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Page last updated at 20:10 GMT, Sunday, 29 June 2008 21:10 UK

Lib Dem tribulations

Life is hardly ever sweetness and light for the Liberal Democrats.

As the third party, they inevitably face being squeezed by the two big political bruisers sitting either side of them; must endure being shouted down in the Commons; and ignored by a media more interested in Gordon Brown's latest woes or David Cameron's changing hairstyles.

The one exception to this sorry tale was by-elections. Here the Lib Dems came into their own.

They got their voice heard: became the repository for every grumpy and disgruntled voter - and very often won - or at least made significant advances.

Not so anymore it seems.

Last week in Henley their share of the vote stalled; while in Crewe last month it actually fell.

The opinion polls carry a similarly lacklustre message, with the party stumbling around somewhere in the teens.

David Laws
David Laws
All this despite a shiny, new leader - and a government seemingly on the ropes.

On Lib Dem blogs there are the first signs of unease at the lack of progress under Mr Clegg. So what's going wrong?

A question we put to Simon Titley, a Lib Dem activist and a member of the editorial collective of Liberator magazine.

David Laws is the Lib Dems' spokesman on Children, Schools and Families - and one of the party's leading thinkers. Did he accept the Lib Dems had become risk averse, "the party of the bland"?

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