Charles Kennedy to join Ed Miliband on a pro-electoral reform platform

It’s hardly surprising that Charles Kennedy and Ed Miliband would be appearing together to promote electoral reform. Kennedy has long been a supporter of electoral reform and by virtue of not being in government is seen by many in Labour as an easier figure to campaign alongside (even though one of Kennedy’s first acts on becoming party leader was to end the party’s then work in government with Labour). Ed Milband in turn is the author of Labour’s general election manifesto which not only pledged a referendum but also called for a change in the electoral system to follow from the referendum.

But it is newsworthy that this will happen thanks to one of the odder by-ways of the AV referendum campaign from the last few days over the question of which Liberal Democrat Ed Miliband would share a campaigning platform with. What has been odd about it is the erroneous story run in The Guardian about Nick Clegg ordering Charles Kennedy not to appear alongside Ed Miliband (for the latest version of which see here).

Nick Clegg’s team are adamant that neither he nor anyone on his behalf issued such orders to Charles Kennedy, and anyone well acquainted with the personalities involved would know that issuing such a direct order is not the way to get Charles to do, or not do, something.

A conspiracy theorist at this point would point out that of course that is very much the culture of doing things in the Labour Party and so it’s just the sort of story someone from Labour might make-up thinking it sounded plausible; that some of The Guardian journalists involved have very strong contacts with the Labour Party; and that the story perfectly fits any anti-AV would-be Labour mischief maker who both wants to knock the Liberal Democrats and undermine their own leader’s pro-AV campaigning at the same time.

And indeed The Guardian originally reported,

Labour claims Clegg’s office subsequently ordered Kennedy not to attend … The Lib Dems categorically deny vetoing Kennedy’s appearance.

It’s only subsequently, without even providing any sources or quotes, that The Guardian‘s story has become one of citing the Labour claim as fact with,

Former Lib Dem leader to stand with Ed Miliband at joint alternative vote campaign rally after Nick Clegg drops objection.

Or in other words, it’s only subsequently that The Guardian has gone for printing untrue Labour claims as if they were facts.

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  • Mark – With the greatest of respect (and I do mean that).

    This is another one of, ‘those,’ articles – this is treating the referendum as some piece of political theatre where personalities are front and centre. The merits (and, it has to be said, demerits) of AV are almost wholly absent from this debate, quite possibly that is one reason why the voters are so thoroughly disengaged from the issue.

    Does it really matter what Clegg said to Kennedy about who he can and can not stand on a platform with? Is that really the issue here? Even if there is some, ‘conspiracy,’ around the personalities what possible relevance does that have to the arguments around how votes are cast?

    Personally, I don’t like referendums but if we are to have them then we should at least treat the issue with gravity rather than as a route to cry foul.

    I would also add here that this comment is at least as much about the NO campaign as the YES. I will be voting no, but it is dispiriting to see the campaign dumbed down to a referendum on Nick Clegg. If anyone is interested, the best argument I have yet seen for a no vote is on Spiked (not I realise everyone’s cup of tea). Whatever I think of Spiked, at lest they have dumbed up the campaign.

    I suppose that to a very real degree we get the politics we deserve – is this referendum really the best we as a society can manage?

  • There isn’t much in this story. Just minor bickering between 2 parties. The bigger issue is surely Clegg being hidden as he is such a hindrance for the Yes campaign.

    Kennedy/Lucas/Miliband appeal to a left/liberal audience who Clegg has alienated so the line up makes sense.

    It must be odd for Clegg realising that AV would be a good legacy but also that he it is likely to be the next Lib Dem leader who may be the beneficiary.

  • Mark Pack – Thank you for the reply. I take your point about more substantial articles, though some of those you put up seem to be more, ‘what’s wrong with FPTP in certain situations,’ rather than, ‘the merit of AV is…’

    ‘Such issues are relevant to the result because, for example, how strong the anti-AV forces are in Labour and how successful or not they are at undermining Ed Miliband’s views will help decide the relative strength of the different campaigns.’

    Whilst I’d agree that the strength or not of anti-AV feeling in Labour might be of interest, if not as such relevance, I am less convinced that this feeds into the strength of the campaigns. I don’t think Ed M has ever pretended he could deliver a reasonably united Labour Party for either campaign and it is to his credit that he has not made any rash promises. Had he made such a promise, then yes things might be different. But it is not the place of the Lib Dem party to demand the Labour leader make this an issue of confidence.

    I simply see nothing wrong with Ed M taking a pragmatic approach, making clear his views and leaving other MPs to make their mind up. As I mentioned earlier, it is interesting that a good many Labour MPs appear convinced by the YES arguments – arguments that by the way have signally failed to make any headway in the Conservative Party.

    Ed Milliband’s position in Labour will not be the defining factor in the strength of the YES campaign and anyone who thinks it is the defining factor is either treating reality with contempt or looking to play the blame game early.

    It’s a referendum, not a process story. And to be clear, my disappointment is not restricted to the YES campaign.

  • “I simply see nothing wrong with Ed M taking a pragmatic approach, making clear his views and leaving other MPs to make their mind up. As I mentioned earlier, it is interesting that a good many Labour MPs appear convinced by the YES arguments – arguments that by the way have signally failed to make any headway in the Conservative Party.”

    There’s a potentially good reason for this. I’d generally say that the country is more left leaning in tendency, I think the Tory’s see a threat in allowing MP’s to be decided by the majority, and, of the three main parties they are by far the least likely to accept self harm in the best interests of the people they are meant to serve.

    Just my opinion though. Oh, and I agree with you about Ed Miliband.

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