Next time you receive a Liberal Democrat leaflet look for a graph of recent election results. And then have another look. Because it might not stand up to scrutiny.
Nick Clegg’s party built its electoral success by positioning itself as the ‘only alternative’ to whichever party currently holds a constituency. They then try to convince Conservative supporters to vote Lib Dem in order to keep Labour out, and vice-versa.
This only works if the Lib Dems successfully convince the public that they are the only challenger in a very tight electoral race. And this often involves adopting an approach to a graph’s y-axis that would result in any 16-year-old failing GCSE maths, as these examples from Liberal Democrat leaflets show:
1. Islington South.
Could have sworn the Conservative vote was almost half that of the Lib Dems.
2. Streatham, Brixton and Clapham.
The Conservatives’ 15% vote share is a quarter of the Lib Dems’ 35%. Or something.
3. Islington North.
Easy win for the Lib Dems, there. Right. Right?
4. Dundee West.
“And the graph shows the Lib Dems closing in on Labour’s 39 Scottish MPs with, er, just 12 of their own?”
5. Crystal Palace.
This isn’t a hard one. 18% is more than half of 32%, so the blue bar needs to go more than halfway up the red bar.
Sir Alan Beith, honestly. You’ve got a stonking majority. You don’t need to needlessly make yourself appear under threat.
Top tip: stick a pointy end on your bar charts to account for optimism.
8. Manchester Withington.
Or, alternatively, only Labour can beat John Leech here. And they’re much closer than you might think.
Surging forwards! And the graph says they’re to overtake the Conservatives!
Poor Tories, their poll rating squashed by the Liberal Democrat textbox of electoral doom.
12. Glasgow North.
Giant arrow of Lib Dem optimism strikes again.
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