What a thoroughly graceless piece of writing. Not only that, but it accidently reveals David Cameron to be the spineless slug that many of us on the political Right already knew he was….so on second thoughts, maybe its a good piece of writing!
This will be short, but the article…
1. …is an unedifying piece of self-congratulation – “look at us, weren’t we all frightfully clever here in the nerve centre where we are all splendidly well connected, donchaknow”. Funny, I thought Dave wanted his fellow Conservatives to be cautious in their AV victory so the author Tim Montgomerie kinda kills that one.
2. …explains how very clever it was to lead on the cost argument. No it wasn’t, as some of us #No2AV twitter bloggers had noted. The cost argument was pretty dubious and cost is never a great argument as democracy always costs some money: shall we cancel the next general election because “it costs millions we can’t afford”!? Yet the article lives in a bubble where, as mentioned above, “we’re all marvellous and clever” and trots out the same old cost argument as a really good one identified by focus groups, depsite its dubiousness.
3. …repeats the line about Australia having AV *but wants to get rid of it*. The campaign revealed that to be a pretty dodgy assertion but the moguls of Conservative Home obviously missed that one and the point is repeated again as just another great message that “proved” AV was rubbish. The big map message containing “AV countries” was good enough by itself without that dodgy addition.
4….notes that Dave was getting inputs from the “Liberal Conservative” wing that AV might even be a good thing as it will reinforce & cement that brand of Toryism and still allow Tory majorities [this is a reason I voted against it] . But it didn’t take a genius – and Dave isn’t one – to realise early on that Clegg and the coalition itself could be a deliciously effective target for the No campaign – “look at the promises they’ve all broken, particularly that Clegg idiot; you surely don’t want any more of this!” Dave didn’t want to upset his Rose Garden marriage….right up until he heard that his arse was on the line if AV was carried. He therefore almost certainly said/hinted/nodded that the No Campaign must “do what it must” (including attacking Clegg and the whole Lib-Con realignment thing) to win, but made clear “I will not allow my fingerprints to be on it.” A kind of Pontius Pilate move – making the decision but abrogating all responsibility for the decision. The Libdems may be toast (and rightly so) but they do have some justification in feeling angry at Cameron.
5….tells us how terribly clever the “Three C’s strategy” was, but then suggests it was all Labour’s fault for wanting to target Clegg as the Tories didn’t want to! This is actually a separate piece of post-referendum coalition repair work that has mistakenly fallen into Montgomerie’s gloat-fest and is therefore in complete contradiction to Cameron’s sudden perceived need for the No side to win at all costs (see point 4)! Pontius Cameron shines through again.
So do I slightly regret voting No2AV? Not a bit of it. As I’ve said previously, my view outside the bubble suggests the “one-person-one-vote” is the message that hit home (and its implicit/explicit corollory that AV was therefore “complicated”). Despite Yes2AV’s many protestations, this is a point that could be presented before a bored public wanting simple messages and could be argued without relying on questionable facts.
But AV was simply a referendum and a system no-one really wanted (unlike an EU referendum). It was the result of a political stitch-up, and was actually no improvement on FPTP (except to give us a few more Libdem MPs) . In fact it would have taken UK democracy backwards with even wilder swings in government majorities, potentially more disproportionate outcomes, along with what some Liberal-Conservatives were privately saying was an advantage: a more consensual, middle-of-the-road, managing-our-EU-relationship, cosy club in Westminster.
So I’m very happy with No.
The effect of the No vote has been to hammer Clegg and the Libdems, and people now openly wonder what they are for. They are now doing somersaults over the NHS bill as they revert to their Leftish comfort zone (despite previously supporting and signing off the NHS approach). The No vote has therefore further opened up faultlines in the coalition which I’m equally happy with.
But as for Dave, his day will come, and it will come soon & regularly. If he thought £250m was too much for a voting system, then how about the several billion that he and his chancellor throw with gay abandon at Eurozone bailouts?
Now that really would make a good marketing message for a No campaign, but not one I expect to see soon – that would demand a bit of ‘spine’.