The defining test for the Lib Dems in the local elections is how they perform in those areas where they have MPs. If the party can hold on in its local strongholds, Nick Clegg will be able to put a positive spin on what are generally terrible results.
To the relief of Lib Dem HQ, then, they can point to signs of resilience. The party won comfortably in Eastleigh, where the Conservative vote collapsed from 28 per cent to just 16 per cent, and in Birmingham Yardley, where it defeated Labour by 46 per cent to 28 per cent. In addition, it held Sutton, where it has two MPs – Paul Burstow and Tom Brake – and gained four seats from the Tories and Labour.
The main exception is Kingston, home to Energy Secretary Ed Davey, where the party lost control to the Tories having held the council for 12 years. Davey will hope that the result says more about the performance of the council, which has the highest rate of council tax in London and saw its leader jailed, then it does about his general election chances.
But while the party has performed credibly in Tory-facing seats, it has suffered in areas where Labour is the main challenger. It lost control of Cambridge, where Julian Huppert is MP, and lost seats in Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone’s constituency.
If it’s clear that the Lib Dems aren’t destined for wipeout in 2015, it’s also clear that some of its best-known figures are in serious danger of losing their seats next year.