Earlier I talked about the No campaign’s three ‘C’s’; cost, complexity and Clegg. I’ve briefly described the first two. The third ‘C’ – Clegg – was always going to be the most controversial. Clegg could have used the Coalition negotiations with David Cameron to stop tuition fees. He didn’t. The decades-long hope of his party for electoral reform was Clegg’s number one demand. Under AV or, particularly, PR the Liberal Democrats would gain MPs and could routinely hold the balance of power. Hung parliaments and the broken promises that go with them would become the norm. Matthew Elliott was itching to put Clegg on the ballot paper. He signaled his intentions in an article for ConservativeHome on 4th January. Quoting Professor Bogdanor’s words AV would, he warned, turn the Liberal Democrats into the ‘Kingmakers of British Politics’. “Governments,” he concluded, “should be chosen by voters, not the MPs of Britain's third party.”
ConservativeHome also argued that Clegg must be targeted. Downing Street worried about this tactic but the Labour half of the No campaign insisted that Clegg’s face and his “broken promises” needed to feature prominently on all literature. Labour voters don’t like Cameron but they hate Clegg. They feel betrayed. The idea that Clegg should gain AV as a reward for his alliance with the Tories stuck in the Labour throat.
Putting Clegg on the literature produced some of the biggest tensions within the No team. Conservative HQ repeatedly asked that photographs of their Coalition partner be removed from literature. Ryan, Kennedy and the other Labour leaders of the No campaign insisted that the images of the Deputy Prime Minister - and the language of broken promises - stayed. In a game of brinkmanship, the Labour Says No team threatened to pull the plug on the whole campaign if Clegg was off limits. The red half of the campaign knew that the targeting of the Liberal Democrat leader was essential if the Labour vote was to turn out and to vote no.