I know that it is unfashionable to feel sorry for Liberal Democrat MPs. Nevertheless there are times when, contemplating their unhappy lot, it seems appropriate to feel the odd pang of pity.
The latest polling from Lord Ashcroft furnishes one of these rare moments. He asked punters who they would like to see form the next government. As you would expect 77 percent of Tory supporters want a Conservative government while 14 percent actually rather like being in coalition with the Lib Dems and would be quite happy to see that arrangement continue. The picture is much the same amongst Labour voters. 80 percent say they want Labour to govern alone and 12 percent think a Labour-Lib Dem alliance would be better for Britain.
But what of the remaining Lib Dem voters? Only 70 percent of them favour being in power after the next election. 28 percent thirst for a renewal of vows with the Tories and 42 percent want to ditch the Conservatives and hope into bed with Labour.
Which leaves 30 percent of Lib Dem voters hoping that the party does not return to government. Granted, seven percent of them have no idea what they think but 17 percent hope Labour form the next government and six percent want Mr Cameron to remain in Downing Street.
What is the point of a political party that’s neither interested in winning power nor, I suspect, in winning arguments? A party that preens and congratulates itself for being ‘above’ mere grubby politics but that actually is really just about a polite form of copping-out and quitting the game.
What serious politician would want to lead such a self-indulgent rabble? So while it is all very well and good and all very good and entertaining and sometimes even necessary to pour scorn on Nick Clegg and his colleagues we might pause, just occasionally, to pity them and remember that, by gosh, they just might be better than the people and party they lead.
Because, really, what is to be done with a party in which one in four of its supporters actively hope someone else wins the next election?
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.