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What will the YES campaign inquiry deliver? Furore, fizzle or farce?

June 28th, 2011 Posted in AV referendum, Liberal Democrats by

Yesterday’s Guardian reported that “Liberal Democrats start investigation into AV referendum defeat” . Either the Guardian is well behind the times (we reported this fact  a month ago ),  or Tim Farron has taken a very long time to get round to doing anything. Considered he maybe – dithering he ain’t. And if Tim really has only just got round to ordering an inquiry then it will be a very shallow one indeed, given that the inquiry is apparently due to provide an interim report (to the executive) next week. No. Tim is infinitely more competent than this …

I am betting that the truth of the matter is that the Guardian is just a tad behind the curve on this one. A slow news day and old news re-hashed. To highlight just how late the story actually is… The Guardian reports that Tim Farron has called the inquiry ..

“ as angry accounts of the mistakes by the Yes campaign have begun to appear on the internet from campaign staff and those involved in efforts at the grassroots” .

Reports have not “BEGUN TO APPEAR” .. they appeared within days, hours even, of the election result.We ourselves wrote a post on the humiliation of the Yes campaign on May 8th and were inundated with comments – many from outraged Lib Dems who worked on the campaign. Around the 12th May (or thereabouts) Simon McGrath created the brilliant ”why we lost av” website ..and about that time, Andy May posted the jaw-dropping “The Yes Campaign – What lessons need to be learned”  (from which – as far as I can tell – most of the Guardian piece was culled).

The Guardian does appear to have one bit of “news” at least” … Tim Farron is quoted as saying

“A report will be published. Clearly we were not in total control of the Yes campaign, but it is clear lessons have to be learnt. A large amount of money looks like it was wasted and the whole thing has set back the cause of constitutional reform a long way. It would be very odd if we did not review what went wrong and what went right.”

“published” implies that it will go public. If true, this is excellent news. Hats off to the likes of James Graham, Andy May – and all the other “insiders” who raised their heads above the parapet and came out bravely and boldly to tell of the “living nightmare” that was the campaign.

Hats off too, to Simon McGrath – who led the call for an inquiry (and set up the previously mentioned “whywelostav” website). He urged myself and others to write to Tim Farron to call for one. I understand that quite a lot of us did just that.

So here we are waiting on one James Gurling (chair of campaigns and communications committee and member of the Federal Executive) to pronounce. James is a big fish in the Lib Dems and goes back a long way. There is some concern that James is too much of a Lib Dem insider and too close to Nick Clegg to do a proper job. Is he there to get to the truth?.. or to do a decent cover up job to shield Nick from any embarrassment over his  choice of director of the Yes campaign?

Cries of “whitewash” may be premature – after all, James is a serious man with his own reputation to uphold. And if it is true that Tim Farron has gone on record saying

“A large amount of money looks like it was wasted and the whole thing has set back the cause of constitutional reform a long way.”

– well that sounds like a man intent on getting to the truth.

But Simon Mcgrath over on lib dem voice  raises a good point. Who IS being interviewed as part of this inquiry? Are the likes of James Graham and Andy May going to be questioned? IF the inquiry is to make an interim report NEXT WEEK as reported in the Guardian, and IF the likes of May and Graham have NOT been interviewed, then all sorts of questions must be asked.

So what will it be Furore, fizzle or Farce. Will this incisively identify the errors made and name and shame those responsible? Will it fizzle out with a bland report stating that a few minor errors were made, but it was largely the fault of others (the nasty no campaigners, the right wing press etc). Or will it be a total farce – no mistakes, no errors, all the money spent immaculately and John Sharkey IS a campaigning guru.

This now rests in the hands of James Gurling. But not entirely. I had thought that we could reach James through his councillor email – but sadly he is no longer a Southwark councillor. So I suggest that we contact Tim Farron with any suggestions for people that should be interviewed. I am sure he will pass on recommendations to James.

This is not over. Not by a long way.

3 Responses to “What will the YES campaign inquiry deliver? Furore, fizzle or farce?”

  1. Dave Page Says:

    I’d hope there’d be some way for grassroots party members to contribute to this review – while there were Lib Dems involved at the senior levels, I expect that the experiences of ordinary party members who tried and failed to engage with the campaign on the streets will also tell a valuable side of the story.


  2. Andrew Hickey Says:

    Very much in agreement with Dave here. The grassroots campaigners were screaming from very early on that horrible, horrible mistakes were being made.

    The one thing I hope more than anything is that the blame for this is laid with the central campaign, and not at the grassroots. We were told this was going to be a ‘bottom up’, activist-led campaign, but it ended up with hundreds or thousands of activists going out every weekend for months, trying to get people to engage with the utterly risible campaign materials we were given, and having no communication with the central campaign, just a series of orders.


  3. ghd plattång Says:

    This now rests in the hands of James Gurling. But not entirely. I had thought that we could reach James through his councillor email


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