Liberal Democrat conference: Nick Clegg 'in relatively good shape'

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Image caption Only 24% in a new poll find the Lib Dems 'credible' in government

In aftermath of the Lib Dems terrible local election results and the spectacular loss of the AV referendum (remember that?) in May, the party's annual conference, which has just opened in Birmingham, could have had the makings of a lynch mob for Nick Clegg.

But matters did not go from bad to worse for him during the summer and he has arrived here in relatively good shape. His position, for now, is secure.

But his poll ratings are dire. Only 24% in a new poll find the Lib Dems 'credible' in government. Only one in five think Mr Clegg a good leader.

The great concern in Birmingham is that the the Lib Dems have been irretrievably tainted by association with the Tories.

So the plan is to distance themselves. Hence bash a Tory is the conference's most popular sport.

Whether it reestablishes the Lib Dems is another matter. Voters might wonder why, if you hate the Tories that much, you're in coalition with them.

'Never prepared'

At heart, the Lib Dem activists simply don't like being in alliance with the Tories.

They might buy, reluctantly, that they had to form a coalition in the national interest.

But at conferences in years gone by the party leadership never prepared the the party for ever being in bed with the Tories.

Indeed, they regularly placed the party to the left of New Leader, making any arrangement with the Tories incredible.

But it's happened and as a result, despite the consolations of power, this conference is not a very happy place.

Andrew Neil is presenting the Politics Show and Daily Politics , plus The Andrew Neil Interview and Today at Conference from the Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham.

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