The debate on AV

It is interesting how the No campaign has focussed the limelight on one much disliked personality to defeat the referendum. (Voting is still on but most agree there is no chance of referendum passing).

Everyone knows that Nick Clegg is a much hated figure in the country today. His own LibDem supporters hate him for giving up on almost all his pre-election promises for the sake of a seat of power. Labour supporters hate him for joining hands with Conservatives even though his party shared most of their principles with Labour. And of course, conservative supporters hate him because they never shared much, if anything at all, with the LibDems and see the coalition dragging on core Conservative agenda. All this antipathy makes Nick Clegg a pretty useful target for the No campaign to showcase as the face of AV. No wonder he features so prominently on all their communication – they don’t have, or need, a rational reason to justify their opposition to AV.

What I fail to understand is why has the Yes campaign not used similar tactics. They’ve been shouting from the rooftops that the No campaign is just a conservative campaign. And despite the low approval ratings for Cons, they failed to translate it into a highly emotional issue / individual that would invigorate the electorate to go out and vote Yes.

Now, George Osborne and David Cameron are both highly disliked figures amongst their opponents – both the LibDem and Labour supporters. Add to that the controversial policies on NHS, education and public sector cuts along with being soft on large corporate supporters in banks and media (yes, SKY!) – there isn’t a lack of forces that could’ve been arranged by the Yes campaign. In fact, George Osborne would have made a perfect target for the Yes campaign – arrogant looking figure from an aristocratic family, born into money and working hard to cut the benefits of the poor and middle classes. Just the kind of figure the Labour & LibDem supporters would love to hate. There’s also the additional benefit that even in case the referendum was defeated, the heavy negative focus on GO would make him and the Conservatives go slow on their harshest cuts.

The more I think about the Yes campaign on this referendum, the more I feel that it was being prepared to fail. Labour was always split but most of the young blood and its leader were in the Yes camp. However, their failure to coordinate the campaign with the LibDems, to remove Nick from the limelight as much as possible and to focus on a single disliked individual/issue of the conservatives were handicaps big enough to bring down any campaign. Pitched against the well-oiled, coordinated and pulling-no-punches conservative poll machinery, they stood no chance!

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