The Sketch: A crowd of Cleggs, the return of Charlie and the medieval vote

  • @SimonSketch

To get to the AV Yes! launch you had to walk through a crowd of Cleggs. For admirers of Nick Clegg that was a happy start. But the many smiling faces weren't all they seemed. Each had strangely lifeless eyes. It turned out they were men wearing Nick Clegg masks. A clever but slightly creepy stunt by the AV people. Their point was that this new voting system would mean men wearing Nick Clegg masks roaming around London shouting "No, No, No!" It may need more thought.

"Got a good turn-out?" I asked one of the speakers. Methodist Hall is a big space to fill, and you don't want to look under-supported. "Oh yes," he said, "John Denham, Shirley Williams, Tessa Jowell, Charles Kennedy..."

A good turn-out doesn't mean 1,000 active citizens. It means a platform full of second-tier politicians, a small room crammed with activists and half a dozen journalists speculating on the robustness of Charlie Kennedy's liver.

The start was a little delayed. Was Charles wanting an 11am kick-off? "Too late," said one of us. "Small window with Charles," said another.

He looked as chubby and bonny as a healthy baby, and his heathery voice was a pleasure to listen to. There was some fire in it as well, about Scottish devolution, Alec Douglas Home and a once in a generation chance to get a voting system that recognises second and third preferences if your first preference fails.

Ed Miliband (he is the leader of the Labour Party) expressed his support in terms his supporters would support – if you are a Labour or Liberal Democrat voter you should vote for AV because it is in the national interest to have a Labour government. It's what progressive means, you see.

He said AV will help "build bridges not barriers" and "emphasise what we have in common".

Sceptics note that even under the present system the parties are 80 per cent in agreement on this year's spending cuts and yet this is anything but emphasised by Labour. Let's leave that there.

Asked about building a bridge to Nick Clegg (with whom he has refused to share a platform) Ed Miliband replied: "I've said what I've said in the past about Nick Clegg."

Was that really true? "It's not about personalities." That probably isn't. And finally, "My strong appeal is to say 'Vote Labour but look at the national interest'." Such is the "speaking human" talent that gave him victory over his brother.

Tim Farron (Liberal Democrat president) lambasted the "medieval nonsense of our voting system" (there goes the medieval vote) and "harrumphing majors". It can't be wise to alienate this influential minority. I'm not sure this has been thought through at all.