Huhne: No2AV telling “straightforward lies” in the “politics of the gutter”

Chris Huhne attacked the "lies" of the No to AV campaign Newsnight last night, and said engaging in the "politics of the gutter", reports Shamik Das.

Chris Huhne attacked the “lies” of the No to AV campaign last night, saying he was “shocked” that his Tory coalition partners – including cabinet colleagues Baroness Warsi and George Osborne – could “stoop to a level of campaigning we have not seen in this country before”, engaging in the “politics of the gutter”.

The energy and climate change secretary was debating the Alternative Vote on yesterday’s Newsnight, up against Conservative MP George Eustice, whom he accused of telling a “straightforward lie” over the claim that electronic voting machines would be used in UK general elections under AV.

He said:

“Absolute nonsense… The Goebbels point was very simple. It was that the No campaign was claiming that we were going to need special election counting machines in order to have an AV vote, absolutely untrue, not used in Australia or anywhere else.

“No, this was a straightforward lie. No sensible person can have made that point knowing it was true, because there is no country currently which actually has AV uses machines, and therefore this was a straightforward lie.

Let me finish the point about Sayeeda Warsi. I made that point precisely because I think this is politics of the gutter being played here by the No campaign and I think we need to try and clean this up. But on the BNP point.”

Watch the key exchange:

Earlier, Huhne said:

“The reality is that every single new democracy that has tried an election system over the last 30 years has gone for other systems not for the system that we use in britain and I think that’s a real wake up call…

“It is a small step which gives you a serious imporvement because it means that there will be fewer MPs with jobs for life, people will have to reach out beyond their tribal base, they will, in fact, have to work harder, which I think is, in the wake of the expenses scandal, quite an important part of what the advantages of the alternative vote system are.

“And frankly, if the world was going to fall in, why on earth has it been so successful in Australia? Eighty years they’ve had it now, and they’ve had only two hung parliaments.”

And of the spat with Warsi and the damage being done to the coalition, he later said:

“Well I’m frankly shocked that coalition partners can stoop to a level of campaigning we have not seen in this country before. I think it is damaging, I think that there’s no doubt about it, I don’t, I can never remember – I’ve been involved in every single British election campaign since the early 1980s – and I can never remember a campaign which has stooped as low as the no campaign, in dredging up stuff which is downright lies…

“I have not had the courtesy of a reply to my letters to Saeeda challenging her to come up with some evidence about this [voting machines claim], and you’ve [Mr Eustice] not come up with any evidence, you’ve not even bothered to reply to a letter that I sent you challenging you about this.”

Elsewhere today, former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown called on David Cameron to distance himself from the increasingly personal attacks on Nick Clegg, and said the No campaign had become “deeply and appallingly personal” and that “no British prime minister” should be linked to it.

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