In some extraordinary remarks to the Guardian, the Captain accuses Cameron of a breach of faith and warns that there will be “consequences”. He claims the prime minister “panicked in the face of his right-wingers” and helped propagate a “regiment of lies” during the AV campaign.
The remarks appear to have the backing of the Lib Dem command. Here are the Ashdown quotes – given to Patrick Wintour at the Guardian — in full:
“So far the coalition has been lubricrated by a large element of goodwill and trust. It is not any longer. The consequence is that when it comes to the bonhomie of the Downing Street rose garden, that has gone. It will never again be glad confident morning.”
After only partially quoting Robert Browning, he goes on to explain that the coalition is to become more “transactional”. Great news for the lawyers.
The bottom line is thatLiberal Democrats are exceedingly angry. We believe there has been a breach of faith here. If the Conservative party funds to the level of 99% a campaign whose central theme is to denigrate and destroy our leader, there are consequences for that.
“What that means is that this is a relationship that is much less about congeniality, it becomes a business relationship, a transactional relationship, and maybe it will be all the better for that.”
Of all the post-war prime ministers, he claims Cameron would be alone in refusing to disassociate himself with the tactics of the No campaign.
“David Cameron is the prime minister. He sets the tone of politics in this country. It is an unhappy fact that when he was asked to dissociate himself from a campaign that was run on the basis of personalisation and personal attacks, and messages that were far more than some subtle bending of the truth, he refused to do that.
“I have to say that he did not dissociate himself from a campaign whose nature I believe every previous British prime minister in my time would have disassociated himself from. That is a grave disappointment.
There is more. Cameron “backtracked” on his agreement with Clegg, he claims:
“This is a triumph for the regiment of lies. We live with pretty strenuous political campaigns in Britain, but these were downright lies.”
“In backtracking, to use no stronger a word than that, on what was a private agreement he had with Nick Clegg about the way this campaign was conducted, I think the prime minister panicked in the face of his rightwingers. I regret that.”
While calling for a complete overhaul of how the coalition, he realises that he has to make clear it is not a criticism of Clegg’s first year as deputy prime minister:
“We have set our hands to this task and now it must be completed so the purpose of the coalition has not altered, but the mood music, the atmosphere of the coalition most assuredly has as a result of what has gone on in the past three weeks. I think we should be much more straightforward where we disagree. That is not a criticism of Clegg.
“I have always said when asked I did not think the result of the referendum could affect the coalition, but I did think the way it was fought could.”
“I am very clear that the nature of this coalition and the way that it ends, the mood between the two parties when it ends and therefore what happens afterwards, may well be affected by this.”