National and Local politics from a Liberal Democrat from Gillingham, Kent
Monday, 12 September 2011
The Conclusions on the failed AV campaign. It's Nick's fault (again!)
After four months James Gurling, the chair of the Party campaigns and communications commitee has come to conclusions about the failed AV referendum. Some of it can be guessed at, and were guessed at by those of us sat at counts across the country listening to the bad results roll in. Of course there are some things to think about but there is the part where Nick got it wrong too.
According to the report one of the major fault lies was the Deputy Prime Minister's insistence that the referendum be held at the same time as the local elections. His thought being that there would be a higher turnout of voters for the referendum.
The downside was that the Libdem activists were busy working to preserve council seats or take new ones - a task made doubly hard by the parliamentary party's role in the Coalition and the tuition fee crisis. We in Medway, as I'm sure others across the country, were a tad pessimistic even a split on the AV question. Councillor Kearney was not a fan and wanted to concentrate on his work in helping people where as Councillor Juby was more inclined to talk about AV.
Another problem was that the AV referendum was inextricably linked to the Liberal Democrat party and other Pro AV factions in other parties were torn between loyalty for their party and electoral reform - especially within the Conservative party who as a rule were in the "No" camp and had to defend their governmental policies. Had the referendum taken place another time then the Yes campaign could have made more of a cross party support.
Nick Clegg himself became a target for the No Campaign and the opposition to Libdem candidates. Labour easily targeted Nick as a sell out who betrayed his pledge on tuition and to help middle Britain - co-signing the new austerity measures. Ed Miliband wouldn't share a platform with him to launch the "yes to AV" campaign as his image was so tainted. This was the same tactic used by the No campaign, who could forget the "President Clegg" leaflet or the line; "Only the Liberal Democrats will benefit from this system" knowing that public reaction would be to turn away.
The review also looks at the local election losses and says;
Many dedicated community activists lost their seats through no fault of their own, and in the face of exemplary records and personal service. The challenge now is to ensure that the activist base which supported them is not lost.
Also worth of mention is that the party's achievements in power aren't being trumpeted in the media - something Nick has moved to address and tough Liberalism is taking hold.
Another report for the Electoral reform Society has also been commissioned. They are responding to the comments from members in surveys and on forums. More time will be spent saying why FPTP is a broken system and campaigning so if another opportunity should present itself then a more active campaign will be carried out.
However the chances of a similar referendum coming up is very remote.