chris huhne
Chris Huhne has heaped more pressure on beleaguered Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg

The new week started badly for struggling Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg after being accused of serving up voters a "colourless mush" capable of "destroying" the party's election hopes.

Former Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has stuck the boot in on the embattled deputy prime minster, with an excoriating critique of the Liberal Democrats' position – with the next general election less than a year away.

Another insider attack about his party's substance and appeal will be the last thing Clegg needs as he attempts to rally his party in the wake of heavy losses at local and EU elections.

An attempt to oust him as leader recently failed, when Lord Oakeshott quit the party in the wake of dismal election results. Now Huhne has added his influential voice to the chorus of angst swirling around Clegg.

Convicted for transferring speeding points to his ex-wife Vicky Pryce disgraced Huhne's assertion underlines recent opinion polls that showed Clegg was "the least popular leader of any party in modern times".

In the Guardian, Huhne warned the Lib Dems risked being lumped together with the Tories by voters as junior partners in the Coalition governmment, which posed a risk to its appeal.

"The party needs to get back its insurgent elan, and remember that no one ever joined the Liberal Democrats as the quick route to a ministerial limo," said Huhne.

"The party is mistrustful of private and public power, dissatisfied with our democracy. It has to show it wants to change the system, not just run it.

Huhne said voters were turned off a lack of dinstinctiveness.

"Clegg should ditch the centrist fallacy that people want a colourless mush. Labour supporters hate the Tories and vice versa. People who hate the Tories do not want Tory-lite. People who hate Labour do not want Labour-lite," said Huhne.

"If voters think the reason for Lib Dems is just to dilute the Tories or Labour, they will vote for the big party they least dislike. It is a recipe for destroying the Lib Dem vote: ministers beware."