It just gets worse for the Lib Dems. In the biggest shock result of the night, Vince Cable has lost his Twickenham seat to the Conservatives. The Business Secretary was expected to survive on the basis of his personal popularity. But such is the scale of the swing against his party that the much-touted “incumbency advantage” counted for little. The Tories, for whom Cable became a hate figure in recent years, will relish this victory.
Cable is the biggest of the Lib Dem beasts to fall: Simon Hughes, Lynne Featherstone and Ed Davey have also been decapitated. The party’s decision to enter coalition with the Tories has proved electorally ruinous. As Angela Merkel once remarked to David Cameron of coalition governments: “The little party always gets smashed!” Having won 57 seats in 2010, the Lib Dems will be lucky to hold more than 10 tonight. For the Tories, conversely, the decision to enter coalition in 2010 now looks like an electoral masterstroke. It is taking scores of seats from the Lib Dems but Labour is still struggling to make gains despite the collapse of its centre-left rival. While he has retained his own Sheffield Hallam seat, it is doubtful whether Nick Clegg can remain leader after a humiliation on this scale. Should he resign, it is Tim Farron, the activists’ darling, who represents the safe seat of Westmorland and Lonsdale who will take over.