13th May 2011 at 01:00

New age for Lib Dems

Light at the end of the tunnel for Nick Clegg! The Liberal Democrats may have hit a new low in last week's elections - who would have thought that selling out your party's sole distinguishing feature would affect the polls? - but in one council, they managed to double their seats.

More surprisingly, one of the new wave of councillors elected to Cotswold District Council is a student! Joe Harris, who turned 18 in February and is studying politics at Cirencester College, was apparently undeterred by his party's role in trebling HE tuition fees and scrapping education maintenance allowance.

A cynic - FErret is constantly forced to remind his readers that he is not one of these - might argue that the politically shrewd should join a party at its low point, the better to get rapid promotions and a chance later at the top jobs. Not so for Joe, possibly the UK's youngest councillor, who says he was inspired to take up politics after what he described to his local paper as a vicious attack by hooded thugs.

One person who may be feeling mixed emotions is recently retired Cirencester College principal Nigel Robbins. Doubtless he was proud of his former student for his civic engagement and his electoral success. On the other hand, having himself missed a place on the council as a Lib Dem by just 28 votes, he might be forgiven for a pang of envy at the young upstart.

Incidentally, 28 is exactly the number of spoilt ballots in Mr Robbins' ward: FErret imagines him scrawling "See me!" across them all.

But for Mr Clegg, who must be sorely in need of good news, it just goes to show that some people still find some appeal in the Lib Dems. With the average age of an MP at 50, it might be a mere 32 years before the new generation revives the party's fortunes.

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