At the 2010 general election the Liberal Democrats won 24% of the popular vote. By the end of that year the party’s share in national polls had fallen by half, and it has since shown no sign of recovering. Whether this collapse in national support means the Lib Dems lose a proportionate number of seats is one of the most important factors that will determine the outcome of the next election.
The Lib Dems are famously tenacious local campaigners. Their strategy has long been to build support at constituency level through by-elections and local government, and once elected their incumbents have proved hard to shift. Last year’s Eastleigh by-election showed the party can still mobilise its council base to hold on to a Westminster seat in spite of wider conditions.