The Barnsley chop
How much should anyone care about the Lib Dems vote-shedding, deposit-losing, morale-sapping plummet from second to sixth place in Barnsley Central?
I'm going to leave the trading of historical by election stats to others. No amount of swapping stories about Labour's collapse in the Dullsville contest of 1989 or the turnout in Hasty and Slapdash will resolve that question.
The local elections and contests for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly will show whether the vote collapse in Barnsley reflects a nationwide phenomenon or, as leading Lib Dems hope, is limited to traditional Tory hating, working class areas of the North.
The reasons not to care that much about this result are clear - the Lib Dems had no chance here, they didn't try very hard, we are a long long way from a general election and the party leadership always knew that this year would be tough.
The reasons to care are less to do with the stats and more to do with the fact that politics - particularly third party politics - is a team sport. The Lib Dems electoral gains in recent years have relied not on cash and advertising but on activists - many of whom earn their living as councillors. If this result and those in May leaves them not merely demoralised but ready to walk away from their party or to fight their leaders then - and only then - the Lib Dems will face a real crisis.
Under the party's rules it takes just 75 local parties to trigger a leadership contest. The question they will have to ask themselves though is the one most Lib Dem MPs have already answered - wouldn't abandoning the coalition merely make their position even worse?