Byline: BOB ROBERTS
DICK Dastardly, Cruella De Vil, Daleks, get out of town.
There is a new king of the cartoon villains - Nick Clegg.
The Lib Dem leader found himself vilified by the so-called attack dogs of the right-wing press yesterday.
In one paper he was labelled a Nazi.
In another was a banner headline "Clegg on his Face" after he questioned the Afghanistan War.
And a broadsheet carried an "expos" of his donations from businessmen - although they were all publicly declared in 2006.
The crime of the mild-mannered politician, barely heard of outside Westminster a week ago, has been to overtake David Cameron, the darling of the right, in the polls.
But it sparked a hilarious reaction as a Twitter campaign made a mockery of the crude smears.
The "nickcleggsfault" tag became the most popular in Britain within hours.
Thousands of fun messages blaming him for all the world's problems left the barely disguised Tory attack against the Liberal Democrat looking daft.
Among the funniest of the mocking tweets sent to #nickcleggsfault were:
Kennedy assassination: new footage confirms gunman on grassy knoll was Nick Clegg #nickcleggsfault
Nick Clegg was seen two weeks ago poking Icelandic volcano with a stick #nickcleggsfault
Nick Clegg lived in same town as a seriously ill man and never visited him, though he knows he has a spare kidney #nickcleggsfault
The San Andreas Fault has also now been renamed the #NickCleggsFault
Samantha Cameron is pregnant #nickcleggsfault
When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's #nickcleggsfault In Westminster there was widespread realisation that the smear campaign was going wrong within hours of it being launched. It outraged even the Lib Dems' political opponents.
Labour's chief election strategist Peter Mandelson said: "I think the coverage is frankly disgusting.
"The press stories we have seen today are straight out of the Tory Party dirty tricks manual. These things do not happen at the drop of a hat.
"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."
Mr Clegg merely shrugged off the attack, pointing out that last week similar papers were reporting him as being as popular as Second World War leader Winston Churchill.
He said: "I must be the only politician who's gone from being Churchill to being a Nazi in under a week. I hope people won't be bullied into, be frightened into, not choosing something different. …