Liberal Democrats pin their survival hopes on ‘beating up on the Tories’

The Liberal Democrats meet in Glasgow with polls showing their support at almost imperceptible levels

One YouGov poll on the eve of conference found a pitiful six per cent of voters still willing to back the party.

If that was repeated in May next year, the party would face an almost total wipeout, losing all but a dozen seats across the country.

But while the headline figures look absolutely dreadful, Nick Clegg's party remains relatively chipper. So why is this?

Well if you look beyond the national figures, the Lib Dems have a much better chance of hanging on in 2015 than you might expect.

Recent polling of Liberal Democrat marginals found that while the party faces losing dozens of seats to Labour, they could hold on to a surprising number of seats against the Conservatives.

The polling by Lord Ashcroft found that despite the dreadful national figures, the party is actually running level with the Conservatives in most of the marginal seats that David Cameron needs to win a majority next year.

The polls found just a two per cent overall swing from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives in the marginals, with some constituency polls even finding support switching back the other way.

The reason for these striking findings is simple. While left-leaning voters in Labour-Liberal marginals have deserted the party possibly forever, left-leaning voters in Liberal-Conservative marginals are still willing to lend their vote to Nick Clegg's party in order to keep the Tories out.

In fact a whopping 22% of Labour voters in those marginal seats said they were willing to vote for the Lib Dems to keep David Cameron out of No 10.

This hefty anti-Tory voting block is now the Lib Dem's single best chance of survival at the general election.

It is precisely for this reason that Clegg's party will now devote all of their efforts this week and every week until polling day, to bashing the Conservatives.

You can expect almost every speaker at conference to single out the Tories for, in Clegg's words, "beating up on the poor" on welfare and tax.

While officially the party remains committed to equally attacking both Labour and the Conservatives, it is clear that the Tories will receive the majority of their fire this week.

There is admittedly a ritualistic feel to the attacks, coming as they do just months before the party heads to the polls. It is also unclear how convinced voters will be by the party's sudden opposition to the very policies they have spent almost five years defending.

But if the Lib Dems are to cling on to a respectable number of seats next year then it will only come through convincing voters they are the best placed to keep the Conservatives out.

For that reason, we can expect plenty more "beating up on the Tories" from the Lib Dems over the next few days.