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Nick Clegg hits back over Nazi slur

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 22 April 2010

The Liberal Democrat leader says he has gone from Churchill to a Nazi in a week after facing intense media scrutiny over immigration and money paid into his bank account.

Nick Clegg said he had gone from Churchill to a Nazi within a week (Reuters)

"I must be the only leader who's gone from Churchill to a Nazi within a week", Nick Clegg said today, in the face of mounting attacks over political donations and his party's policies.

The Liberal Democrat leader has denied any wrongdoing over donations, and said he had the figures to prove it - after the Daily Telegraph claimed that regular payments from three businessmen were paid directly into his private bank account before he became leader.

The paper also reprinted excerpts from a Liberal Democrat political handbook endorsing dirty campaign tactics, citing a range of leaflets in marginal constituencies which they described as a "wholesale distortion" of the facts.

The Daily Mail was even more alarmist, with a front page splash accusing Mr Clegg of a "Nazi slur" on Britain over comments he made eight years ago about Anglo-German relations.

Lord Mandelson accused the Tories of orchestrating a media "smear" campaign against Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

Labour's campaign supremo claimed the Conservatives were in a state of "panic" because their own campaign was in disarray.

He said the appearance of a series of hostile front-page stories in today's newspapers attacking Mr Clegg bore the hallmarks of Conservative communications director Andy Coulson, a former editor of the News of the World.

The Tories dismissed his claim that they were behind the articles as "utter nonsense".

It is all an effort to pile on the pressure ahead of tonight's crucial leaders debate, as the Liberal Democrats continue to show strongly in almost every opinion poll - evidence that the "Clegg bounce" from last Thursday's first debate is still working in their favour.

It has thrown the Conservatives onto the back foot. They have switched their tactics over the last few days to warn against what they call the "dangers" of a hung parliament.

David Cameron broke off from his morning run to insist he was still "really, really" enjoying the campaign - although he did admit the Tories had a fight on their hands.

If Mr Clegg is under pressure to deliver a similar performance, David Cameron is under even more pressure to improve his game - not least from the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who said the Tory leader needed to deliver a "knockout blow" to his Lib Dem rival.

By contrast, a debate on foreign policy would allow the prime minister's strengths to shine through: "Gordon is the only man standing on that stage with the strength and the clarity to govern the country," he said.
Mr Miliband claimed Mr Cameron had been exposed over the last week - but he also predicted that the "bubble of protest" for Nick Clegg would not last.

As for the Liberal Democrats, it is not so easy for them to ignore the hype. This surely must be Nick Clegg's debate to lose, as the media drag him from hero to zero in the space of just a few days.

On the media front, Lib Dem spokesman Chris Huhne said it was a "smear" to suggest that Mr Clegg had taken a "cushy, easy road to power". But the Conservatives are still maintaining he has "serious questions to answer" over those donation allegations - questions, they say, that he can't leave unanswered.

The debate will focus on foreign affairs, so expect the Lib Dems to highlight their opposition to the war in Iraq, while they're likely to come under attack from both the other parties over their pledge to scrap Trident without a "like for like" replacement.

The latest word from Gordon Brown: I won't be talking about coalition governments tonight, he said, insisting he wanted to focus on “the major issues facing the world” - from nuclear proliferation to, yes, the global economy.

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