What a difference a year makes! A year ago, on the basis of his TV election debate appearances, Nick Clegg was being hailed as a re-born Winston Churchill and the leader of a party whose long overdue time had come at last Thursday's local election results in Britain tell a very different story, of a devalued leader and a party that is sinking to the insignificance that has been its lot for many years past. Despite mutterings against him among Liberal Democrat ministers Mr Clegg will probably retain his role as deputy prime minister and the LibDem coalition will remain in being because any other course might precipitate a general election. But Mr Clegg must try to do better.

In the course of a few days he has been called “a cry baby” and a “whinger” by independent minded columnists in the Guardian and Times respectively and advised to count his blessings --for instance, an invitation to the Royal Wedding which not all former prime ministers received. Mr Clegg's task of restoring his party's fortunes to the level it enjoyed only a year ago will not be easy. The most obvious course of standing firm for LibDem policies set out in the coalition agreement with the Conservatives is what most party members want to see but to take it to the limit, for instance over NHS reforms, might actually threaten the continuation of the coalition in its present form.