5 JUNE 1971, Page 25

Electoral polls

Sir: Bless Mr Herrington of New- castle, (22 May), I wasn't complain- ing about the confusions in The British General Election of 1970: it gave me a lot of innocent fun to see Dr Butler wriggling on the Nuffield hook he had forged over the years. And I say that I found the confusions in the book 'be- coming'.

If we look again at pp335-6 we can see that we are there invited to consider a further chapter, and an appendix, both showing that there is no evidence that organisa- tion won the election for the Tories. That I picked up the grudg- ing hint of an admission that it might have done so from page 93 rather than 336 itself was silly of me: my fun would have been more pointed if I had done it the other way round.

Page 95 following deals with Conservative party internal re- forms, including the extended use of private polls. The general view expressed is that, though ambitious. these reforms did not achieve their elect/oral objectives. Then. on page 189, as Mr Berrington says, Con- servative advances in private poll- ing are of 'major significance'. In my innocence I assumed this meant that they were of major significance, and said so. Mr Herrington now ap- pears to argue that the authors meant the reverse.

More seriously, Mr Berrington would have served us all better if he had chosen to elaborate on his assertion that my references to the class thesis of Political Change in Britain constituted an 'egregious non sequitur.' Not being a psepho- logist myself, I felt it reasonable to draw attention to the facts that the co-author of a book arguing that class was a determining factor in electoral politics had collaborated in another work telling how the wrong class (from his point of view) won an election; that the 'conclusions' of the first book were, conveniently, not discussed in the second; and that this made Dr Butler look silly. And I said that a discussion of this kind should have replaced 137 pages of pure political narrative that anybody even tangentially involved in the election could have seen for the superficial and inaccurate rubbish that it was. But 1 would still like to see the psephological defence against Jain Macleod's review of Political Change: until it appears I rest on the position Ian Gilmour adopted, that if more attention had been paid to the review, and less to the book, more people would have been right about the election result.