Even before polling day in the local elections the Lib Dems have suffered a great setback with a decline in the number of their candidates. Traditionally this is a party that does relatively well in council elections. In the 2009 local elections the Lib Dems won 28 per cent of the vote – in an opinion poll at the same time they were on 19 per cent.

It is quite possible that the Lib Dems in London could fall from third place in the share of the votes in the council elections to sixth place – falling behind not only UKIP but also the Green Party. A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times put the Green Party just ahead of the Lib Dems for the Euro Elections. However many will vote for different parties with different ballot papers.

In any case you need to read the small print with these vote share measures. Some just look at the share of the vote in seats contested. That has the perverse outcome whereby by not fielding candidates at all in difficult areas the Lib Dems appear to boost their share of the vote. There can be some efforts to adjust for this but the problem leaves the psephologists with terrible headaches.

The number of seats they will lose is perhaps a more reliable test. Elections analyst Rob Hayward puts it as 300. Losses above that would be worse than expected – losses much below that would actually represent a good night for the Lib Dems when measured against expectations.

I have already noted that in terms of the councils the Lib Dems could lose, the potential is limited. Partly this is because they have already lost such a lot of them. Also, in most places only a third of seats are up for elections – this makes it just about impossible for them to lose Portsmouth, or Eastleigh or South Lakeland.

A good night for the Lib Dems would be holding onto Kingston. A reasonable night would be losing Kingston but nothing else. A bad night would be also losing Cheltenham and Three Rivers. A very bad night would be also losing Sutton.

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