Nick Clegg speaks at Bloomberg's central London headquarters on June 9, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Lord Ashcroft's poll undermines the Lib Dems' optimism

The party would lose seven of its 11 most marginal seats to the Tories. 

For years, as their national poll ratings have remained stubbornly low, the Lib Dems have reassured their members that their vote is holding up in those seats where they are incumbent, particularly where the Conservatives are the main opposition. The Eastleigh by-election, in which the party comfortably held off a challenge from Ukip and the Tories, was heralded as proof of this. With the Conservatives in second place in 37 of their 56 seats, the party is confident that tactical voting by left-leaning voters, combined with their MPs' local standing, will allow them to retain around 40 of their constituencies. 

But Lord Ashcroft's new poll of Tory-Lib Dem marginals suggests such optimism may be misplaced. Based on current voting intentions, it found that the yellows would lose seven of their most marginal Tory-facing seats (see table below) to their coalition partners. Surprisingly to some, this is partly due to the large number of voters (13 per cent) the party has lost to Ukip. But as I've noted before, the Farageistes have replaced the Lib Dems as the natural party of protest for voters who dislike both the government and the opposition. 

It's important to remember, as Ashcroft always does, that this is a snapshot, not a prediction. Around half of voters are open to changing their mind, offering the Lib Dems to chance to recover lost ground as the general election approaches. Those who have defected to Labour, for instance, may baulk at the prospect of allowing a Tory in through the back door. But at the very least, it suggests that the party should be anxious about its position in these seats. 

With the Lib Dems likely to struggle in Labour-facing areas, most notably London and Scotland (the pollster Lewis Baston predicts that they could lose 10 of their 11 seats in the country), the reasons for optimism are growing ever harder to find. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Quiz: Can you identify fake news?

The furore around "fake" news shows no sign of abating. Can you spot what's real and what's not?

Hillary Clinton has spoken out today to warn about the fake news epidemic sweeping the world. Clinton went as far as to say that "lives are at risk" from fake news, the day after Pope Francis compared reading fake news to eating poop. (Side note: with real news like that, who needs the fake stuff?)

The sweeping distrust in fake news has caused some confusion, however, as many are unsure about how to actually tell the reals and the fakes apart. Short from seeing whether the logo will scratch off and asking the man from the market where he got it from, how can you really identify fake news? Take our test to see whether you have all the answers.



In all seriousness, many claim that identifying fake news is a simple matter of checking the source and disbelieving anything "too good to be true". Unfortunately, however, fake news outlets post real stories too, and real news outlets often slip up and publish the fakes. Use fact-checking websites like Snopes to really get to the bottom of a story, and always do a quick Google before you share anything. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.