NICK Clegg should “lie low” and not visibly campaign for changing the voting system because his unpopularity will put people off, Labour leader Ed Miliband has said.
Mr Miliband, the MP for Doncaster North, made clear he is not prepared to share a platform with his South Yorkshire rival – despite both party leaders wanting a “yes” vote in May’s referendum.
In a scathing attack on Sheffield Hallam MP Mr Clegg, Mr Miliband said the Liberal Democrat leader’s unpopularity means he is now a liability to the campaign for the adoption of the alternative vote system.
“What do people who are promoting a ‘no’ vote want? They want Nick Clegg to be the poster boy for this campaign,” Mr Miliband told a Westminster news conference.
“I am very much hoping we will be able to share a platform with Lib Dems, with Greens, with others who want this to go forward.
“But the best thing Nick Clegg can do if he wants a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum is to lie low for a bit.”
A planned cross-party event involving Mr Miliband and former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy was due to be held yesterday but collapsed amid a bitter row between the two parties.
Mr Miliband blamed Mr Clegg, claiming the Deputy Prime Minister “felt he had to be there as well” and was “worried about an event going ahead without him”.
Mr Clegg’s office denied the claims, describing them as “desperate headline-grabbing from Miliband”.
A spokesman said: “This is about believing in a new politics and coming together to campaign for AV. The Liberal Democrats are completely relaxed about who shares a platform with whom. It shouldn’t be about individual politicians.”
Mr Clegg has said reforming the voting system would put an end to safe seats which guarantee some MPs a job for life.
“We have seven weeks to get our message across that ‘if you want MPs to work harder for your vote, vote yes,” he told activists at the party’s conference in Sheffield last weekend.
- Labour will today force a Commons vote on reversing the Government’s VAT increase on petrol. A motion tabled by the opposition will call for the VAT rise – which has added £1.35 to the cost of filling up a 50-litre tank – to be reversed immediately. This should be funded by the coalition’s £800m bank levy, Labour claims.