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JOHN MCGURK says watching Nick Clegg slip and slide his way through a weekend television interview brought to mind the obituary of Mad Frankie Fraser (pictured), the notorious London hitman, who died aged 90 a few weeks before Christmas.

Apparently one of the best-read obituaries of the year, it described how Mad Frankie confronted a member of the Kray gang during a turf war in the 1960s and buried a hatchet in his victim's skull, pinning his hand to his head.

Fraser, who was never convicted of murder but spent 42 years behind bars, later explained in his sarff London snarl what had happened, and came out with: “He was a nice fella...but he was bang out of ordah!”

And so it is with that nice Nick Clegg who, after hopping into bed with David Cameron, now thinks he might do the same with Ed Miliband when there is no outright winner, as seems the probable result, come the general election.

Clegg told the Andrew Marr programme that it was “most likely that the Lib Dems will be part of a coalition government after the May election”.

There are many who think that the deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader has got another think coming if he believes he can just latch on to whoever will have him and continue trying to run the country as if nothing had happened.

According to the polls, the Lib Dems are heading for the biggest hiding of their lives thanks to their duplicitous double-dealing, not to mention their now infamous reversal on student tuition fees which will have every undergraduate and postgraduate across the land voting for anyone else apart from them.

This broken promise, which saw fees treble for students in England and Wales, was followed by the Lib Dems appearing to throw everything in with the Tories to support a raft of anti-social austerity policies which they had previously opposed.

Clegg became so mistrusted that his relationship with David Cameron was soon depicted as a civil partnership rather than a coalition.

But perhaps even worse, he and Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, began to boast that the Conservatives couldn't have done it without them and that it was they who were actually saving the country from economic disaster.

Alas, their contention that they were sacrificing their popularity for the good of the nation and that, in the end, they would be appreciated by the electorate appears to have backfired.

The fact that our debt remains at a staggering £1.4 trillion, and rising by £5000 a second, while the deficit, rather than being wiped clean by the end of this parliament stands at £90 billion, may have something to do with this.

The result of Clegg's five years in government is that he is the least popular political leader in modern British politics while his party has been polling lower than Labour at the height of the credit crunch in 2008.

Naturally, or at least in public, Clegg refuses to believe predictions that his party will lose around half of their parliamentary seats to end up with just 27 MPs.

Even party strategists think it will be a miracle if Danny Alexander retains his Inverness seat.

The likely beneficiary of any Lib Dem massacre will be Labour who are trying their hardest to unseat Clegg himself from his Sheffield constituency where he currently has a majority of more than 15,000.

But for Ed Miliband to win outright, Labour will need to take votes from the Conservatives, particularly in the south east of England, fight off UKIP and stem the SNP in Scotland --- a very tall order.

Like him or loathe him, Alex Salmond remains on track to ensure what continues to look like a famous victory which the pollsters believe could raise the number of SNP MPs from six to as many as 40.

Even if the Nats win half of the seats they are predicted to take, they may still be in a position to call the shots in the battle for who occupies 10 Downing Street.

Salmond, now standing in the Lib Dem stronghold of Gordon where he expects to succeed Sir Malcom Bruce, has already made clear who he will support if the SNP become the third biggest party in the UK.

While he could never support the Conservatives or any bizarre alliance between them and UKIP, he is very likely to use his power to prop up a minority Labour government on an issue-by-issue basis.

This is a potential master stroke.

It means that Salmond can announce to those Scottish Labour voters who backed Yes in the referendum campaign that they can still get a Labour government... by voting SNP.

This is surely a trump card which will be giving the new Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy, sleepless nights.

If Salmond's plan works, Nick Clegg will have no chance of staying in power.

But the downtrodden former deputy prime minister will no doubt find something useful to do... just like Frankie Fraser.

After his colourful career, Mad Frankie ended up making the tea in a massage parlour in Islington.


John McGurk is co-editor of ScotBuzz and was editor of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday and managing editor of The Daily Telegraph.