Will Cameron sanction a campaign that is hostile to his deputy?

John Rentoul

nick 1803644c 300x187 Will Cameron sanction a campaign that is hostile to his deputy?My column for The Independent on Sunday features number 499 in the series of Questions to Which the Answer is No, which was asked by Tim Montgomerie at the New Statesman last week:

An all-out attack on Clegg’s screeching U-turn on tuition fees may be the best chance of keeping first-past-the-post, but will Cameron sanction a campaign that is so hostile to his deputy?

Montgomerie is right that the best chance for the No campaign for the 5 May referendum is to put itself at the head of anti-politics sentiment by attacking the Most Hated Man in Britain, Nick Clegg.

The Noes are already falling behind the Yeses in competing for that oxymoron, the anti-politics vote. Last week’s blast on the trumpet for the Alternative Vote by 10 bishops was of a piece of the Yes campaign’s people vs politicians strategy.

In my column I draw attention to what I thought was a significant report on Wednesday by my good colleague Andrew Grice. It is not every day that members of the 1922 executive go on the record to criticise the Conservative leader, but Mark Pritchard and Brian Binley did just that in expressing the deep suspicion among Tory backbenchers that David Cameron intends to soft-pedal the referendum campaign, just as he did the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election.

Footnote: I am a supporter of the Alternative Vote – in principle, and not as a stepping stone to proportional representation, to which I am opposed in principle. But if I were advising the No campaign, I would suggest that they make more of an opinion poll in Australia, the only large country that uses the Alternative Vote, which found that 57 per cent want to scrap it and adopt British X-voting; only 37 per cent want to keep AV.

Australian polling operates under different rules from ours, in that data belong to the client that commissions the poll, but I have asked the IPA for detail of the question wording. All it suggests is that the grass is always greener, but Peter Facey had some trouble yesterday trying to brush it off as “a single poll”.

Photograph: PA

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  • Guest

    People are usually disatisfied and their voting system is considered a suitable matter to object to.

    Without AV Cameron may well be buried at the next Westminster General Election.

    I think it is widely accepted that a chnage to AV now would preclude any further change for at least a generation. Look at the course of the reforms to the House of Lords for an example of British Constitutional change – spasmodic at best.

  • MontyBest

    I can’t for the life of me understand why Nick ‘C’ is under the impression that anyone in the UK should believe a single word that exits his orifice!

  • tykejim

    I was marginally in favour of AV, but if 10 bishops have come out in favour I think I’ll change my mind. Unless an even greater number of bishops have come out against?

  • externalities

    That’s not widely accepted. I’d say the reverse is more widely accepted: that a no-vote will be taken to mean “the people have voted against electoral reform; for FPTP; they’re happy with the status quo!”. The first opportunity to change it in over a hundred years, with no prospect of another one as long as Labour and the Conservatives call the shots, and we say no?

    Cameron is more likely to be buried under AV, as a split Labour-Green-LD-etc. vote will no longer let Tory MPs in, as happened in 2010. If 50% of those in a constituency really don’t want the Tories – or someone else e.g. BNP – to win, they can’t under AV (while under FPTP they could win with 20% if their opposition is split).

  • LancashireLad

    If Blair had stated in his first manifesto that he intended to make Devil worship permissible on Royal Navy vessels I don’t think he would have got in.

  • Guest

    why not? Cameron is a principle-free professional politician with an agenda of his own, which doesn’t include Nick Clegg. There was no talk of a Coalition until the workings of electoral arithmetic produced an answer which amounted to “none of the above” in a situation where “no solution” wasn’t an option.

    HM the Queen could not, effectively, dismiss Brown unless he resigned. Brown was manouevering to bypass the result of the election for his own personal purposes. The Nulab front bench had already shown that they would not mount an effective challenge to Brown.

    Clegg’s nonentities provided Cameron with a route by which to break the impasse, which probably wasn’t available to Brown and which no other combination of Labour were about to seize. I don’t see any evidence that Clegg is any part of what Cameron planned to do after the election.

  • Guest

    While Cameron will no doubt be buried under AV it is his only hope.

    The referendum will pit AV vs FPTP and the result will stand for a generation: people have already almost had enough Lib-Dem blether on the matter.

  • oracleone

    Could that be why he’s courting the BNP for his next dance partner, is there any reason why hes been photographed wearing black suddenly ..mmmh!!!

    Clegg will be left like road kill in the rear view morror

    are there any other possibilities left for clammering cameron?

    I mean seriously …………..

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