The oleaginous Labour peer and Blairite eminence rose, Lord Mandelson, comes out swinging against the Tory press's "smears" against Clegg:

“The press stories we have seen today are straight out of the Tory Party dirtytricks manual. These things do not happen at the drop of a hat. This is pure Andy Coulson-style News of the World territory turned into political form.

“They are classic smears of the sort that we have seen directed against Labour in many general elections. Now this Tory treatment is being given to the Liberal Democrats."

He added: “This is born of Tory panic, the Tories pushing the smear button in the hope that this will damage Clegg. Well, in my opinion, the Tories are wrong. I think people will see this exercise for what it is: it is cheap and frankly rather squalid with no place in this election.”

Of course this is all a clever attempt to recast the Tories as the nasty party, and suck up to the liberal-Democrats in preparation for a possible liberal-Labour coalition government if the Tories fail to get a majority.

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