Election 2015

Analysis: Nick Clegg's day of parents and polls

Nick Clegg and East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson (right) play with 14-month-old Sophia O"Driscoll from Glasgow Image copyright PA
Image caption The play area might have been soft, but the questions weren't

Weeks of opportunities to sell your message but you are always at the mercy of the news agenda.

Today the Liberal Democrats set out their proposals to treble paternity leave. They believe it is good for families and good for businesses.

And they took Nick Clegg to a soft play area in Scotland to ensure nice pictures to go along with the story.

However, when the Liberal Democrat leader was interviewed, paternity was one of the last subjects he was asked about.

Door knocking

Instead the first question centred on Nick Clegg's own parliamentary seat.

A poll by the Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft has suggested that the Liberal Democrats are currently trailing behind Labour in Sheffield Hallam, and that Mr Clegg could be in danger of losing his place in the Commons.

He was quick to fire back saying he was sure he would retain his seat.

"I am confident but not complacent that I am going to win," Mr Clegg insisted.

"And I will be out knocking doors this weekend."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Nick Clegg's battle bus will be clocking up a lot of miles between now and polling day

It is a reminder that this is not one election - hundreds are being held across the UK and every constituency matters. Particularly when it is your own.

Both Nick Clegg and the UKIP leader Nigel Farage know they face battles to get elected.

But both also have a responsibility to be seen supporting their party's candidates and drumming up support more widely around the country.

In the case of Nick Clegg he has been very busy, travelling to key areas in England, Scotland and Wales in the first few days alone.

It is all part of the Lib Dems' plan for their big yellow battle bus to clock up a lot of miles between now and polling day.

Image caption Nick Clegg was a hit during the 2010 election debates

The campaign team wants Mr Clegg to be the most "visible and accessible" of the party leaders.

He is viewed as a key asset as they try to improve their wider poll ratings.

In the last election he made a particular mark in the televised leaders' debates - cast your mind back if you can to a time when they talked about 'Cleggmania'.

As he prepares to face the cameras again Nick Clegg is working out a strategy for the studios.

'Watchable spectacle'

At this election there will be seven leaders involved in the next debate rather than three. And in his own words the Lib Dem leader is not the "new kid on the block".

"I hope it will be a watchable spectacle," he says. "Although seven politicians talking over each other might not be."

If Nick Clegg is right in his view that newcomers tend to do best there will be plenty of other leaders vying for the spotlight.

The deputy prime minister may be best presenting himself as an established and now experienced political figure, a calm presence in the centre of the pack.

But with so many on the stage it will be much harder for any one leader to stand out. Election campaigns are tricky things for any party to plan.

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