Huhne hints at AV legal action move

A senior Liberal Democrat minister is threatening legal action against the No to AV campaign in a move which could potentially open up a damaging new rift in the coalition.

Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, said he is prepared to go to court over what he said were false claims made by senior Tories, including David Cameron, over the cost of introducing the alternative vote (AV) system for Westminster elections.



He warned it could be difficult for ministers from the two parties to carry on working together unless the Conservatives concerned - including Chancellor George Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague - withdrew the allegations.



"It is frankly worrying if you have colleagues, who you have respected and who you have worked well with, who are making claims which have no foundation in truth whatsoever. If they don't come clean on this I am sure the law courts will," he said.



Senior Conservatives sought to play down the divisions, with Mr Hague insisting that the coalition was working well, even though feelings on the AV issue - which had pitted the two parties against each other - were "running high".



But with another 10 days to go until voting in the AV referendum - which the Lib Dems demanded as the price of joining the coalition - the cohesion of the alliance between the parties is likely to be tested to the limits.



Both Mr Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg are desperate to deliver a morale boosting victory for their respective supporters.



Mr Clegg used a weekend newspaper interview to launch his most direct attack yet on the Prime Minister, accusing him of aligning himself with the far right BNP and the Communist Party "in defence of the indefensible".



Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes has also threatened to refer the No campaign to the Electoral Commission, but Mr Huhne's intervention has raised the prospect of a far more prolonged and damaging court battle.



Mr Huhne particularly picked on a claim by the No campaign that the introduction of AV would require the purchase of expensive vote-counting machines - an allegation which, he said, was "demonstrably untrue".



Mr Hague, however insisted it was a "legitimate issue" to raise the costs of introducing AV, which the No campaign has put a £250 million price tag on.



The Energy Secretary has been a particularly vociferous critic of the No campaign, having previously likened the tactics of Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi to those of Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels.



It emerged at the weekend that he had now written to Mr Osborne accusing him of a "persistent resort to falsehoods" over the costs of introducing AV.



Despite the anger at the No campaign tactics, there were signs that some Lib Dems welcomed the chance for a public row with the Tories amid concerns among activists that Mr Clegg has become too close to Mr Cameron.



"The really good thing about this campaign is that it has made sure that Liberal Democrats stand up for what we believe in and nobody will think we are Tories any more," Mr Hughes said.



"Nobody can say in the future we and the Tories are the same."











Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell played down the damage from the friction, pointing out that Labour was just as divided on the issue of AV.



He also hinted that it could be helpful for the coalition parties to emphasise their differences.



"Of course we also know there are quite a few Conservatives not fully reconciled to the coalition," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.



"Perhaps they will be satisfied by the notion that David Cameron is not rolling over in front of Nick Clegg."



Former Tory leader Lord Howard said there was a "very important issue at stake" in the referendum, and both coalition partners had "different views".



"The truth is that these are two parties with different traditions and different views on many issues, which have come together to work together for the good of the country," he said.



"The need for them to work together in the good of the country is going to be just as great on May 6."











A senior Conservative backbencher hit out at the Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Secretary for "whingeing".

Mark Pritchard, Secretary of the Tory 1922 Committee, said: "Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne should stop their whingeing.



"With each of them presiding over major government departments they've never had it so good.



"Their personal and political sacrifices are infinitesimal compared to those made by the hundreds of public sector workers losing their jobs each week and many Conservative colleagues who gave up ministerial office for the sake of the coalition."



PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Bid Writer – Energy Markets

£35000 Per Annum DOE: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Com...

Data Analyst (Requirements gathering)

£23000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Data Analyst vacan...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am interested in speaking to Data Migr...

Web Services Developer

£200 - £450 per day: Harrington Starr: Web Services Developer Web Services, WP...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil