How will the referendum have changed the coalition?

So after Cabinet bust-ups and public spats, can the coalition simply stage a group hug in the wake of the AV referendum, and return to business as usual? Pigs might fly.

It is hard to underestimate the fury of Lib Dems at what they insist is Conservative-funded publicity which, they say, trashes their leader for making compromises (or, as the "No" campaign literature puts it, breaking promises) with, er, the Conservatives.

If AV is indeed defeated in the vote on Thursday, it will be a considerable victory for the "No" camp - and a humiliation for the "Yes" camp. But might tactical victory lead on to strategic defeat?

Talking to Lib Dems, it's clear that their attitude to the Coalition has curdled in the face of the ruthless pummelling they and their leader have taken. They want to put distance between themselves and the Conservatives - and there is plenty of legislation going through the parliamentary sausage machine to which a little orange flavouring could be added.

Top of the list, Andrew Lansley's "paused" Health and Social Care Bill - where the Health Secretary's efforts to woo dissenting Lib Dems with one-on-one meetings have been greeted with suspicion. The Lib Dems want substantial changes to the provisions and the timescale of the Bill - and if they don't get it, Lib Dem peers - with Baroness Shirley Williams to the fore - are poised to amend it in the teeth of Conservative resistance.

But the twist is that they don't want to simply stage-manage some kind of hissy fit; the aim will be to channel the complaints of the medical profession and make sure what results is accepted by the doctors and nurses.

Similarly the elected Police Commissioners proposed in the Policing and Social Responsibility Bill were never something the Lib Dems wanted - and (as noted below) there are plenty of respected ex-cops lining up against it too. Its committee stage is due to start next Wednesday and it could be the first visible victim of Lib Dem vengeance.

A longer term prospect could be the constituency boundary changes resulting from the decision to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 - enshrined in the Parliamentary Voting and Constituencies Act.

As Sadie Smith pointed out over at Total Politics the orders to put the new boundaries in place will have to be approved by Parliament in October 2013. David Cameron wants these changes to remove what he regards as a pro-Labour bias in the current make up of the constituency map.

The Lib Dems were once pretty gung ho on that as well - it was robustly defended by Nick Clegg as part of the package which allowed the AV referendum. But for individual MPs on all sides, it could be a career-ending measure, and a lot of Lib Dems, in particular, are worried about the effect on them.

So were they, or Lib Dem peers to vote against, in what would by then be the dog days of the Coalition, they could stop the Conservatives gaining an important electoral advantage.

It would be a stinging blow for the Conservative high command, but might be quietly welcomed by the threatened footsloggers on the Tory backbenches. A neat piece of legislative vengeance - and one hinted at in a recent letter to the Times from Lib Dem grandee Paul (now Lord) Tyler.

(There is also an alternative scenario, where the "Yes" camp wins the referendum - but the introduction of AV is derailed by a Tory rebellion against the new constituency boundaries - because the Act yokes the two changes together. No new voting system without new boundaries.)

And then there's the DPM. Nick Clegg has cut a pretty miserable figure in Westminster recently. Watching last week's PMQs, I was struck that he appeared to be lost in a bubble of his own, as MPs bayed and ranted around him. And he was again a rather ghostly presence on the front bench this week.

Assuming he hasn't had a migraine on both days, his brown study is presumably the result of the kicking he has taken in recent months. The Coalition depends on the Cameron-Clegg relationship and its supporters (a category which does not include all Conservative or indeed Lib Dem MPs) must hope it has not been poisoned beyond recovery.

It's hard to see things getting better for Mr Clegg any time soon - one glimpse of his mood, and perhaps of his recovery plan may come when he appears before the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, next Thursday. It could be an intriguing session. Will he be pushing rapid reform of the Lords as a consolation prize?

Meanwhile, some Lib Dems are quietly asking if they can go into the next election with Mr Clegg at the helm - and remember, they ditched not one but two leaders in the course of the last parliament. But there doesn't seem to be an obvious successor, much less an appetite for a mid-term leadership coup, which is the Tories real nightmare scenario.

Apart from the lack of an "untainted by coalition" alternative, they know that a snap election would be very very bad for them, so they are locked into the deal with David Cameron and have to hope that by 2015 they have won some respect for their efforts in government.