Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Political pundit

When I was working for a more worthy cause than one of the world's largest banks, I used to do a fair bit of political consultation. I was once asked to go and speak to a delegation of overseas civil servants, mainly from various African nations, about political polling - techniques, accuracy and uses. Goodness knows why anyone thought a 24 year old, as I was then, could credibly speak to such a distinguished audience, but the conference came off the back of some work I did with my boss for Harriet Harman on women's voting behaviour and reviewed a lot of poll data and as my boss was on holiday at the time she tasked me with speaking.

I don't think it was a particularly good session. I was woefully ill prepared to relate my topic to the audience and talked about the inaccuracy of polling data taken on council estates (too dangerous for interviewers) and in posh areas (the drives are too long and the interviewers don't make their quotas if they have to spend 5 mins getting to each door so they avoid these areas).

Recently, as I am on maternity leave, I have been following the US primaries and have taken particular note of how hopelessly inaccurate the polls have been (Iowa anyone?). However, this morning an alternative approach came to me.

Eve is going through a bit of a screamy phase and taking up to half an hour to settle for her naps. So, I have reverted to what I did when she was just home, and read to her in a gentle and soothing voice while patting her tummy. However, Eve doesn't really care what I read to her and I want to leave the brain numbing children's books until she does. This morning our reading of choice was the latest Economist.

While I was doing this, I noticed an interesting phenomenon, Eve's screaming changed depending on who I was reading about. She was relatively settled while I was reading to her about Barak Obama, but screamed blue murder when I mentioned Hillary Clinton (for the record, her mother differs in this and thinks they are both awful). When we got onto Tony Blair I thought she was going to scream the house down, so much so that 3 lines in the effect was so instantaneous that I stopped reading. I finished off with a short piece about Sarkozy, to find she calmed down and put herself gently to sleep.

Although Eve looks in all respects like her father, I wonder whether the market research and polling genius as well as acute interest in politics has been passed on from me.

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