Minister attacks 'opportunist' Lib Dems

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"Scurrilous and outrageous" behaviour by Liberal Democrat MPs has earned them the hatred of many Labour MPs, a government minister said today.

"Scurrilous and outrageous" behaviour by Liberal Democrat MPs has earned them the hatred of many Labour MPs, a government minister said today.

Home Office minister Charles Clarke said Lib Dem "opportunism" was putting the party's chance to work with Labour in jeapody.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats are currently involved in coalitions in the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, and have reached an agreement to alternate the leadership of the Greater London Assembly.

But Mr Clarke told BBC News 24 many Lib Dems were "opportunists, just throwing stones on particular things when they go wrong".

He added: "The issue is conduct. The reason why so many of my colleagues hate the Liberal Democrats is that much of Liberal Democrat conduct in particular situations had been scurrilous and outrageous and people are offended, rightly so, by that.

"And I think the choice the Liberal Democrats have to make is whether they want to be part of any serious programme for reforming the country or do they want to be opportunists on the edge?".

Former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown's recently-published diaries contain the claim that he had struck a coalition deal with Tony Blair before the last election.

Mr Clarke said he would "conceivably" have been happy to serve such a government, and said a coalition was working well on his local county council, Norfolk.

"On the other hand, in Norwich City Council we've got Lab and Lib Dem at each other's throats. Lib Dems being entirely opportunists," he said.

"It's a pragmatic judgment, but it's also based on conduct. It's very much based on the conduct of politics, both by the Lib Dems and by ourselves.

"Now there are some Lib Dems, I mean this isn't designed to be an entirely divisive point, with whom I'd be proud to work, who are good people, working for progressive change.

"There are others who are complete charlatans, who are taking any passing issue and are having a go at whatever comes along."

He added: "I don't take Paddy Ashdown very seriously, as a commentator or anything else. I think Paddy Ashdown does have a capacity for self-delusion."

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