My man on the Coventry Road reports that Nick Clegg paid a flying visit to the office of Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley (lease expiring in 2015) this lunchtime. He was greeted by a crowd of 18-20 Lib Dem activists and employees and disappeared inside to meet the local candidates.
Given that this man is the party leader and deputy Prime Minister and we are a fortnight away from local elections, this is stunningly low key. Security cannot be an issue - I've been to events with Labour's former DPM, John Prescott organised at short notice and I can't imagine him only drawing a crowd of a couple of dozen. There are 40 Lib Dem candidates in Birmingham alone and others locally who should be clamouring for a quick photo with their party leader.
Unfortunately, he is just too toxic to the battered brand, hence his disappearance from leaflets across the country and even from those in his own constituency. Given that last year, everyone was agreeing with Nick, the fall from grace has been dramatic.
Now, he has to rely on the charity support of an MP desperate to curry favour in pursuit of a junior government position. The other, more terrifying option is that Hemming actually likes being in bed with the Tories. It has suited the local Lib Dems to prop up a Tory administration since 2004 and they have cheerfully voted with their Tory masters at every monthly council meeting since then. We now get glossy leaflets from the local councillors claiming that this is a Liberal Democrat council - a fact at odds with the reality of their third place in the council chamber. Still, if a Lib Dem council wants to take credit for scrapping the social care to 4000 adults across the City or for cutting the opening hours and staff of our libraries or effectively abolishing council youth service provision across the City, then that's fine. They must be very proud.