It’s the local and European elections across the UK today. I’ll be blogging bits throughout the day, but here’s a few thoughts on the consequences for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats if they face heavy losses amongst their councillors and MEPs.
So let’s be clear at the start. There are two different options: either Nick Clegg will be forced out after 2015, or he’ll be forced out in 2014. There’s no choice in it for him.
The calculation is, for the Liberal Democrats, is when to get rid of him. They could try and regain support prior to the general election by removing Clegg now after the Euros. This has the advantage of possibly leaving them with more MPs after 2015, but it could also easily claim the scalp of whoever steps up to dethrone Clegg this year. Who’d want to become leader just before the party loses most of its MPs? They’d just be sacked soon after for failing to turn things around.
The other option that the Liberal Democrats have is to keep Clegg as leader until after the election in 2015. The payoff is that when they then get rid of him there’s a fresh new start, and a sense that things will only get better for them. The risk though is that too many MPs will lose their seats, and the Liberal Democrats will slide into complete irrelevance.
The real question is whether they are too cautious to depose him now, or too worried to wait for the pain. Cowardly or fearful? With the Liberal Democrats it’s hard to tell.