THE CONSERVATIVE Party ran a “coach and horses” through rules on election spending limits in seats where they were targeting the Liberal Democrats, former leader Nick Clegg has claimed.
The former deputy prime minister, who led his party to an electoral mauling which saw it retain just eight of the 57 seats it had won in 2010, claimed David Cameron’s party had spent “American-style sums of money”.
Sheffield Hallam MP Mr Clegg, who resigned after the disastrous election, said that a change to the electoral system should be a red line for any future Lib Dem leader considering a coalition deal.
On BBC1’s Sunday Politics he put the Tory success against the Lib Dems in battleground seats, such as his party’s former south-west heartlands, down to fear of a Labour-SNP alliance taking office. “My own view is something shifted very, very late in the day in England, in English constituency after English constituency,” he said.
“I think this really quite profound fear that the country would be run by a sort of combination of Ed Miliband and Alex Salmond really chilled the English heart, and it meant that a lot of undecided voters or waverers decided in the end to play it safe. And playing it safe meant voting Conservative.”
Mr Clegg said the rise of the SNP had been “skilfully exploited” by Tory strategists who also poured “huge resources” into target seats. “One of the things that needs to happen in the technical post-mortem about this general election is how on earth the Conservatives spent such vast American-style sums of money across the country from centrally-directed campaigns, which ran a coach and horses through the financial limits on how local candidates can campaign,” he said .