No doubt many of you will have seen the policy survey enclosed with Independence magazine. Don’t waste your time on it. The results will be statistically invalid, have no effect at all on the policies the party will espouse, and are a time and resource wasting distraction.

There are three reasons why it will be statistically invalid:

1) It is voluntary and as any pollster will tell you surveys of self-selecting respondents are misleading.

2) Worse, it is a reworking at an individual level of an earlier branch level exercise with no attempt to eliminate double counting. I (or you) can contribute to your branch’s survey return (the same ten line form was first sent to branches on 7th June) then go home and complete it again as an individual member entering something completely different. A complete dog’s dinner.

3)  Branches had a deadline for submission of their completed forms. Individual members have none. Members returning from summer holidays will be submitting forms long after branches and other members. Yet, the `team’ collating the results will not wait for ever so now we have an arbitrary cut off point because individual members were not given a deadline.

As there is no fixed list of possible policies to choose from the forms submitted will contain an open ended list of policy topics. The promised collation of the forms will require first identifying the range of policy topics proffered then counting how often, and at what ranking, they are listed. I very much doubt the party has the resources to do this accurately and completely nor the expertise to deal with a survey that combines frequency counts with rankings. It is said we will be told the most popular. Popular what?

If, say, Housing is ranked number 2 more often than any other policy but `retire the Chairman to the home for the statistically incompetent’ is offered five times more frequently (as it should be) but at a lower rank, what gets reported in the results? Are they going to report frequency or rankings? With a manageable fixed list you can provide a meaningful report of both. But with, as may prove the case with our inventive members, a list of 500 disparate policy topics the report, if report is possible at all, will be a confusing matrix that, most likely, will have been incorrectly put together in any case.

The 2015 manifesto is being updated as we speak and it, and a summary version for conference, must go to the printers soon. Whatever the result of “Tony’s Policy Survey”, assuming any meaning can be extracted which I submit cannot be, it will have nothing to do with the party’s published policies. In any event, policies are for appeal to the wider electorate not to a relatively small group of members who may or may not – this survey cannot tell – reflect the wider party’s membership’s views.

I do not doubt the intentions behind the survey were good – engage the members, show the party is listening etc – but intentions do not determine outcomes. And the only outcome here is a waste of money on printed forms and a waste of members’ time.

Had this survey been commissioned a year ago I would have said it was a cynical exercise to hoodwink members into thinking they were being listened to, to placate them, to make them feel connected to party management when the opposite was the reality. A deception in other words.

I do not think the current management are cynical or deceitful in the way the previous shower were but the outcomes are the same. The tragedy is that manipulation has been replaced by incompetence. At best it is just management by unthinking impulse.

We’ve been hearing lately about tapping into members’ and patrons’ various types of expertise. Yeah, right. If this is an example then we are up the creek.

Anyway, Tony, have a lovely time reading your survey. Just don’t come to conference pretending it is meaningful and next time you order printing costs for anything please think first.

Finally, I should mention that the topics listed are meaningless. `Freedom of speech… within the bounds of the law’ is a tautology. We have always had such free speech. It is just that the boundaries have moved a little as to when you might get your head chopped off for speaking out against the King. The current free speech issue is over `hate speech’ crime legislation and political censorship by Google, Facebook and Twitter. We need to repeal certain sections of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. We need also to make it illegal for social media to censor on political grounds.

As to Housing the problem is house prices with demand fuelled by people needing to live near where jobs are so the distribution of jobs matters which in turn is a function of the (lamentable) transport network and lack of enterprise zones to encourage investment away from existing conurbations. There is also the small matter of the Treasury not wanting the house price issue solved – needs the stamp duty and needs also to maintain asset prices to stop banks going insolvent (hence quantitative easing). The suggested topic on the form is merely about which level you want nimbyism. Dear oh dear.

The survey is a kindergarten level of misunderstanding of several issues. Thank God it will have no influence on policy. Unless the constitution is changed our policy framework is in article 2.5.

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