There was a joke going around Westminster in 2010, when the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition with the Conservatives. If you phoned Lib Dem headquarters, it ran, and asked for a copy of the party’s manifesto, the answer was: “Sorry, we’ve sold out.” At the time, even newly empowered Lib Dem Cabinet ministers allowed themselves a chuckle at the gag. Now, they aren’t laughing.
Nick Clegg is paying the price of his decision in 2010 to join in a coalition with a party with very different views from his own on everything from Europe to immigration to constitutional reform. It was a gamble, the consequences of which are now shaking the party.
The Lib Dem record in government has been mixed. There have been successes, such as the raising of the personal income tax allowance, which will increase to £9,205 from April 2013. The party also scored a victory when