The HoS reports:
The Labour leadership is embroiled in a murky polling operation run by a senior MP who has instructed volunteers to deliberately deceive people about their identities and the reason for their calls.
The polls were being run from Parliamentary offices by former Cabinet minister Rick Barker, who has admitted instructing staff to use false names and claim they were calling from a company that no longer exists. …
Details of the polling emerged after a volunteer involved approached the Herald on Sunday claiming the practice was “unethical”.
The volunteer, who is a Green Party member, said it was run by Barker and, when the volunteer participated, took place in Barker’s office at Parliament on October 14.
The volunteer said Barker instructed all the helpers, including a Parliamentary staffer, to say they worked for a non-existent company called “Data Research”, and to not disclose that they were really working for the Labour Party.
A search at the companies office for the former Data Research finds the company, when registered, had two directors – a Robert Bateman Allen and a Trevor Colin Mallard. Now nothing wrong with that – in fact the problem arguably is that they did not keep the company registered, while using its name.
Labour Party president Andrew Little last night said all polling was out of Phil Goff’s Leader’s Budget. Little said he knew nothing about the operation. “It would concern me very deeply,” he said.
This surprises me. In no way doubting Andrew’s word that he knew nothing – just surprised that the parliamentary wing would keep their polling operation secret from the President.
Barker, when questioned, initially said: “I don’t know what you’re talking about”. When provided with details, including dates, Barker said he would call back.
Two hours later, Barker rang and admitted he had encouraged the use of false names by callers.
Wow, Barker lied to the media. That gives him a real credibility problem. I doubt it was a memory problem, as the phoning took place just ten days ago.
Labour whip Darren Hughes, who sits on the party’s leadership council, said he was aware of the polling. He said Barker had spearheaded three polls.
But Hughes defended the use of false names and for callers to not identify that they were representing the Labour Party.
“The name of Data Research was used to get as close to a scientific result as you could, to not influence results because of the way that people feel about a particular party.”
What a mess. The party president says he knows nothing about is, and is deeply concerned. Rick Barker lies, saying he knows nothing about it, until flushed out. And Darren says it is all okay.
Now I will back Darren up on one point. If a party is conducting a poll themselves, they don’t want to use their own party’s name because it does influence the responses, and you do want it scientific.
However as I said, the preferable way to deal with this is to have an actual company registered like Data Access, so you can legally say you are polling on behalf of that company.
He said the use of false names in polling was common: “I’m sure that half the people try to sell us things on telemarketing aren’t giving us their real names.”
Here I disagree. Of course callers should use their real names. They don’t have to give out their surname and home address, but why wouldn’t they use their real first names?
A spokesman for Goff said the leader of the opposition was not available to answer questions, but he had consulted members of the leadership council and been told the method of polling carried out by Barker was a mistake. “It won’t happen again.”
So the President knew nothing, the MP whose office was used lied about it, the whip defended it and the leader said it was a mistake and won’t happen again!
I think Labour need to work on their internal communications and messaging!
Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said the details of Barker’s polling operation raised serious questions and could breach the Privacy Act.
I imagine Commissioner Shroff’s concerns would be over what happens to the individual responses. Does Labour destroy the individual responses once they have summarised the results, or do they enter in the responses against their electoral roll database to assist with voter targeting? If they do undertake the latter, that would be a very serious breach of the Privacy Act.