Ipsos-Mori are not merely one of the two most No-friendly pollsters in this campaign. They've also played two other unique roles. Firstly, they've secretly carried out internal polling on behalf of the UK government and paid for by the tax-payer, the results of which were disgracefully shared with the No campaign, effectively meaning that the No campaign's private polling has been subsidised by the public purse. And secondly, in spite of the rather obvious conflict of interest, they were commissioned by STV to hand-pick an audience for Tuesday night's debate between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond. The idea that nobody is entitled to raise the odd eyebrow about this is risible - can you imagine what the reaction would have been if STV had used Panelbase, a pollster which tends to produce Yes-friendly results and which counts both the SNP and Yes Scotland among its clients?
Since Monday, a number of specific allegations have been made about Ipsos-Mori's conduct, and other related shenanigans -
* Yes supporters who were originally selected for the audience were turned away at the venue, after being told that the paperwork had not been cleared by Ipsos-Mori. Some were reduced to tears. They were replaced by No supporters.
* Ipsos-Mori have pinned the blame on STV's own security.
* No campaigners were present at the queue, offering helpful "suggestions" for questions that audience members might like to ask Alex Salmond.
* Some of the No supporters in the audience were "bussed in" and have no vote in the referendum itself.
* At least one of the five-strong panel of "undecided voters" that appeared on ITV News after the debate to give their verdict is a known No campaign activist.
* Ipsos-Mori made determined efforts to contact a particular teenager by telephone, because they were short of people in his age group for their sample. When they finally made contact, they asked him for his voting intention, and immediately after he said he was voting Yes he overheard the interviewer being told to terminate the call and to use a "technical fault" as an excuse.
It's obviously impossible to know how much of this is true - the suggestions of audience members being bussed in from south of the border do seem rather fanciful. But given the sheer number of complaints that STV have apparently received, it does seem likely that there's at least some truth in the claims of audience members being turned away at the venue. And just from observation, a good number of the questions that were asked could easily have been scripted by No campaign staffers.
It goes without saying that it is incumbent on the BBC to ensure that there is no repeat in the second debate at the end of this month.
* * *
UPDATE : Thanks to the person who contacted me this morning and pointed me in the direction of a first-hand and on-the-record account of what happened on Tuesday from Neil Gillespie -
"A very interesting read on all the comments about the man who was refused entry to the live debate, the bullshit the fact that he's a NAT spreading propaganda, copied and pasted and that the whole thing was made up to deflect from Alex Salmond's poor showing. Well the reason why you wonder why I find this interesting is because I was that man.
A little background about myself:
I am a firefighter of 18 years, aged 42 married with four children. Professionalism, honesty and integrity are things that I hold in high regard. I was selected, along with a No voting friend of mine from Barrhead Main street by a representative from Ipsos Mori to attend Tuesday night's Debate. I was really looking forward to it. I had to get the night off as I was working. I received a text from the Ipsos Mori rep 20 minutes before the opening of 18:30 hrs asking if I had received a call from STV today. I hadn't. She replied to say that this would be a problem and that I wouldn't get in! I tried anyway. Here is a rough transcript of the conversation:
I was asked by a STV Rep for my Name.
I said Gillespie.
He said, John, we spoke today.
I said, No its Neil.
He replied, I don't have a Neil Gillespie. Who contacted you to attend this evening.
I said the Rep from Ipsos Mori Name.
He replied. You are the third person to mention her name. I'm afraid that your information was never passed on to us and as a result that you wont be getting in this evening.
I argued with him telling him that I had taken time off and that a mistake had been made.
I was still refused entry.
I had the Ipsos Mori Rep's Mobile number from her text to me and I called her to see what she had to say.
She stated that this was all bullshit and that she had given them the details the Thursday before. She said that she would phone her boss in London and find out what has happened.
I walked down the steps of the auditorium and felt deflated. I was gutted.
5 minutes later she phones me back.
This next bit took me back.
She said that all of the Yes voters and undecided persons that she had put through to attend the event were not contacted and instead STV had replaced them with their people, No people. This came from high up in STV.
I will repeat that as this is the important part.
She said that all of the Yes voters and undecided persons that she had put through to attend the event were not contacted and instead STV had replaced them with their people, No people.
This made my blood boil. I was and am still livid. I have spread this everywhere I can. Please share it, it needs done. Oh and one last thing, my No voting friend who was vetted at the same time I was, what happened to him...
He was in the audience, he got a call from STV, he was allowed to attend! So the bullshit response from STV stating that Ipsos Mori hadn't passed on the details is exactly what it says on the tin...Bullshit.
I have made formal complaints to STV and Ipsos Mori and I am still awaiting a reply from this. I wouldn't lie about this, I could lose my job if I was caught out lying about something as important as this. I will chat with anyone on here as to the post and any other referendum issues. I am a passionate Scot who loves his country and this is just another example of the lengths the powers in Westminster will go to, to win this referendum."