There have been some surprised comments about the suddenly vituperous tone taken by Nick Clegg and by some other leading Liberal Democrats as the date of the Alternative Vote referendum approaches. Clegg has now accused Cameron of telling “lies” and Huhne is even threatening the Conservative led No campaign with legal action.
Some construe these statements by the Liberal Democrats as part of a strategy to show to the electorate that they are not puppets of their Conservative coalition partners. I disagree. The attacks the Liberal Democrats are making on the Conservatives go far beyond what would be expected if they were the product of political calculation. Indeed some of the comments are so extreme that I for one find it difficult to believe that they will be quickly forgiven or forgotten. Rather as they are bound to leave a bitter aftertaste and will put more strain on the coalition they could be said to be actually unwise.
What these comments in my opinion reflect is the increasing fear on the part of the Liberal Democrat leadership that the vote for the Alternative Vote is going to be lost. The latest opinion polls suggest that opinion may be hardening against it. If so as I discussed in my previous posts this has the potential to cause a serious crisis for Clegg’s leadership and within the Liberal Democrat party. In a last effort to prevent this happening the Liberal Democrats are therefore pulling out all the stops.