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Nasty Nick

Tim Montgomerie

One thing that most Labour and Conservative activists will agree is that the Liberal Democrats are the dirtiest campaigners in politics. Mr Clegg will have to forgive us, therefore, if we struggle to take his moral high horse routine seriously.

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In today's Independent on Sunday the Deputy Prime Minister accuses the Prime Minister of telling lies and of funding "the very nastiest reactionary politics". According to The Sunday Times (£) Chris Huhne has written to George Osborne, accusing him of "untruths" and "falsehoods". It's playground stuff.

I'm not sure Mr Clegg believes in this or if he is attempting to strengthen his beleagured position in his own party but Michael Howard, interviewed in The Sunday Telegraph, hits the nail on the head:

"I do think it is remarkable and disappointing that, as the campaign enters its final stages, the Yes group is spending all its time talking about the internal politics of the campaign. They are realising they are losing the main arguments."

After accusing the 'No campaign' of low tactics Nick Clegg uses his interview to get into the gutter himself:

"On one side of the stage, pro-AV, you'd have me, Ed Miliband, (Green) Caroline Lucas, (Ukip) Nigel Farage, (SNP) Alex Salmond and (Plaid Cymru) Ieuan Wyn Jones. The other side, you'd have David Cameron, (BNP) Nick Griffin and whoever leads the Communist Party. Now that tells you volumes about the very reactionary interests that are defending the indefensible."

Mr Clegg forgets to mention that more Labour MPs back first-past-the-post than support AV but it's the attempt to link the Conservatives and the BNP that is most distasteful. The reality is that the BNP want the same as the Liberal Democrats. They want proportional representation, not FPTP. So if the BNP is on any party's side it is on Mr Clegg's side but let's not play that game.

And as for lies what about Mr Clegg's claim that Conservative leaders are elected under AV? Graeme Archer rebutted that "myth" on Thursday.

Clegg knows that the only way of delivering AV is to persuade all left-leaning voters that a vote to change the way we elect MP is a vote against Cameron. It's a tactic recommended by the dark lord of spin Peter Mandelson in today's Observer. Whatever the result on 5th May relations between the coalition partners are being tested to the limits.

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