AV rally to go ahead without Nick Clegg

A cross-party rally in support of changing the voting system will go ahead without Nick Clegg after the Liberal Democrat leader dropped his demand to be on the platform.

Labour leader Ed Miliband had declined to share the stage with Mr Clegg, arguing that the Deputy Prime Minister is so unpopular that he would hit support for a Yes vote in the 5 May referendum on whether to replace the first-past-the-post system with the alternative vote (AV).

The row between the leaders, who both support AV, had put a cloud over the Yes campaign. The cross-party rally on 29 March will now feature Mr Miliband, ex-Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.

It was called off earlier this week after Mr Clegg insisted on being present. His aides deny that he vetoed Mr Kennedy's attendance, saying that Mr Clegg's absence would cause more trouble than it was worth. "We wanted to avoid negative stories drawing attention to the fact that he was not there," one said.

But a Labour source said, "We are heartened by the Liberal Democrats' change of heart. The Yes campaign needs Ed Miliband. It needs Nick Clegg like a kick in the teeth."

Last night Mr Miliband told the launch of the Labour Yes campaign that AV was needed because "our politics needs repairing". He said it is a better, fairer system than the current one and will improve the way politics is conducted. He told voters: "On May 5 ask yourselves one simple question: are you happy with the condition of British politics? If the answer is no, then seize this chance for change."