The AV blame game

Well, that could hardly have gone any better. What a wonderful day for commoners and minor public school people (MPSPs) up and down the country! And, incidentally, perhaps the longest, most watched and most praised party political broadcast ever shown on the BBC, ITV, Sky, Fox, CNN . . . Little wonder the PM clasped me to his bosoms at the evening party and whispered: "A triumph, Gidders, a veritable triumph."
It is always the little things that make the difference. If I might mention just two:

a) The appointment of Huw Edwards. Traditionally a Dimbleby is entrusted to commentate on such proceedings but our polling in Wales is, "frankly, horrible" so we took a punt. It was an inspired gamble. Huw was Welsh without being so Welsh as to be offensive. Obviously, DD was irked but then again a dose of humility can only improve him and his family.

b) The absence of invitations for Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. This, though I say it myself, was a masterstroke. First, nothing would have appeared more jarring than the sudden appearance of a recent Labour leader slap bang in the middle of our very own PPB. Second, Blair is always at his least convincing when claiming that something doesn't matter to him. He can fake sincerity but he just cannot do insouciance. TB looked as terrible on not being invited to the Big Day as he looked convincing on Bin Laden's demise. Third, the obvious snub inevitably infuriated a gaggle of socialist commentators. In their fury, they then wrote all manner of republican nonsense totally at odds with the mood of the country. They might as well have republished Michael Foot's election manifesto.

Now, whether this manufactured feel-good factor will be rewarded at the polls will shortly be revealed, but no one can deny we've made a pretty good fist of things - and therefore it is time to move on. Specifically to the Deputy Prime Minister, because Dave has put me on Cleggwatch.

Not that there is any danger that someone so pleased with himself might take his own life, but rather that, by reacting petulantly to election defeat (and, trust me, he will be petulant), he might imperil the coalition. The trick so far has been to ensure that the two leaders who agree with each other on AV have been at each other's throats.

To encapsulate this circle of distrust: Ed hates Nick even more than his elder brother hates him and yet, staggeringly, less than Nick hates Ed. On Cleggy's "popularity monitor", which he updates nightly, Miliband is plumb last, below even Simon Hughes.Clegg is simply furious to have been banished from the pro-AV platform. And yet, of course, this provides a perfect excuse for his defeat. "How can it be my fault when you kept me on the bench?" Clegg will whine, at a stroke antagonising Labour yet further and setting off another decade of bickering. Leftists, doncha just love 'em?

This article first appeared in the 09 May 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Beyond the cult of Bin Laden