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Is the AV referendum all over bar the shouting?

by Paul Goodman

As attention returns from the unifying Royal Wedding to politics as usual, Andrew Boff below puts the case for AV - a sign that the referendum campaigns continue.  But with polling day in a mere five days time, it's worth asking: is it all over already bar the shouting?

Here is the last poll summary by the magisterial Antony Wells of UK Polling Report.  Last Tuesday, he wrote -

"The change from YouGov’s previous AV poll is only minor, but it suggests the NO campaign are consolidating that big lead that opened up last week."

On the same day, he noted -

"The three most recent polls (from, in chronological order, ICM, YouGov and Angus Reid) have all shown identical results of YES 42%, NO 58%."

On Thursday, he reported a ComRes poll that had "the NO campaign ahead by 60% to 40%, the biggest lead the NO campaign have recorded so far", and "a new poll by a company called ICD Research in the New Statesman, which shows NO ahead by 14 points: NO 53%, YES 39%.

I'm not, repeat not, saying that the result is a foregone conclusion.  Rather, I'm thinking about what will happen if the No poll lead remains steady during the next few days.

Namely, that the debate presently due to happen after next Thursday will happen instead before it.  If the poll position was reversed, and the Yes campaign maintained a big lead during the next few days, that debate would be about the future of David Cameron.

Instead, it may well be about the future of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats' view of the Coalition.  So keep an eye open for moves by Clegg's Liberal Democrat colleagues to prop up his position - like Jonathan, I think that his party will stick with the Coalition, at least for the time being.

And also watch for moves by Downing Street to prop up Clegg's position too.  Last week saw relations between the Coalition partners sour.  Andrew Grice is right to suggest in the Independent today that this marks real change, and that the era of what I call Rose Garden Politics is over.

But I reckon that the high water mark of the referendum campaign hostility has already been reached.  The Prime Minister treats the Coalition as a balancing act, trading off nods to his backbenchers (such as his minor one last weekend over interns) with help for his Deputy.

So keep an eye out during the early part of the coming week for floated concessions to the Liberal Democrats from Number 10 to try to get Clegg out of his troubles.  Which he has in plenty.  After all, if AV goes down, he'll have sold his party coalition with the Tories without getting electoral reform out of it.

Furthermore, he'll be personally responsible, in such circumstances, for AV's defeat.  The Liberal Democrat U-turn on tuition fees has come close to destroying his reputation as a politician with voters: arguably, it's already done so.

His face has been largely absent from pro-AV leaflets.  Even that of his party has been taken off some of them.  The fact is that the Yes campaign has not yet recovered from the charge that AV would mean permanent power for a man who doesn't keep his promises.

It has only five more days to turn everything round.


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