Nick Clegg at the Lib Dems' annual spring conference in March. (Photo: Getty)
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Are things really looking that bad for the Lib Dems?

According to the FT, 72% of people who voted for the Lib Dems in 2010 would no longer do so. But no one’s panicking yet.

So, according to the FT, 72% of voters who put their crosses next to a Lib Dem candidate’s name in the 2010 General Election wouldn’t vote for us now.

Fourteen months from a general election, I’d be the first to admit this is not ideal.

It’s not quite as bad as it seems; after all, the same survey reveals that a fifth of people who voted Labour last time – something of a nadir in polling terms for the party in recent general elections – wouldn’t vote for them now either. Way to go, Ed and the team.

But it’s not good. So why aren’t folk throwing themselves off the roof of Great George Street at this news?

Well, first of all we know a lot of those who supported us in 2010 voted tactically, and tactical voting comes back to bite you in the arse if you end up in coalition government. All those people who voted Lib Dem under the misapprehension we were a slightly more radical offshoot of the Labour Party and a vote for us would keep the Tories out are feeling fairly cheesed off. That ain’t changing.

But it’s no surprise. And actually, in terms of seats, losing those votes may not be the electoral disaster it at first seems. There’s a reason just 16 of the 106 top Labour targets are Lib Dem seats (and some of those seem optimistic – Bermondsey and Old Southwark for example). It’s because Labour think they stand more chance of picking up seats in Tory territory.

That’s largely because of the hidden effect of incumbency, which enormously favours Lib Dems MPs; especially those who didn’t vote against party policy on issues such as raising tuition fees for example. (All those Lib dems MPs who voted for it were voting against party policy as opposed to coalition policy; it was still party policy to abolish fees altogether, immediately, until last autumn when the policy was nuanced somewhat.) Eight of the Labour targets seats contained Lib Dem MPs who were tuition fees rebels, going some way to neutralising Labour’s favourite weapon of attack in those constituencies. And let’s not forget more Lib Dem backbenchers rebelled on fees than say, Labour backbenchers rebelled on the welfare cap.

Indeed, seat by seat analysis (like the one carried out by Iain Dale) suggests even now we’re likely to get a return on 30-35 seats as things stand in a general election. Which frankly, we’d probably take at the moment. And that’s before you factor in the 21 per cent of 2010 Lib Dem voters who at the moment are “don’t knows”, who we can attempt to inveigle back into the fold.

So is it good nearly three-quarters of voters who wanted us in government in 2010 now wouldn’t vote for us? Lord no. But no one’s panicking in Great George Street.

Not yet, anyway.

Whether they should be panicking? Well that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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Why it's far too early to declare Ukip dead

The party could yet thrive if Brexit disappoints those who voted Leave.

"Nothing except a battle lost can be half as melancholy as a battle won," wrote the Duke of Wellington after Waterloo. Ukip can testify to this. Since achieving its founding aim - a British vote to leave the EU - the party has descended into a rolling crisis.

Theresa May's vow to pursue Brexit, and to achieve control of immigration, robbed Ukip of its political distinctiveness. But the party's greatest enemy has been itself. Its leader Paul Nuttall did not merely lose the Stoke by-election (despite the city recording the highest Leave vote), he self-destructed in the process. Contrary to his assertions, Nuttall did not achieve a PhD, was never a professional footballer and did not lose "close personal friends" at Hillsborough. Ukip's deputy Peter Whittle pleaded last weekend that voters needed more time to get to know Nuttall. No, the problem was that they got to know him all too well. A mere three months after becoming leader, Nuttall has endured a level of mockery from which far stronger men would struggle to recover (and he may soon be relieved of the task).

Since then, Ukip's millionaire sugar daddy Arron Banks has threatened to leave the party unless he is made chairman and Nigel Farage is awarded a new role (seemingly that of de facto leader). For good measure, Farage (a man who has failed seven times to enter parliament) has demanded that Ukip's only MP Douglas Carswell is expelled for the crime of failing to aid his knighthood bid. Not wanting to be outdone, Banks has vowed to stand against Carswell at the next election if the dissenter is not purged. Any suggestion that the party's bloodlust was sated by the flooring of Steve Woolfe and Diane James's 18-day leadership has been entirely dispelled.

For all this, it is too early to pronounce Ukip's death (as many have). Despite May's ascension and its myriad woes, it has maintained an average poll rating of 12 per cent this year. This is far from its 2014 zenith, when it polled as high as 25 per cent, but also far from irrelevancy. Incapable of winning Labour seats itself, Ukip could yet gift them to the Conservatives by attracting anti-Tory, anti-Corbyn voters (in marginals, the margins matter).

Though Theresa May appears invulnerable, Brexit could provide fertile political territory for Ukip. Those who voted Leave in the hope of a radical reduction in immigration will likely be dismayed if only a moderate fall results. Cabinet ministers who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce immigration have already been forced to concede that newcomers will be required to fill vacancies for years to come. Ukip will be the natural vehicle for those aggrieved by Brexit "betrayal". Some Leave voters are already dismayed by the slowness of the process (questioning why withdrawal wasn't triggered immediately) and will revolt at the "transitional period" and budget contributions now regarded as inevitable.

The declarations of Ukip's death by both conservatives and liberals have all the hallmarks of wishful thinking. Even if the party collapses in its present form, something comparable to it would emerge. Indeed, the complacency of its opponents could provide the very conditions it needs to thrive.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.