A week is a long time in politics, and – for Nick Clegg at least – five years is a lifetime.
With the Liberal Democrats all but wiped off the political map, Clegg will surely now stand down as party leader, bringing to an end a controversial tenure that took in the best of times and some of the worst.
Here’s a look back at how he got here…
Back in 2006 Nick Clegg was a rising star in the party expected to challenge for the leadership when Charles Kennedy resigned. Instead he supported Menzies Campbell and was handed the home affairs brief in his shadow cabinet. (John Stillwell/PA)
Campbell lasted only 18 months, though, before stepping aside to allow someone younger to take over. That someone younger turned out to be Clegg. He did look young back then. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Clegg attempted to position himself as a “normal person” among the Westminster establishment. In one interview he said he’d slept with “no more than 30″ women. (Barry Batchelor/PA)
Clegg and his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez had their third child – son Miguel – a couple of years into his tenure as Lib Dem leader. By that time he’d made plenty of waves – notably when he stormed out of the House of Commons when speaker Michael Martin blocked calls for a referendum on EU membership. (Fiona Hanson/PA)
Clegg had some good publicity when he and the Liberal Democrats led a campaign – famously backed by Joanna Lumley – to give Gurkha soldiers equal residence rights in Britain. It resulted in a defeat for the Labour government – and aligned him with David Cameron and the Tories for the first time. Clearly it wasn’t an arrangement he disliked. (Yui Mok/PA)
Clegg’s star really began to rise during the election campaign in 2010 – when he grew to be seen as an outsider voice and an optimistic symbol of change for young people. (Chris Radburn/PA)
He also, along with the other Liberal Democrat candidates, signed a pledged to vote against any rise in tuition fees – a popular move. What could possibly go wrong?
During the debates, both Gordon Brown and Cameron were quick to align themselves with Clegg. “I agree with Nick,” became one of the most memorable political slogans of the campaign. (Jeff Overs/AP)
When the results came in, the Conservatives were the biggest party – but without an overall majority. It meant they had to form a coalition – and Clegg, controversially, took his party into power. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)
At their joint press conference in the Downing Street rose garden, Cameron admitted having described Clegg as a joke in the past. The Lib Dem leader pretended to walk off. Perhaps he really should have done… (Christopher Furlong/PA)
He became the first Liberal Democrat to answer at Prime Minister’s Questions, standing in for Cameron in July 2010. Very statesmanlike. (PA)
But it all went very wrong very quickly for Clegg. When it came to a vote on increasing tuition fees, he went back on his pledge and backed his coalition parties. He was met with furious protests from students and Lib Dem supporters. (Anthony Devlin/PA)
One of the Lib Dem stipulations for going into the coalition was a vote on electoral reform – a switch to the alternative vote system. Clegg campaigned hard for the “yes” campaign. (David Jones/PA)
It was an overwhelming defeat though, with 67.9% voting against a change – a crushing blow for a party who had long campaigned for a new system. (Lewis Whyld/PA)
In 2012, Clegg said sorry for breaking *that* election pledge. It was quickly remixed into the breakout hit of the year.
Over the course of the parliament, Clegg’s association with Cameron continued to harm his image – even when he got to hang out with Wimbledon champions. (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Come the start of the 2015 General Election campaign, Clegg was looking a little deflated. (Peter Byrne/PA)
His party was in… well, the sign says it all. (Steve Parsons/PA)
The campaign never lacked energy – even if it resembled a kid’s birthday party at times, with bowling, cake and… a falcon. (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (Steve Parsons/PA) (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Buut he was always fighting a losing battle – with voters seemingly unprepared to forgive him for that tuition fees gaffe – or simply for going into coalition in the first place. Perhaps he was looking to the skies for some sort of miracle as he went to cast his vote… (Lynne Cameron/PA)
The smiles were gone as he went to the count in his Sheffield Hallam constituency in the early hours of the morning – by then the writing was on the wall for the Lib Dems. (Lynne Cameron/PA)
And while he was one of the few in his party to hold his seat, his position as leader of the decimated party was surely untenable. Exit stage left… (Lynne Cameron/PA)
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