Sir Vince Cable has been secretly recorded suggesting Liberal Democrat supporters should consider backing Labour candidates in certain seats to help beat the Conservatives.
The Lib Dem former business secretary told a meeting of party members they should “think and act in a constructive way” in June’s vote, telling them he and one Labour candidate’s views are “almost identical”.
Conservatives accused the Lib Dems of scheming to get Jeremy Corbyn into power and saying things publicly that are “completely at odds with what they say and do in private”.
In the recording, obtained by Sky News and LBC radio, Sir Vince said: “I’ve always valued the relationships, the good relationships, I’ve had with people in other parties and I particularly know a lot of people on the Labour side whose views are very close to mine.
“I’ll just give one example, there’s who’s the candidate in Ealing, I think. Purely by coincidence I found myself, I think it was on Any Questions or one of those programmes in Warwick a few months ago, and I gave her a lift home back to Ealing.
“We talked for a couple of hours and it was very clear on almost every issue, our views were almost identical. And so I would find it very difficult to vote against somebody like that, and I hope that our people around the country are discriminating and think and act in a constructive way.”
The recording captured Sir Vince saying there would have to be tax rises after June’s poll.
Sarah Olney, the Lib Dem candidate in Richmond Park, was also recorded saying she wants Labour’s Ms Huq to win in Ealing, adding: “Being tactical isn’t just about standing down or voting for the right candidate, it also can be about paper candidates, but not campaigning.”
Sir Vince later told LBC his party had a “clear policy” not to go into government with Labour leader Mr Corbyn.
But he backed local deals in so-called progressive alliances on an “ad hoc basis”, adding: “I think if the local parties decide that’s what they want to do, they should do it.”
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron told ITV News voting for his party “is the way to express opposition to the Conservatives with a huge majority”.
Asked if he was embarrassed by Sir Vince’s comments, Mr Farron added: “On the ground it’s absolutely right that politicians of all political parties actually treat each other like human beings, not members of different isolated tribes, but it’s also important that we as a party are very clear in our message there will be no deal, no pacts, no coalitions.
“It’s about the Lib Dems being the only serious and clear alternative to a Tory landslide.”