If the AV referendum is lost, then Clegg will have a very difficult time keeping his party united and in the coalition. But if Clegg makes clear how much AV means to his party, then the chances of it being defeated increases as Labour voters and those dissatisfied with the coalition see it as a chance to bring it down. (Remember we can expect most Tory voters to back first past the post, making the support of Labour voters crucial to the passage of AV). So, Clegg says that it ‘is not the be all and end all’ for the Liberal Democrats and stresses that he won’t walk out of government if it fails.
The other fascinating passage of the interview is his attack on Labour for being ‘consumed by collective bile towards’ the Liberal Democrats. As I say in the column this week, Labour have to decide whether they can afford to make it almost impossible for a Clegg-led Lib Dems to do a deal with them in the result of a hung parliament after the next election.