AV referendum 'will change coalition' says Clegg

This week's referendum on voting reform will change the nature of the coalition Government, regardless of its result, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said today.

Mr Clegg said the May 5 poll will mark the end of the "first phase" of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, which required "real collective discipline", and will allow the parties to express their differences more openly in future.

But Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that the Government remains "very cohesive and strong", and is able to continue to deal with issues such as the deficit, terrorism and public service reform in a united way, despite its increasingly vitriolic inter-party spat over the alternative vote system (AV).

The campaign on whether to replace the first-past-the-post system for electing MPs with the alternative vote - under which voters rank candidates in order of preference - has been marked by brutal exchanges between the coalition partners, with Lib Dem minister Chris Huhne even threatening Cabinet colleagues with legal action for alleged untruths.

Mr Cameron declined today to come to the defence of the tactics of the No to AV campaign, which has infuriated his Lib Dem colleagues by targeting Mr Clegg personally.

The Prime Minister said he would take responsibility only for the Conservative No campaign - which has focused on the argument that first-past-the-post is "simple, fair and decisive" - and not for the cross-party No to AV camp's more "robust" approach, even though pro-reform campaigners argue it is largely funded from Tory sources.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Clegg made clear that his Liberal Democrats expect to take a more independent approach to government after Thursday's vote.

"I think that the first phase of this coalition - the first year, as we were making really difficult decisions on the deficit and so on - required real collective discipline," he said.

"But over time, inevitably, the different identities, different values of the two parties - because we are different parties, always have been always will be - would kind of come out in the wash a bit more.

"And I think that is probably happening in part because of this referendum."

But Mr Cameron insisted there was no reason to expect the coalition to fall apart.

He told Today: "The reason for being in a coalition is as good today as it was a year ago. That is because we are dealing with a serious economic situation, with a massive budget deficit, huge debts that we need to deal with.

"Two parties that are different have come together in the national interest to sort out the economy and to deliver the coalition agreement, which includes also some radical and bold reforms of things like our schools and welfare system.

"This was always going to be a difficult moment, with the two parties on different sides of the referendum campaign.

"But we have a Cabinet meeting this morning, we have a National Security Council meeting afterwards, at the Cobra meeting last night there were Liberal Democrats and Conservatives working out how to keep the country safe from terrorists, at the same time as having a robust argument about the future of the voting system.

"We are getting on with dealing with the problems our country faces and I think been a very cohesive and very strong Government."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower