The Lib Dems' Tim Farron needs a 'Cleggmania' moment

Emma Murphy (left) travels with Tim Farron on the Lib Dem battle bus.

For the last two weeks I've been travelling around the country on the Liberal Democrat battle bus, thousands of miles as the party chase down votes.

But talking to potential voters two things come up every time....."The Lib Dems, who's the leader now?" often followed by "after what they did with tuition fees, how can we trust them?"

It's a double edge problem for the party - they have a real issue with visibility and for all the broken political promises over the years it is their going back on raising tuition fees which stands out.

That's why today is so important - for the Lib Dems and their not so well known leader Tim Farron. He says he wants the party to be the official opposition but the last election decimated them. In terms of seats that's almost impossible - they only have 9 and they won't get many more without, at the very least, getting voters to know them and like them.

Tonight's ITV Leaders' debate is the biggest audience Tim Farron has ever had. It's a direct line into the homes of millions of potential voters - a chance to get the Lib Dem message out there at a time when the party barely in double figures depending on which polls you use and Mr Farron's approval rating is in the minus numbers.

Tim Farron's approval ratings need a boost. Credit: PA

But cast your mind back to 2010 and things weren't much better for then leader Nick Clegg.

After 90 minutes in the studio he emerged to a very different world - no longer Nick Who - he was the politician everyone wanted a part of. Cleggmania was born. He and the party were no longer the also-rans making up numbers.

One Comres poll suggested a 14 point jump to 35% - at last people were considering voting Lib Dem in significant numbers.

So-called 'Cleggmania' took hold ahead of the 2010 General Election. Credit: PA

And that was in part how the coalition government of 2010 came to pass - and going full circle is part of the reason Tim Farron and today's Liberal Democrats are facing a battle at the ballot box.

In that coalition, among other policy changes, the party went back on that promise not to raise tuition fees. It was politically devastating and the erosion of trust remains to this day.

A protester expresses her opinions about the policy on tuition fees to former leader Nick Clegg Credit: PA

The problem is that though people may struggle to think who leads the party or what they stand for they have no problem remembering broken promises.

Tim Farron voted against raising tuition fees but if no one really knows him who knows that?

Tonight he needs a Cleggmania moment whilst separating today's party from the sins of its past.