavible projections in York Outer, Esher and Walton, Islington North, Putney, Enfield Southgate, Woking, and Westminster City, as well as Oxford East. The data was earlier used to make bold claims including that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is at risk of losing his seat to the Liberal Democrats.
The Liberal Democrats remain popular in Oxford West and Abingdon, where Layla Moran narrowly beat the Conservatives to cinch 43.7 percent of the vote. It was the first time the Liberal Democrats had won the seat since the 2005 election, following which it switched to a Conservative hold.
Flavible, which describes itself as “an independent commentator on UK politics, specialising in seat projection and statistical analysis,” and was initially set up as a blogging site by students from the University of Plymouth.
The UK is due to go to the polls on December 12 in what will be the third general election in four years.
Flavible have been contacted for comment.