In an interview with the Westminster Hour, to be aired on Sunday evening, he conceded that his party was likely to suffer in the local elections next May, saying: "I think it is one of the oldest rules in politics that parties in government... tend to get a dip in their popularity."No surprise there but how badly could the party lose out in Wales at next year's Assembly elections?
"Do I think we are going to be able to defy those rules of gravity at a time we are taking very difficult decisions on deficit reduction?" Mr Clegg added.
"No. I think that is unlikely."
Taking into account current polling trends, I've tried to think ahead (far ahead) to next May to see what the outcome might be for the Liberal Democrats here. Much like predicting the weather though - changes in the political climate between now and then will inevitably change this outcome...
At the moment the party hold 3 constituency seats (Brecon and Radnorshire, Montgomeryshire and Cardiff Central) and 3 of the regional seats (in North Wales, South Wales West and South Wales East).
Brecon and Radnorshire
Kirsty Williams’ seat. If they lost here it would be a devastating blow to the party in Wales and across the UK. Ms Williams holds a majority of 5,000 in the seat she’s held since the creation of the National Assembly. Her nearest rival was a Conservative while Labour and Plaid came a distant 3rd and 4th. If the Lib Dems were going to lose this seat, one would have to ask to whom would they lose it? Labour need to find 13,000 votes if they’re to come close – that’s about as many as they, the Conservatives and Plaid had at the last election here. Roger Williams’ majority over Labour and Plaid is even more impressive and with Lib Dem voters unlikely to abandon the party to vote for the Conservatives I dare say Kirsty Williams could well cling on.
They lost this seat at the General Election, and this time they don’t have an incumbent candidate. It wouldn’t be a total surprise if the Lib Dems aren’t able to get their vote out here because of the coalition deal, while the Conservatives are – they could well take this seat. However, like Brecon and Radnorshire, all other parties come a distant 3rd and 4th in Montgomeryshire and the Conservatives (who traditionally don’t always have the best showing in Assembly elections) might struggle to meet expectations – after all having Lembit Opik as his opponent probably helped push Glyn Davies over the mark in May. I’d put Montgomeryshire as too close to call.
Jenny Randerson made an all important breakthrough for the party by winning this seat in 1999. The area had traditionally been Labour but the Government in Westminster wasn’t quite living up to expectations (as they never do) and so the Lib Dems snuck in – winning the corresponding Westminster seat in 2005. The tables could well turn this time around. Labour need an increase of 7,000 votes this time but anger and frustration might just about rally their supporters enough, and bear in mind Jenny Randerson is standing down this time too. This seat could well be a loss for the Liberal Democrats next year, they’ll be fighting bitterly to save it.
The Regional Seats
Due to the peculiarity of the Additional Member Voting system the more constituency seats the party loses the more regional seats they pick up (that’s assuming the vote doesn’t completely and utterly collapse).
If the party lost the Powys seats they would almost certainly pick up a seat in Mid and West Wales – likewise in South Wales Central. Because of their poor showing at constituency level in South Wales East and West but a reasonable vote on the list (by comparison to other parties) those seats would likely not be lost.
Their North Wales seat is under threat (that’s Eleanor Burnham). The party polled just 15,000 votes across the whole region at the last Assembly election while other competitive parties all had more than 50,000. The Conservatives could well gain some constituency seats, as could Labour, and Plaid look competitive. If any constituency seats change hands and the Lib Dems lose regional votes (and they don’t have to lose that many) through a fluke of maths (and democracy I suppose) they will lose this seat.
So where does that leave them?
Not looking too shabby actually – but then they are starting from a low base. The party is unlikely to gain in the Assembly election but they may only come away with a net loss of 1 or 2 seats. Which wouldn’t be devastating. They always did want to break that six seat deadlock they’ve had since the Assembly came into being but it’s a long way of Kirsty’s Project 31...