Another Luke McIlveen special in the Telegraph – but one that raises some serious issues:

The woman who framed the questions in a damning opinion poll on the performance of Prime Minister John Howard plans to host an intimate $175-a-head fundraising dinner for Labor star recruit Maxine McKew.

An email leaked to The Daily Telegraph confirms that Rebecca Huntley, director of research at polling group IPSOS, has taken on the role of fundraiser for Ms McKew, who is trying to unseat Mr Howard in Bennelong.

IPSOS produced an opinion poll, published in The Bulletin yesterday, which found that 53% of voters agreed Mr Howard should have retired…

The yarn goes on to report:

Dr Huntley said yesterday she was a close friend of Ms McKew, but insisted she had no influence on the outcome of the poll. “So the claim is that because I’m a friend of Maxine’s, the poll is somehow biased?” she asked.

“I don’t think there is a conflict of interest. The questions were requested by The Bulletin and I reshaped them and made them more objective.”

Dr Huntley drew up the questions the public would be asked, but said the number-crunching was done by a separate arm of her organisation…

“Reshaped”? “More objective”? There does appear to be a conflict of interest here – and a few quality control issues the Bulletin should have been aware of. Here’s hoping they haven’t paid the pollsters yet.

And just to spread the love around, these two pars at the end of the online version of the story weren’t in the print edition of the Tele I read this morning:

While Mr Howard’s popularity has taken a battering in recent Newspoll and Galaxy surveys, Government insiders were stunned at The Bulletin’s finding that Mr Rudd was considered a better economic manager than Mr Howard.

Mr Howard’s office declined to comment last night.

Wearing my old spin doctor’s hat, I’d say that’s because the Prime Minister’s office was the source of the story – and the “government insiders” already quoted.