What’s gone wrong for the Lib Dems?

Unless there is a major shift tonight, this might not be such a game-changer for the third party.

At least something is going right -- Chris Huhne has held on to his Eastleigh seat.

But the results so far are certainly not reflecting the "Cleggmania" that followed the leaders' first televised debate, nor do they live up to the neck-and-neck-with-Labour ratings shown in the polls last week.

There are several possible reasons for this. It's possible the TV debates just didn't have quite as much of an impact as was widely expected. Respondents were likely to treat polls taken immediately after the debate as a poll of who they thought best in the debate, rather than whom they were voting for, regardless of how the question was phrased.

This leads to a second possible distorting factor -- the sheer quantity of polling in this election. The introduction of the daily poll may, in fact, have been counterproductive to the aim of presenting an accurate picture of national mood or voter intention.

Finally, Lib Dem support is notoriously soft. Many people like the idea of the party -- even more so those who were exposed to the party through the leaders' debate -- but, when it comes down to it, feel that their vote might be wasted.

Both of the other main parties played on this, Labour saying that a vote for the Lib Dems would let Cameron in through the back door (certainly a potent tactic among people I know) and the Tories warning of the dangers of a hung parliament.

Perhaps this election won't be quite the game-changer for the third party that many thought it would be just a few weeks ago.

Of course, this could all change as the night goes on. Clegg could yet be kingmaker.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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