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Furious row over Cameron 'lie'

Published 04/05/2015

David Cameron meets supporters on the election campaign trail in West Yorkshire
David Cameron meets supporters on the election campaign trail in West Yorkshire

A furious row has erupted between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats after a senior Lib Dem accused David Cameron of "lying" over claims the Tories were close to winning an outright majority in the General Election on Thursday.

The Lib Dem peer and campaign spokesman Lord Scriven claimed Mr Cameron had admitted privately to Nick Clegg that the Conservatives could not get the seats they needed to form a majority government.

His allegation drew an angry denial from the Tory aides who insisted it was "100% untrue" and showed that the Lib Dem campaign was in a state of panic.

Mr Clegg refused to be drawn directly on Lord Scriven's comments but said there was "quite a gulf" between what Conservatives were saying publicly and privately and that claims they could get an overall majority were a "big, fat fib".

The latest row between the coalition partners was triggered by a tweet from Lord Scriven stating: "So Cameron has taken to lying on Tory majority. Nick Clegg told me that Cameron privately admitted to him that the Tories won't win a majority."

Appearing shortly afterwards on BBC News, the former Sheffield City Council leader said he spoke out after reading a newspaper report that the Tories were targeting Lib Dem-held marginals in a bid to gain the 23 additional seats they need for a majority.

The article in The Daily Telegraph quoted Mr Cameron warning that a vote for the Lib Dems risked letting in a Labour government.

"If David Cameron is going to lie when he knows in his heart of hearts his private polls are showing that the British people are likely to give no party an overall majority, then so be it," Lord Scriven said.

"I don't take back anything I said in the tweet. People are not stupid. The opinion polls show what's happening, the private opinion polls show what is happening.

"When I read what's on the front page of The Daily Telegraph that David Cameron is not telling the truth to try to scare people to vote then I think that his private feelings do need to be made clear."

A Conservative spokesman said: "This is 100% definitely not true. The Prime Minister has repeatedly made clear we only need to win 23 seats to get a majority and he is totally focused on winning that majority."

Campaigning in Twickenham - one of the Conservatives' target seats - Mr Clegg said he was not prepared to comment on his private conversations with Mr Cameron.

However he told PA: "All I would say to you is the Conservatives are now trying to persuade people of something which is a big fat fib, which is that they only need 23 seats to win a majority.

"They are not, they are not going to win a majority, they need 323 seats to win and they are not going to win, everybody knows that.

"I haven't met a senior Conservative who, in private, will claim that they are going to win a majority. They know in private what everybody knows across the country, which is they are not going to win a majority."

The Lib Dems said the Conservative claims they needed to win just 23 extra seats were a "con" as they failed to take account of constituency polling which suggested they would lose more than 50 seats they currently held.

But campaigning in the marginal Hastings and Rye constituency, Mr Cameron said voters were now faced with a clear choice between Conservatives and Labour.

"I think Nick Clegg is increasingly desperate because he knows the truth, which is there is an inescapable choice," he said.

"On Thursday people have to choose - would they like me to continue as Prime Minister or do they want Ed Miliband and the SNP, the only other available option?

"My message is if you vote Lib Dem you are in danger of ending up with Ed Miliband, if you vote Ukip you are in danger of ending up with Ed Miliband.

"It's only by voting Conservative you can guarantee that I'll continue as Prime Minister, George Osborne will be back at his desk working on that long-term economic plan."

The latest row between the coalition parties comes after Lib Dem Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander last week released details of what he said were Conservative proposals to cut child benefit.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said that Mr Cameron was trying set England and Scotland against each other in an attempt to scare people into voting Conservative.

"He's a desperate man because what he's reduced to is trying to set this election up as a clash of two nations," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"He's lost all the arguments: he's lost the argument about the economy, he's lost the argument about leadership, he's lost the argument about his broken promises on the NHS, and so this is all he's got left."

The SNP dismissed the coalition row, pointing to a report in the Financial Times that Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg could start talks on forming a new government within hours of the election result if the Tories were the largest party in a hung parliament.

"We now know that David Cameron and Nick Clegg have been secretly stitching up a plot to allow the Tories back into Downing Street," said SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie.

"That means it is more important than ever we ensure there are more anti-Tory than pro-Tory MPs elected on Thursday."

He said Mr Miliband's insistence that he would not talk to the SNP "simply isn't credible".

"He must now signal that he would be prepared to work in a progressive alliance to lock the Tories out - if not, Labour will never be forgiven by people across Scotland," he said.

Mr Miliband said the alleged private admission "says it all" about Mr Cameron's campaign.

"Other leaders, I gather, are conceding the outcome of this election," he said during a campaign visit in Brighton.

"David Cameron appears to have now said he's not going to win the election.

"I think says it all about him and about his campaign. We are fighting every step of the way," he added.

Speaking to reporters on a visit to Wells, Mr Cameron was asked again if he had told Mr Clegg the Tories would not win a majority.

"Certainly not," he said.

"Nick Clegg is obviously increasingly desperate because he knows he is losing seat after seat across the country."

The PM added: "We won't be put off by these increasingly desperate Lib Dem tactics.

"I could tell you all the things he has said to me in private. That would certainly surprise you."

Asked about Lord Scriven's claim, the PM told Sky News Radio: "That's complete nonsense and I think it's rather desperate that the Liberals are saying things like this.

"The truth is, I think that they know that it comes down to a straight choice - do you want me to continue as prime minister or do you want Ed Miliband and the SNP in office?

"So, the pressure is on in Lib Dem-held seats because people know that if they vote Lib Dem they could end up with Ed Miliband and the SNP, not least because Nick Clegg said at the weekend that he would be happy to support that sort of government."

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