Sorry, readers. It’s our fault. Around teatime on Sunday we rather recklessly tweeted “Is Magnus Gardham on holiday? The Herald’s been a much more balanced paper this last week or two”, and in doing so appear to have summoned him back, Candyman-style, despite only saying his name once. It must have been retweets or something.
Gardham’s sticky fingerprints are all over the Herald’s front-page splash this morning, even though he shares the byline with the now-rarely-seen Robbie Dinwoodie. The piece reports a TNS-BMRB poll showing a rather remarkable 2.5% swing towards independence since October – despite that period being depicted uniformly across the Scottish and UK political media as a quarterium-annus horribilis for the Yes campaign, and for the SNP and Alex Salmond in particular – under the extraordinarily contrived headline “Blow to SNP as support for independence stalls”.
The poll does indeed find support for independence unchanged, but the No camp’s unrestricted smear warfare on Salmond and other SNP ministers over the winter has had the effect of driving its own support into the arms of the Don’t Know contingent, which has now risen to comprise almost 25% of the electorate.
Almost 10% of people previously intending to vote No are now unsure of their view, a development which an impartial observer might reasonably have considered to be, if anything, a blow to the “Better Together” faction rather than the independence movement, whose voters have remained steadfast throughout the manufactured storms over EU membership, college funding and more.
(Out of charity we’re going to overlook the paper’s unforgivably sloppy, unprofessional and factually inaccurate equating of the entire Yes campaign with “the SNP”, despite how strenuously Unionists like to assert that a large percentage of SNP voters don’t actually back independence.)
As we’ve been saying for months, we couldn’t care less about polls themselves at this stage. They can prove whatever you want them to prove depending on which ones you choose to highlight, and with the best part of two years to come until the vote they’re all but meaningless anyway. The story here is the Herald’s – or rather, Magnus Gardham’s – reporting, and the crude, transparent spin it has attempted to put on news that the No campaign has lost 20% of its lead over its opponent in three months.
We, of course, could be said to have spun the figures there too, to put the best possible gloss on the stats for the Yes side. The difference, though, is that at least our spin has the benefit of being true. No amount of misdirection can change the hard fact that the Herald’s figures represent, in opinion-polling terms, a shift towards independence. A swing is a swing, however it comes about.
We offer our sincere and genuine sympathies to the many good, decent and fair-minded journalists who work on the rapidly-failing newspaper. They’ve been doing a good job since the turn of the year (and, of course, before then too), and they deserve better than to see Gardham’s cartoonish tabloid buffoonery drag a once-proud publication into the gutter.