More politics over the BBC's political votes

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 12 January 2007

Following the publicity that surrounded the Today programmes Christmas vote, and the suspicion that intense web activity by the Countryside Alliance had swung the result, another political BBC vote took a pre-emptive strike the other day. The Daily Politics is holding a vote to ask people who they think is their favourite post-war Prime Minister, and editor Jamie Donald wrote:

"Anyone can vote anytime between now and Easter by visiting The Daily Politics website, and following the links. And as Today programme editor Ceri Thomas wrote in an earlier blog, even if you campaign for votes it won’t spoil the fun."

The Daily Politics isn't, though, using the BBC's standard online voting application, instead they are only accepting votes by post or via email - opting to vote on the site just leads to mailto: links


They've also rather controversially excluded Winston Churchill from the list. Their argument is that since it is impossible to untangle his post-war period as PM from his time as Britain's wartime leader, and since he has already been voted the greatest Briton of all time by the BBC's audience, it seemed better not to include him. This was immediately pounced on in the comments on the Editors Blog.

"Um, you're excluding Churchill because he'd win? So your poll is in fact for who is the Second Greatest Post-War Prime Minister?"

It isn't the only political vote that has been held on the BBC News site over recent weeks - and a vote asking for the public's greatest living political hero has been under the beady eye of those keen watchers at Biased BBC.


They seem convinced that the head-to-head contest was being massaged by the BBC to ensure that ex-PM Margaret Thatcher didn't win, with veteran left-winger Tony Benn taking a near equal share of the vote in what became a two-horse race. Several commentators seem quite certain that any percentage growth in Benn's popularity was the result of behind-the-scenes tinkering, without considering that if you were voting simply to stop Thatcher winning, then Benn is the obvious candidate to rally around.


As the person who did the requirements gathering within the BBC for the development of the aplication displaying that particular vote on the web, I have to disappoint them by saying that "Ability to artificially stuff a ballot that isn't toeing the party line" wasn't one of them. Maybe the anti-Thatcher vote has just been as good at getting their vote out as the Countryside Alliance was in getting their vote out.

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