It has been a difficult few years for the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg in particular since theyÂ formed the coalition,
Electorally, they’ve had three years of successive net loss of councillors in the local elections, finishingÂ seventhÂ andÂ eighthÂ in someÂ by-elections, losing the AV referendum, House of Lords reform foundering, and that’s before we move onto the opinion polls, which has seen the Liberal Democrats consistently polling in single digits/behind UKIP, even with the most recent ICM poll,Â they slipped into fourth place, seven points behind UKIP, which means they’ve lost half their support since the election with ICM, and even more with other pollsters.
Nick Clegg’s personal ratings have seen some recent improvements going from a net rating ofÂ minus 37 from minus 44 in May.
Yet despite all this, they seem determined to follow Sir Winston Churchill’s wartime maxim ofÂ â€œWe must just KBO*â€, as evidenced by Nick Clegg recently confirming that the coalitionÂ will last until 2015.
Unlike the the constant speculation about David Cameron’s leadership, there’s not been quite so much speculation about Nick Clegg’s leadership in recent weeks.
So what is the explanation for this lack of speculation about the future of Nick Clegg, is it that his main leadership rival wasn’t invited by Her Majesty to become Deputy Prime MinisterÂ but invited to spend time at Her Majesty’s pleasure, nor can I see the much talked about exit plan for Nick Clegg to become our next EU Commissioner,Â something which Clegg himself has ruled out, as I can’t see imagine Euro-sceptic Tory MPs allowing Cameron to make a Lib Dem our commissioner.
But is it a mixture of the following factors that is keeping Nick Clegg secure in his position?
- As the economy improves,Â there may be an improvement in the polls, as the economy,Â as the polls the economy is the most important issue facing the country today.
- The Lib Dems may be theÂ beneficiaries of the UKIP surge.
- Lord Ashcroft has notedÂ “The Lib Dems will almost certainly do better on the day than their poll numbers currently suggest, since local factors and popular MPs are a more important part of their appeal”
- Something which the Eastleigh by-election proved, particularly as the Lib Dems wereÂ polling 7% with phone pollster MoriÂ and Clegg’s net approval rating was minus 40.
- Unlike the Tories and Labour, the Lib Dems will be focussing on less than 100 seats, and it is easier to defend that number of seats.
With LadbrokesÂ the odds are on Nick Clegg leading the Lib Dems at the next election are 1/2, him not leading the Lib Dems are 6/4, whilstÂ with Paddy Power, you can get 13/2 on Clegg being replaced as Lib Dem leader in 2013.
I just hope for the Lib Dems sake, that post the 2015 General election, no one says about them,Â “C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la politique.“Â
*For the uninitiated, KBO meansÂ Keep Buggering On
Mike Smithson is currently on holiday