James Forsyth James Forsyth

For a group of Lib Dem MPs, the war is already over

The anti-Clegg Liberal Democrats are fond of World War One analogies, likening their leader to a general sending wave after wave of troops over the top to their deaths. But a more fitting military analogy would be that around a third of Liberal Democrat MPs are cut off behind enemy lines and there is nothing that can be done to save them that wouldn’t endanger the rest of the army.

The stark reality is, as I argue in the column this week, if you are a Lib Dem MP in heavily Labour territory you are going to lose your seat. This is a hard thing for any MP to accept but particularly hard for a Liberal Democrat. The party has always believed that there is no problem that simply working harder, doing more case work and delivering more leaflets can’t solve. But now that the Liberal Democrats are a party of government this simply isn’t true anymore.

Now, some of Clegg’s critics argue that a new leader or the even more dramatic step of pulling out of the coalition might change this. But doing either of these things would put Lib Dem MPs in Tory facing seats, who currently have a good chance of survival, at risk.

The last few days have shown that the only person who can remove Clegg is Clegg himself. There might be a sizeable number of Lib Dems who are ambivalent about Clegg’s leadership but they are not prepared to put the party through a long, divisive and bloody leadership with no guarantee of success.

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