Yes to Fairer Votes: the briefing has started

This is an interesting quote:

Last night a senior source in the campaign for the alternative vote admitted they knew “very early on” that there was no chance of winning the referendum and that Clegg had become part of the problem: “Every time Clegg spoke about AV our polling numbers went into free-fall. We knew from very early on, before the new year, that we couldn’t win, our message wasn’t getting through and the Liberal Democrats in the whole were worse than useless. Clegg was toxic and everything [Chris] Huhne did in criticising the Tories just put the attention on the political spat – made it a Clegg versus Cameron affair. Utterly unwinnable.

“We even brought in an advertising man to save us. He came up with the idea of constructing a giant pin-striped bottom to take around the country for people to throw things at as a way of illustrating that AV makes MPs work harder. It was desperate stuff.”

I have a pretty good idea who this senior source is and it is nice to see that he (or, I suppose, her) is getting his (yeah, theoretically possible it may be a her) excuses in first, and it is certainly the case that Clegg was not helpful. But a couple of points:

1) The biggest poll dip was the weekend the No campaign freepost leaflet hit doormats. That certainly had Clegg on it, but by that stage Clegg himself was keeping a low profile.

2) Clegg was no less damaging than the continued string of high profile Labour politicians campaigning for a No vote. Why was Ed Miliband incapable of stemming that, thereby denting his own local government recovery in the process (by ensuring that the Tories received almost no scrutiny in the media for six weeks).

3) Yes, the idea of taking a “big butt” around the country was really stupid, but no-one ever seriously considered it. Instead of blaming our defeat on bad decisions which senior staff didn’t make, is it not possible that it was the decisions they did make that had a lot to be desired?

4) The admission that the individual concerned thought the campaign was unwinnable as long ago as before last year is shocking. If the individual concerned believed that then he (or she) should have resigned. If they are as senior as they claim to be, they were certainly coining it. Essentially, they’ve just admitted that they’ve spent the last six months coasting on a gravy train.

It would be so easy to blame it all on Clegg, but it won’t help us win next time.


  1. Perhaps fully utilising the Freepost would have been a good idea.

    The only Yes material received in Oadby were small bits on Focus and the 200 or so A5 fliers that I printed off and double-delivered. In areas without Focus or local Lib Dems willing to give space to the Yes campaign, they would have got nothing

  2. “3) Yes, the idea of taking a “big butt” around the country was really stupid,”

    And that’s why it didn’t happen. It’s a silly point for him (or as you say possibly her) to make. Every campaign people come up with really silly ideas – that’s how you generate the good ones (after all at one point someone wrote Market/Meerkat on a piece of paper :-)!

    As I’ve said elsewhere there is bad strategy and bad organisation. Bad strategy is sometimes forgiveable, bad organisation never. The Yes campaign had both.

    Not using the freepost was a pretty momumentally bad decision.

  3. Wait a moment, the Yes campaign DIDN’T USE THE FREEPOST?!

    (I wasn’t in the UK so I missed such details.)

    If true that is truly shocking. There is no excuse not to take an opportunity to get a free delivery to every voter in the country! Even paper candidates in general elections usually use their Freepost, if for no other reason than to remind people that they exist and support the vote in any concurrent local elections. What on Earth were the Yes campaign thinking?

    As for James’ post, I agree. It was a very odd thing for this “senior source” to say.

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