Tories join attacks on Clegg – with one exception

The Conservative Party have joined in the attacks on Nick Clegg in the right wing press today, with very few dissenters.

The Conservative Party have joined in the attacks on Nick Clegg in the right wing press today, with very few dissenters. The Mail, Sun and Express all turned on the Liberal Democrat leader this morning, accusing him of a “Nazi slur on Britain”, calling him a “wobble democrat” and criticising his “crazy immigration policy” respectively.

The Telegraph also took aim, scrutinising his expenses and revealing donors had made payments into his bank account – payments he insists were used to pay staff.

Leading Tory blogger Iain Dale called the attacks on Clegg “shameful”, a “terrible indictment of the British press”. He wrote:

“I don’t want Nick Clegg to win. I don’t want him to be Prime Minister. But he is not the devil incarnate. He’s a nice guy, doing a fair job of leading his party. I do not agree with many of his policies. I think many of them are misguided. But I am happy to accept that he believes they will be best for the country.

“I am happy to debate them with him or any other LibDem and that’s what politics and this election should be about. It should be about debating ideas, arguing about policy. It shouldn’t be about this sudden urge to denigrate Nick Clegg as a person. It will backfire on those who promulgate these attacks because most people can see with their own eyes that he is a transparently decent individual…

“I predict that these vicious attacks on Clegg will only serve to increase his popularity and position in the polls. If that happens it will be a sure sign that the power of the press to influence an election is on the wane. And that would be about the only good thing to come out of this sorry state of affairs.”

Others, though, think the attacks were fair, Conservative Home themselves joining in with an article titled “Three ways to burst the Nick Clegg bubble” and producing an attack video with the subliminal headline “NICK CL€GG, Holier than thou?”.

ConHome does, however, insist that David Cameron has to be seen to be “above the demolition of Nick Clegg” – ie. it is essential for Cameron to be seen to be at arms length from any attacks lest he be accused of hypocrisy over his promise earlier this week “not to ‘go negative'”.

The message of not being seen to be negative in public, however, appears to have been ignored by some of his front bench team. Shadow Treasury minister Greg Hands saying:

“Nick Clegg must produce the paperwork to clear up some serious questions about these donations. Having raised the issue of expenses in the first TV debate, Nick Clegg cannot leave these questions unanswered.”

Tonight’s Standard also reports Tory grandee Nicholas Soames as having joined the attack. Soames said Clegg’s views, as spun by the Mail, “will disgust people the length and breadth of the country”.

Lord Mandelson, speaking on the World At One this lunchtime, accused the Conservatives – and in particular David Cameron’s director of communications Andy Coulson – of being behind the press attacks. He called them “dirty tricks” and “smears”. He said:

“The press stories we’ve seen today are straight out of the Tory party dirty tricks manual. These things do not happen at the drop of a hat. This is pure Andy Coulson style News of the World territory turned into political form, they’re classic smears of the sort that we’ve seen directed against Labour in many general elections, but now this Tory treatment is being given to the Liberal Democrats.

“I think it offends against basic decency, I think it violates the basic rules of electioneering in this country.”

Listen to Lord Mandelson’s remarks:

No senior Conservative has condemned the attacks on Nick Clegg, CCHQ merely turning their fire on Lord Mandelson, saying he was “talking complete nonsense”.

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