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9 September 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:14am

Lib Dems: how are you going to fight the next election?

Questions for Nick Clegg's party to mull

By James Macintyre

The next general election is probably still several years away, which may explain why it has not been much discussed in the media so far. But it is the Liberal Democrat annual conference at the end of next week, so that can serve as a hook for a couple of questions that the Lib Dems should start thinking about.

— Are the Lib Dems planning to go into the next election as an independent political force?

— Are they going to field candidates against senior Tories on an opposing ticket (and are the Tories going to field candidates against Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam? Or will there be a deal, a slate system)?

— Is the Lib Dem leader going to team up with the Tory leader during the TV debates at the election?

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Many will say it is too early to consider such questions. But with the potential “double whammy” next May looming for the Lib Dems — heavy defeats in the local elections and possible defeat in the Alternative Vote referendum amid a potential identity crisis for the third party — Lib Dem delegates gathering in Liverpool next week may want to start putting their thinking caps on.