Clegg: ‘Daft to vote no to AV because of me’

By Hannah Brenton

Nick Clegg has downplayed the effect his unpopularity could have in the AV referendum.

In an increasingly personal campaign that has seen the ‘no’ campaign splash pictures of Nick Clegg across its literature, the deputy prime minister said it would be “daft” to vote against electoral change because of one politician.

“I really don’t think that people are so daft that when they’re asked to have this once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the electoral system they’re going to do it based on what they think about one party or one politician,” he told BBC Breakfast.

The deputy prime minister also explained his much-quoted remark before the election that AV was a “miserable little compromise”.

“What I was actually referring to was Gordon Brown’s suggestion very late in the day in his government of making changes which everyone knew would not come into effect,” he said.

“I was talking about the Labour party’s offer in the latter days of its government which it had no way of implementing.”

He said AV would make MPs work harder to secure the support of voters as they would need majority support to get elected.

Yesterday, former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown accused the ‘no’ campaign of “disgusting politics” for its targeting of Mr Clegg.

“This has become a deeply and appallingly personal campaign. It’s centred on one personality and that is Nick Clegg,” Lord Ashdown said.

He urged prime minister David Cameron to denounce the attacks on his deputy for the sake of the coalition.

“The way that this is being fought, the way that our leader, Nick Clegg, is being singled out by a campaign funded by the Conservative party is, I think, very damaging.

“It must be making Liberal Democrats fighting furious and I am certainly one of those.”

Another senior Liberal Democrat, energy secretary Chris Huhne, also accused No to AV of pursuing “the politics of the gutter”.

“I am frankly shocked that coalition partners can stoop to a level of campaign that we have not seen in this country before,” Mr Huhne said on Newsnight.