Ivory Tower: The election is keeping Britain’s premier University Media Relations agency busy
At the offices of Juniper-McCall, in a corner of SW1…
Juniper [on the phone]: Well, I did advise him not to do the interview…I know he’s not the best in one-to-one situations…Yes, his appearance on the Eddie Mair’ LBC show was a car crash. Who’d have thought Sam had such little grasp of policy detail…I guess you have two choices: you either keep him in a box with Tim Farron for the rest of the campaign or send him over for some more coaching…I’m sure my colleague Mr McCall will be happy to do that for you…No problem at all Jo, speak to you later, bye.
McCall: I’m not doing that. Absolutely not! I remember all that coaching I did with him over free speech on campus. “No minister, that didn’t happen…no minister, Hogwarts is not a real campus”.
Juniper: The phone hasn’t stopped ringing, this is crazy. Where’s Janet?
McCall: Our degree apprentice is putting the finishing touches to the polling of university constituencies.
Juniper: Juniper-McCall University Relations…no need to thank us, just doing our job…yes, it was Mr McCall’s idea to release the pay-off details for your departing vice-chancellor just as the Johnson-Corbyn debate was starting and Tottenham Hotspur sacked its manager. It’s what we call in the trade an event horizon, a moment in the media cycle where the gravitational pull of other stories is so strong that all news gets sucked into a black hole never to be seen again…Yes, we are happy to tender for the recruitment process to replace him…yes, lovely to speak to you, bye.
McCall: Another satisfied customer. I’ve just sent you the draft response for clients on Monday morning when their staff go on strike. When you’ve got a moment take a look.
Juniper: Oliver, I haven’t been off the telephone for a week. Where’s Janet? Can you just read out the statement for vice-chancellors?
McCall: I was supposed to be skiing this week. I blame the government.
Juniper: I don’t think they should say that.
McCall: No, I was supposed to be in Courchevel this week. But what with this pointless election, the royal family, the strike action, vice-chancellors being thrown out of windows everywhere you look…
Juniper: You can go skiing after December 12. Where’s Janet?
Juniper: Hello, Juniper-McCall University Media Relations, senior partner Alexander Juniper…Of course we haven’t forgotten you, it’s just that we are rather busy at the moment…Yes, I’m sure there is a lot of work out there for someone with your skills and qualifications…You’ll appreciate that the market is going to be somewhat saturated with former senior Conservative MPs after the election…Well, you have to be realistic, there are only so many Sunday supplements and you can’t all review Antony Seldon’s book…Yes, I know he does write a lot of them…No, I promise you that you won’t have to become a transport consultant. Let’s have lunch after December 12…Yes, you can have the turkey special. Ciao ciao, speak soon, bye.
McCall: Greg Clark?
Juniper: Jo Johnson.
McCall: Again? That’s the third time this week. I told him that now would be the time to cash in on being the prime minister’s brother. I could have got him Have I Got News For You, or Celebrity Pointless at the very least.
Juniper: That reminds me, next week we’ve got a screen test for Justine Greening’s Who Do You Think You Are?
McCall: As opposed to Damien Hinds’ who the hell are you? Why can’t she just do Strictly like I advised her. She could have been at the Blackpool ballroom last week with Anton du Beke.
Juniper: Where’s Janet?
Juniper: University Media Relations…ah hello minister, if I’m allowed to still call you that…Yes, I think that’s a fairly safe bet…
McCall: Juniper-McCall…ah hello Gordon, or perhaps as I should get used to calling you, minister…Well the polling will be ready any minute, our top statisticians are crunching the numbers now…
Juniper: Yes, the polling will be ready any minute, our top boffins are looking at the numbers now…
McCall: My instinct is that the policy has landed well in university constituencies…
Juniper: I’ve had sight of the first cut of the data, and I think you’ll be happy with the results…
McCall: Yes, scrapping tuition fees is proving very popular…
Juniper: Yes, everyone hates the idea of abolishing fees…
McCall: It will be factor 11 on the youthquake scale…
Juniper: Absolutely no prospect of students turning up to vote, no matter how many times they register…
McCall: Worst case scenario a hung parliament, best case I think you should be taking a look at the government art collection to decide what you want to hang in your new office…
Juniper: Boris landslide, from Thurrock to Peterhead…
McCall: Lovely to speak to you. I’ll send the data over just as soon as it’s ready, bye for now.
Juniper: Lovely to speak to you. I’ll send the data over just as soon as it’s ready, bye for now.
Juniper-McCall: Janet! Where’s Janet?
[Enter Janet, carrying typed sheets, lays one on each desk for Juniper and McCall]
Janet: Here you go, the polling results.
Juniper: Excellent, let’s have a look.
McCall: Perhaps you could run us through the methodology you decided on in the end. Did you use active sampling?
Janet: In a sense.
Juniper: Has it been checked for mean regression?
Janet: Well, it’s both mean and regressive if that is what you mean.
McCall: Janet, is there something you want to tell us?
Janet: You know how I said we shouldn’t really offer political polling as a service to our clients because we had neither the capacity nor the expertise to do it properly?
Juniper: I vaguely recall you saying something similar, I might have been on the phone at the time.
Janet: And you said to do it anyway because it was easy money and any results would be easily deniable because all polls are in turmoil at the moment.
McCall: That sounds like a reasonable business strategy.
Janet: And I said, if you wanted results in a hurry without regard to accuracy, I might as well do a Twitter poll or ask the person sitting next to me on the bus.
Juniper: As long as it’s a weighted sample.
Janet: Some of the people on the bus have been quite big.
McCall: Janet, have you just asked the people sitting beside you on the bus?
Janet: Yes, but I’ve extrapolated the results.
Juniper: The minister won’t know the difference—all he wants to hear is that it’s all going swimmingly. What do your results say?
Janet: Twenty-five per cent of voters approved of the abolition of tuition fees, 25 per cent of voters did not approve, 25 per cent were undecided, and 25 per cent said they were getting off at the next stop and could I move my bag for them.
McCall: A nation divided.
Juniper: This election really is too close to call.
McCall: What about political preference?
Janet: Seventy-five per cent of voters said they had heard of Boris Johnson and 25 per cent wouldn’t stop swearing when they heard his name.
McCall: What about Jeremy?
Janet: Only 25 per cent of voters approved of the Labour leader. Fifty per cent of voters thought that it was a shame and they should just let him present Top Gear again, and 25 per cent of voters said they couldn’t find their Oyster card, and had I seen it anywhere?
Juniper: Big data really is fascinating.
McCall: Right, run it all through the software to make some nice pie charts and we’ll send it on to our clients.
Juniper: But can we defend the sample as a university constituency?
Janet: It was on the bus to uni for my course, Mr Juniper.
McCall: I’ll get working on the press release: “All to fight for in university seats as polling data says it’s too close to call”. That’s bound to keep everyone happy. I’ll send it to all the broadcasters and newspapers as well.
Janet: But won’t someone take the time to look at the data and see that the conclusions are a bit tenuous?
Juniper: Of course not, it’s a general election, the poll will be gone by lunch time.
McCall: Of course not, it’s the British media, half of them will be in the pub by lunch time.
Janet: Should I start on that next set of polling on how working people view universities?
Juniper: Will it be difficult?
Janet: Nah, I can do it on the bus home.