The Liberal Democrats are facing wipeout in their South Western heartlands. According to a new poll from ComRes/ITV News conducted in 14 Lib Dem seats, there is currently a 13-point swing to the Tories. If this was repeated on May 7, the Lib Dems would lose the following seats to their coalition partners: Bath, Cheltenham, Chippenham, Cornwall North, Devon North, Dorset Mid & Poole North, Somerton & Frome, St Austell & Newquay, St Ives, Taunton Deane, Thornbury & Yate, Torbay, Wells, Yeovil. Senior party figures who would be out include policy guru and Cabinet Office minister David Laws and the pensions minister Steve Webb.
One of the reasons for the collapsing Lib Dem vote might be Nick Clegg. In these seats, ComRes reports that 29 per cent of the voters say that Clegg puts them off backing the Liberal Democrats, while 32 per cent say the party has becoming irrelevant — worryingly, including one in five Lib Dem voters. Traditionally, it was thought that Lib Dem MPs benefited from a strong incumbency factor but 72 per cent of voters in this poll say they will be voting for the party they like best, not just the individual candidates. The only little bit of conciliation is that just over half of Liberal Democrats supporters will be backing the candidate they like best. So no matter how disgruntled they are with the party, they will still back their local MP.
There is a view amongst some Liberal Democrats that if the party loses badly at the election — and this poll suggests they will — it would be better for the party to go into opposition and lick their wounds instead of entering into another government. Just under half say the Liberal Democrats in these South Western seats say they should enter another formal coalition, compared to 20 per cent who think they should stay out of government altogether.