Lib Dems struggle with the reality of being a 'Government party'

By Tom Bradby: Political Editor

If remaining cheerful in trying circumstances was enough to get you into Number Ten Downing Street, Nick Clegg would be looking like the next Prime Minister.

But it isn't and he doesn't. That said, he had a simple message for me on the campaign trail today; I will survive.

Whatever the results of Thursday's local and Euro elections, that is.

So, will he?

Probably, yes. Because even if the Lib Dems do incredibly badly, as most pundits and all polls suggest they will, there is no obvious successor and little sign that any other candidate would do significantly better.

Nick Clegg speaks with voters Credit: ITV News

The truth is the Lib Dems have hoovered up protest votes for decades and are now struggling with the reality of being an 'additional' Government party, which is to say one that is never likely to see its leader walk into Number Ten.

Or to put it another way; a party that gets all of the opprobrium but not of the credit for tough decisions.

The Lib Dems will probably do badly this Thursday, but a meltdown in the General Election is less easy to predict.

We are in a remarkable place at the moment in British politics in that all the main parties seem depressed by their prospects - and yet one of them must lead the next government.

In this environment, a resolute and somewhat disengaged 'no change' vote seems the most likely outcome and this will help Lib Dem MPs, many of whom have ferociously capable local operations, even if the national mood is quite hostile to their party.

The smarter brains in the party know this, which is why morale internally is still not entirely collapsing.