NICK Clegg blamed his party’s humiliating election defeat on an “invidious” nationalism north and south of the Border as he said the Conservative campaign highlighting the prospect of a Labour-SNP coalition had “really chilled the English heart”.
Speaking on BBC1’s Sunday Politics show Mr Clegg said that a “vice- like” nationalist “fervour” swept the Liberal Democrats away on 7 May when the party was left with just one seat in Scotland as well as seeing its overall representation at Westminster fall from 57 to 8 MPs.
The former deputy prime minister stated that the “genesis” of the UK election result was in Scotland and not the coalition government as he claimed the surge in SNP support and the English nationalism he said the Conservatives had stoked up led to his party’s heavy loses.
He said that in the final period of the election campaign, “something shifted” and voters moved increasingly towards the Conservatives as the party highlighted the likelihood of a minority Labour government being propped up by the SNP.
Mr Clegg said that Mr Cameron’s campaign attacking a potential Labour-SNP deal in the event of a hung parliament had been one of the decisive reasons for him winning an overall majority.
He said: “My own view is something shifted very, very late in the day in England, in English constituency after English constituency.
“I think this really quite profound fear that the country would be run by a sort of combination of Ed Miliband and Alex Salmond really chilled the English heart, and it meant that a lot of undecided voters or waverers decided in the end to play it safe. And playing it safe meant voting Conservative.”
The former Liberal Democrat leader, who quit after the election, said the rise of the SNP had been “skilfully exploited” by Conservative strategists who also poured “huge resources” into target seats.
“One of the things that needs to happen in the technical post-mortem about this General Election is how on earth the Conservatives spent such vast American-style sums of money across the country from centrally directed campaigns, which ran a coach and horses through the financial limits on how local candidates can campaign,” he said .
“So they were able to do that. We clearly were not able to match that, remotely. I mean, it was a real David and Goliath battle for resources.”
However, Mr Clegg dismissed suggestions that the Lib Dem meltdown, which saw high-profile former ministers such as Vince Cable and Danny Alexander lose their seats, was due to the party’s decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.
Mr Clegg, who narrowly retained his own seat in Sheffield Hallam, said: “The genesis for this was in Scotland rather than Whitehall.
“You had this dynamic of Scottish nationalism north of the Border and English nationalism south of the Border, which was pretty invidious for us.”
He said the Lib Dems suffered a collapse in the face of “vice-like” nationalist “fervour” in different parts of the UK.
But Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser accused Mr Clegg of attempting to blame other parties for his “own failings”.
He said: “I don’t think Nick Clegg should point the finger of blame at anyone other than himself for the Lib Dem meltdown.
“Many people who voted Lib Dem felt betrayed by them.”