Westminster pundit opinion is often wrong.

Many who earn their living explaining what is going on in Westminster don't seem to have a great understanding of what is going on themselves.

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On-line analysis is displacing the old aristocracy of opinion formers.
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Douglas Carswell MP
On 26 October 2011 10:21

It wasn't only the whips who were caught off guard by Monday night's Commons vote. Many who earn their living explaining what is going on in Westminster seemed not to understand why half of all back bench Tory MPs might vote for an In/Out referendum.

In the days leading up to Monday's vote, we were treated to a long line of media pundits talking about it. Instead of explaining what was likely to happen and why, too often they told us what they thought about the motion.  

"It's the wrong time" pontificated one. "It'll divide the Eurosceptics" claimed another. "The wording is just silly" said another.

Such "analysis" turned out to be little more than a lecture on how they'd vote if they were an MP.

But newspaper columnists and TV presenters aren't MPs. And often they seem not to grasp what drives those who are.

Unlike many pundits, MPs face election. Those in marginal seats don't simply pontificate about how to win over voters. They tend to have some actual experience of doing so. They voted in large numbers for an EU referendum because they want one – and so do their constituents.

Even now, after the event, many pundits report what happened in terms of "Tory splits", rather than seeing the story for what it was; a grass-roots campaign to force the political establishment to confront an issue it has consistently tried to avoid.

So much of what passes for “expert” opinion in Westminster is really one pundit recycling what another says and thinks. Mr Twiddle, who writes for the Daily Twaddle, thinks X.  Twiddle's Twaddle is repeated by other pundits, accurate or not.

Often pundits appear to reach opinions on the basis of what Downing Street and government sources brief them, rather than because they have actually given the matter at hand serious thought. The opinions they seek to pass off as analysis often reflect who they know in SW1 more than anything else.    

It's not just Monday's vote. We see precisely the same phenomenon of "pundit think" when it comes to, say, reporting on the deficit reduction or the bailouts.  

According to those who recycle one another's views in SW1, the Coalition is cutting the deficit and getting a grip on public debt. 

Except the maths says otherwise. Public spending is actually rising. Public debt is rising. The growth required to cut the deficit isn't there. The deficit cutting targets are likely to be missed.    

But why bother doing the maths? If everyone else in SW1 says public finances are being brought under control they must be. Right?

According to the pundits, the bailouts mean rescuing banks and bankrupt countries. It is only now, after three years of it, that it is slowly occurring to the pundits that all that these bailouts have done is increase the debt.   

The internet has started to democratise comment and opinion. 

Thanks to blogs like ConservativeHomeGuido FawkesLeft Foot Forward and Coffee House, the old aristocracy of opinion formers is being displaced.

Bloggers - who have to be re-elected by thousands of mouse clicks every day - tend to be accountable for their analysis in the way that many columnists writing for a newspapers, or TV pundits, often never seem to be.

For accurate political analysis, go online.

Douglas Carswell is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Clacton. His articles are cross-posted on The Commentator with permission. Follow him on Twitter @DouglasCarswell.

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