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Thursday 5th May 2011 | 10:25
Many Lib Dems, not just Chris Huhne, have been uspet with the raft of No to AV attacks on Nick Clegg.
But I've learned that it could have been much, much worse.
The No campaign produced one particular viral video* that makes even the controversial 'babies will die' adverts look like child's play.
The video starts with a black and white close-up of a cockney skinhead, talking about why AV will give him more choice.
The skinhead then says "I agree with Nick....", draws on his cigarette, and then adds "...Griffin".
The camera pulls out, the screen switches to colour, and we see the skinhead's BNP rosette and a nearby polling station. His pay-off line is "I'll tell you one thing, I won't be choosing no ethnics."
When the bosses at the No campaign saw the ad they had a collective heart attack and agreed that it was just too close to the knuckle to run publicly. (Although interestingly, when the script was first shown it was deemed OK, it was just the actual screening that caused the sharp intakes of breath). Even the Labour No to AV campaign decided that it was too aggressive and decided not to use it.
(A cynic would say that the one other concern may have been that BNP voters would actually like the ad and vote in droves for Yes)
The AV=BNP message was pushed in other, less vitriolic ways as the No camp stuck to their "Costs, Complexity and Clegg" attack strategy.
This isn't the only area where the No camp has pulled its punches, I understand.
An animation showing Clegg with grim, dark expressions and pulling other faces was drafted and again deemed too personal. Instead, only a leaflet with Clegg looking a bit gormless was used.
Crucially, the actual slogan for the No campaign was also changed. Instead of "Say No To Nick"**, it became "Tell Nick No To AV". A subtle but important difference.
I hear that CCHQ, in particular, went up the wall at some of the harder-edged leaflets and the original slogan, fearing it would lead to serious friction within the Coalition.
So, if Huhne and the Lib Dems think that the current campaign has been too brutal, they should be perhaps grateful that the Tories actually stopped it from getting really out of hand...
*I'll post later on the different digital strategies of the Yes and No camps. Makes interesting reading.
UPDATE: And no, I've not been given a 'protective briefing' given by CCHQ.
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