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May is going to be an unhappy month for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems

By Jonathan Isaby

Nick Clegg 2011 petrified The latest polling shows that the Lib Dems should increasingly be preparing for a devastating verdict from the British people on May 5th.

Firstly, it looks like the Alternative Vote system which they are proposing for Westminster elections will be rejected in the nationwide referendum.

ComRes has the No campaign three points ahead (37% to 34% with 28% saying they don't know) when people are simply asked whether they want to see the introduction of AV; and YouGov, when giving a short explanation of AV, has most recently found 47% of people saying No (with 30% backing Yes and 15% saying they don't know).

With the remaining Don't Knows inclined to vote for the status quo, if history is anything to go by (so I am told), the Lib Dem dream of changing the electoral system looks like it will be in tatters for a generation.

And today brings further grim forecasts for the Liberal Democrats in terms of the local council elections which are also happening across most of England outside London on that first Thursday in May.

Under headlines "That's the end of Dem" and "It''s over and rout for Clegg", the Sun reports a new YouGov survey asking people how they will vote in those council elections, with the following result:
  • Labour - 39%
  • Conservative - 34%
  • Lib Dems - 13%

In the equivalent elections in 2007, the Lib Dems had attained 24% of the vote, and analysis by the respected academic Professor Colin Rallings of the University of Plymouth suggests that this will result in 700 of the Lib Dems' 1,850 councillors being defeated. It would also see the party losing control of 14 of the 25 councils it controls.

Don't get me wrong, it's going to be a difficult set of elections for the Conservatives too, defending a high water mark of more than 5,000 councillors, of whom 20% could lose their seats. Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi put it even more starkly when she told the Daily Telegraph during Spring Forum: "We will do badly in the local elections".

The thing is, of course, that Conservatives are used to the phenomenon of a mid-term slump in the polls and at the polls when in government; the Liberal Democrats are not. They look set to learn for themselves that being in power and taking difficult decisions sees the electorate punishing you at local elections.

All of which will create further tensions within the Coalition - and put pressure on Nick Clegg in particular - with likely demands from the Lib Dems that they should be granted more concessions to keep the Coalition in tact (see Montgomerie's Law of the Coalition).


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