Nick Clegg has launched an attack on BBC star Jeremy Paxman for his "sneering" attitude to politics.
The Deputy Prime Minister said the Newsnight presenter treated all politicians as "rogues and charlatans".
The intervention came after Paxman said he did not vote at a recent election because he had found the parties "unappetising" - although he stressed he later regretted not casting a ballot.
Speaking on his regular LBC radio phone-in, Liberal Democrat leader Mr Clegg said: "Here is a guy who gets paid a million pounds, thereabouts, paid for by taxpayers.
"He lives off politics and he spends all his time sneering at politics. We know that politics is not perfect, but at the end of the day it is the way that we decide how you pay your taxes, how we support our hospitals, our schools, whether we are going to war or not, how we deal with climate change.
"Of course it is sometimes unedifying, but this idea that you can just sort of sneer at the whole thing, dismiss everyone as being rogues and charlatans and therefore 'I am going to wash my hands of the whole thing' - I think it is a total abdication of responsibility.
"At the end of the day I have got this old fashioned view that if you want to improve something, get stuck in and get your hands dirty.
"Don't somehow pretend that you can turn your back on it."
The row was sparked by an interview Paxman conducted with Russell Brand, in which the comedian said he had never voted because he regarded politicians as untrustworthy and irrelevant.
Despite criticising Brand during the interview, the journalist later told the Radio Times he had some sympathy with his position.
"Russell Brand has never voted because he finds the process irrelevant. I can understand that: the whole green-bench pantomime in Westminster looks a remote and self-important echo-chamber. But it is all we have," Paxman said.
He said he did not vote in a recent election "because I thought the choice so unappetising".
"By the time the polls had closed and it was too late to take part, I was feeling really uncomfortable: the person who chooses not to vote - cannot even be bothered to write 'none of the above' on a ballot paper - disqualifies himself from passing any comment at all," he added.