Ever since they slipped into third place in the 1920s the Liberals have been Britain's centre party: Middle of the road where the long yellow streak is, all things to all folk standing for values and virtue and also providing a channel for protest as a bucket to spit into.
A marvellous role! Always right. Never responsible .Not political either because Libs always dug themselves in by pavement politics, being on the side of everybody against whoever was in power.
Unfortunately Cleggie and a group of right wing neo liberals got tired of being virtuous but impotent and wanted a bit of pelf and place so in 2010 when the Tories needed a few suckers to give them power and share the blame for a very illiberal austerity Cleggie rushed in as sorcerer's apprentice and Osbone's little helper.
Result? The wages of sin are death, damage, and discredit which will lose them half their seats and votes. Cleggie is now plying for hire again but his party has now damaged itself so badly that it's less desirable as a mate and has lost its third party role to a jostling scrum of nationalists and naive idealists. The values and young naive votes to the Greens, the disgruntled vote to UKIP, and the protest votes to the SNP, Plaid and Paisley
In other words there's now no real role for the Liberals and no great future as the always right but never potent party. Pity really but it couldn't have happened to a nicer crowd
The sad result of the death of hope in English politics is the rise of defensive politics and limitation of aims and ambition. I can see it vividly locally
In 1997 when Labour was on a roll as the party of hope all the local action in South Humberside concentrated on winning Cleethorpes and Brigg and Goole leaving me in Grimsby feeling positively alone and neglected. Big names were trundled in. But never to Grimsby. Paid party workers and students poured in. But not to Grimsby. John Prescott flew in in a helicopter to be greeted by a huge cheering crowd. But, you guessed it, not to Grimsby.
Labour won both seats and held them to 2010. Now Labour needs to win them back to form a Government. Both are winnable marginals. Yet all is different. All the effort , the recruited talent, the shadow ministerial visits are going onto Grimsby because of the scare that UKIP might win it, but while Grimsby gets overkill the real marginals are starved. No Prezza, no party workers - all diverted to Grimsby. Little money, little help, and candidates with small parties who feel neglected. If only because they are.
Is it only me or do you get the feeling that this election is winding down before the electorate is wound up. No new ideas. No new policies. Just a dreadful juddering stalemate.