For the future of the Coalition, leaders play down the AV vitriol

Co-ordinated show of unity by Cameron and Clegg is undermined by continued sniping in the lower ranks

David Cameron and Nick Clegg tried to draw a line under the vitriolic and personal attacks of the Alternative Vote campaign yesterday in an attempt to rebuild confidence between Coalition partners before Thursday's referendum on electoral reform.

Despite previously condemning a "right-wing clique" behind the No campaign, the Liberal Democrat leader said he did not want to "personalise" the issue. Mr Cameron meanwhile insisted that both parties would continue to provide "strong and effective coalition government" regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

However, their show of unity was undermined only hours later by the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, who accused the Tories of being opposed to all progressive change including votes for woman and universal suffrage.

It has also emerged that David Cameron's director of communications appeared to break government rules on political advisers by contacting the BBC over its coverage of the AV referendum.

Senior Liberal Democrats were "furious" after learning that Craig Oliver contacted the corporation to ask for "clarification" over its coverage of the AV campaign. They believe Mr Oliver's intervention was designed to put pressure on the BBC to give the No2Av campaign a more favourable showing.

Under government rules, special political advisers like Mr Oliver – who are paid by the taxpayer – are not allowed to participate in the No2Av campaign which must be run by party officials.

Yesterday – publicly at least – both Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron insisted that the AV referendum had not damaged the Coalition and that, regardless of the result, the business of government would not be affected. Supporters on both sides have been warned not to "gloat" if they win on Friday while at series of initiatives are being planned to distract attention from the fall-out of the vote. "We have long known that the period between the referendum result and the summer recess of Parliament will be the most difficult for both sides," said a government source.

Speaking in carefully co-ordinated consecutive interviews on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, Mr Clegg first insisted that his party would remain committed to the Coalition regardless of the result. "David Cameron and I, every day of every week, thrash out our differences within government. We are different leaders of different parties, we have different values we always will do. I think in many respects people have forgotten that sometimes because we have to work together in harness for the national good, as we will continue to do so for five years."

Mr Cameron later added: "The business of government goes on. Dealing with the deficit, reforming welfare, making sure there's quality schools for all our children. These things are going on even as the referendum and the local elections campaign take place."

However the show of unity was somewhat undermined by Mr Huhne, who used an interview later in the day to attack the Tory stance on AV.

Meanwhile in a speech today the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, will argue that the policies being pursued by the Coalition do not have a democratic mandate – as they were not backed by the majority of voters.

"Labour lost last year's general election but the Tories did not win it," he said. "It is extraordinary that since then they have repeatedly claimed that they won a mandate, and felt bold enough to force right-wing policies through Parliament; policies which weren't even in the Conservative manifesto, such as the top-down re-organisation of the NHS and front-line cuts to police."

Downing Street did not not deny that Mr Oliver had spoken to the BBC about the AV campaign. A statement said: "Part of the director of communications' role is to ensure that the Prime Minister's position is understood and in doing so he operates within the special advisers' code."

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
News
i100
Sport
footballFollow the latest news from tonight's friendly
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
All the people: Graham Coxon, Damon Albarn, Alex James and Dave Rowntree
musicThe Magic Whip, album review
News
people
News
Presenter Jack Nicholson and George Clooney pose in the press room after 'Argo' won the trophy for Best Picture during the 85th Annual Academy Awards on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood.
people
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
Scholars left shaken after ultraviolet light reveals faces staring at them from medieval manuscripts
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell