Nick Clegg slams anti-AV 'falsehoods'

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg hit out today at "distractions and falsehoods" being used by campaigners against a change in the electoral system.







He accused "paternalists and conservatives" of trying to create a "ludicrous caricature" of the Alternative Vote - saying they should "grow up".



But the Liberal Democrat leader again insisted that the coalition would not be torn apart by the increasingly acrimonious battle.



The intervention came amid signs that the pro-AV camp is losing ground ahead of the national poll on May 5.



Lib Dem Cabinet minister Chris Huhne warned earlier this week that the party's alliance with the Tories was being damaged by bitter sniping, saying the No campaign was indulging in "downright lies".



Speaking in London this morning, Mr Clegg said AV would help "clean up politics" by making MPs more accountable.



"But as with almost all changes that give people more power and more choice, paternalists and conservatives are lining up to try and block it," he said.



"The No campaign seems less interested in making the positive case for first past the post than attacking a ludicrous caricature of AV."



Mr Clegg said the arguments being used by opponents of the change were "distractions and falsehoods".



"First, the No campaign claims that AV will somehow help extremist parties like the BNP," he said.



"What astonishes me most about this claim is the brazen way it seeks to reverse the truth.



"AV will make it harder for extremist parties to get elected because it favours those who can appeal to a majority of voters in a seat.



"(BNP leader) Nick Griffin knows this, which is why he is campaigning for a No vote.



"You don't have to take my word for it, in the words of the BNP's deputy chairman Simon Darby: 'We are never going to get our feet under the table under the AV system'."







Mr Clegg dismissed the idea that AV would lead to more coalitions, saying Australia had experienced fewer hung parliaments than the UK.



And he also rejected allegations that the voting system would require new, expensive counting machines.



"This is simply untrue. There are no plans to bring in electronic machines. We won't need them. It won't happen," he said.



"This is the first time British people have ever had a choice on how to elect their MPs.



"They deserve a debate based on reason and reality, not prejudice and misinformation."



The deputy prime minister addressed head-on critics who have been using his own performance in government to attack AV.



"The truth is this: If we want a different kind of politics, one in which parties can work together in the national interest, we all have to grow up a bit. Compromise is not betrayal," he said.



Mr Clegg pointed out that his party was the junior coalition partner, and said the way for people to get more Lib Dem policies was to elect more of their MPs.



"In the meantime, I will continue to make what are sometimes difficult compromises, but ones which are always shaped as best I can by the Liberal values I hold dear," he added.



With polls suggesting the public may decide to keep first past the post on May 5, Mr Clegg stressed that the referendum was "only one part of a broader Liberal agenda of reform" being pushed through by the coalition.



He flatly denied speculation that defeat could fan disquiet among the Lib Dem rank-and-file - for whom electoral reform has long been a holy grail - and destroy his partnership with David Cameron.



Although action to tackle the UK deficit had "kept the wolves from the door" so far, they were "still lurking in the woods".



"If the coalition were to falter now the crisis we have worked so hard to avoid would threaten the nation again," Mr Clegg said.



"The work of this government will continue in the national interest regardless of the result of the referendum."









Mr Clegg cast himself as an "interloper" hoping to overthrow the Westminster status quo.



The Deputy Prime Minister has been stung by bitter personal attacks and was snubbed by Ed Miliband earlier this week when the Labour leader refused to share a platform with his Lib Dem counterpart.



Mr Clegg branded negative campaign tactics as a "really, really desperate attempt to try and fool the British people into thinking this referendum is about something else".



He said: "This is what happens when vested interests feel threatened. It really unsettles their cosy pattern of doing things.



"It's no wonder that when an interloper like me interrupts that, messes it up a bit, they get really, really aggressive because it messes up the nice, cosy way they have done things for ages."



He denied accusations that he was a liability to the Yes campaign, saying: "I don't think people are that daft.



"When people come to vote they will know the question before them is 'Do you maintain first-past-the-post with all its failings, a system that fostered the expenses scandal?' or 'Do you want something which keeps politicians on their toes?'.



"It's not a beauty contest between different politicians."



The Deputy Prime Minister, who previously described AV as "a baby step in the right direction", denied he would push for full proportional representation if the UK voted Yes on May 5.



He said: "We aren't going to enter into a Maoist, perpetual revolution .



"This is a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity to change the electoral system. It's completely wrong to somehow suggest this is a stepping stone for something else.



"This is the change and it should be considered only on those merits."



And Mr Clegg shrugged off claims that a Yes result would lack legitimacy if it was supported by voters in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but rejected by the English electorate.



He said: "It's a national referendum and the result will be respected as a national outcome."



But shadow local government secretary Caroline Flint, who is launching the Labour No to AV campaign in Yorkshire, said: "For Nick Clegg to claim that AV will cure all our political ills is simply wrong. In fact, with his overblown claims he is in danger of damaging politics yet further.



"A vote for AV will lead to more hung parliaments, more ditching of manifesto promises and more broken promises. This is not what we want from our politicians.



"I'm a believer in strong and stable governments to deliver the best for everyone. That is why I am campaigning to protect one person, one vote."











There have been reports that the Lib Dem leadership is angry that the Prime Minister has reneged on a promise to maintain a low profile during the AV campaign.



While not mentioning Mr Clegg by name, a speech by Mr Cameron on Monday seemed to criticise his U-turn over tuition fee rises.



"I believe there should be real accountability between the pledges politicians put in their manifestos and the action they take in government. AV would damage that chain of accountability," the premier said.



In his address to the Ippr think-tank today Mr Clegg delivered a coded rebuke to Mr Cameron, decrying "dismal" attacks on "people working together for the national good".



"There are people on the left and the right who preach new politics and pluralism and yet are now so damning of its inevitable consequence, which is compromise," he said.



"You can't claim to stand for a new kind of politics, for a new kind of pluralism, and then vilify those who try to practice it."

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
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
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
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
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

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game