Nick Clegg has said Labour’s decision to “demonise austerity” as “evil” is what led to Jeremy Corbyn being elected its party leader.
The former Lib Dem deputy prime minister also told his party conference in Bournemouth on Monday evening that David Cameron ended up behaving like a “demented gorilla”.
And defending his decision to take the Lib Dems into a full coalition with the Tories in 2010, Clegg said he would never have backed the sort of “tawdry” deal the DUP has done with Theresa May.
Clegg the loss of his Sheffield Hallam seat at the snap 2017 election to Labour’s Jared O’Mara was “terrible”.
The former Lib Dem leader said while he understood why voters liked Corbyn’s manifesto as it was “an invitation to the British public to have a warm bath and a nice cup of tea”.
But Clegg criticised Labour for not explaining how the country would afford its policies.
“I totally understand why they did this, but the Labour Party had been in government for 13 years and actually presided over many deeply regressive things, far more regressive than we would have allowed,” he said.
“They just loved being in Opposition suddenly in 2010 and found the easiest thing was to demonise any idea of how to save money.”
He added: “It’s what created Jeremy Corbyn. Because if you spend five years demonising austerity and some sort of evil choice, then of course you can never digest ideas that sometimes you need row back as a country in a way of living within the means of what you can afford.”
Speaking to Lib Dem activists, Clegg said it was right to enter coalition with Cameron.
But he lamented the former prime minister’s decision to shift from a moderate “compassionate Conservative” to a one who went out of his way to satisfy right-wing Tory backbenchers.
“It was like being a caged with a demented gorilla who was constantly thrashing around constantly trying to find new ways to satisfy Jacob Rees-Mogg, [Daily Mail editor] Paul Dacre and these loopy people,” he said.
Clegg, who is fiercely pro-European, also said MPs should be able to reject the eventual Brexit deal negotiated by May and leave open the opportunity for the UK to “re-enter” the EU.
“A democracy that doesn’t think again is not a democracy,” he said.