Another guest today from Dan Phillips. You may have seen his biog a week ago, but here it is again. Dan’s a press photographer by trade but a political obsessive at heart. A small ‘l’ liberal, he blogs at The blog has taken to dissecting the local elections in Edinburgh of late and this is his latest post in this vein.

If you as a party were fighting for your life, you’d pull the finger out.

Or you would have thought so. It’s less than a month to go till the polls and not a peep has been heard from the Lib Dems.

They were the last to put out their candidate list. Not a single policy has been trailed in the local media. Not a hint of what they would do in a coalition. And this is a tipping point for the birdy badged party.

A perfect storm in Edinburgh meant they were annihilated at Holyrood. Trams, the UK Coalition combined with the god-awful campaign they ran conspired to remove all their representatives from the capital – not even an insurance list seat.

You would think they’d have learnt. But given the inertia from their camp apparently not.

In 2007 they clinched 17 councillors – but only just. Seven of those were in the last round barely scraping past the finish line. Some didn’t even make the quota but were merely the last candidate standing. In short they won by being everyone’s second favourite – they are the lowest common denominator.

But need I say it, the context is ever so slightly different now. The Nats are standing two candidates in many of those same wards where the Lib Dems won through inertia (like Sighthill, Craigentinny and Portobello to name a few) while the paucity of independent candidates in this election means there is no second chance to get it right. If you don’t get a decent haul of first preferences, expect execution in the first round.

So how to avoid this fate? Well you could put out at least some sort of policy. Maybe trumpet your successes as a council over the last five years. Do something to cut the tram albatross from around your neck. Possibly, and I know this is radical, give your lost voters a reason to return, and the hard core a reason to turn up.

Or you could do nothing and let the self imposed vacuum be filled with the policies of the opposition.

It’s up to the Lib Dems what they do. But to my mind there are only four safe-ish seats, and that’s a relative term. Edinburgh’s voting patterns contrive to bind the UK Coalition partners together. In three seats where the Lib Dems are strongest, so are the Tories. And we know that the Tories prefer the Lib Dems substantially over any other party, so expect to see the blues haul the injured Lib Dems over the line in Almond, Corstorphine and Meadows/Morningside. In Drumbrae/Gyle the Lib Dems had 45% of the first preference in 2007 – it would be a colossal disaster if they could not return there.

Everywhere else? Well it’s up to them. I suspect that Southside will return Mackenzie for the Lib Dems but it is very narrow, election fans. Beyond that every seat will have to be wrung from the opposition.

The defence to such inaction could be that the SNP have been silent too. That in 2007 the Nats hadn’t put out a manifesto at this stage either. But the Nats aren’t at risk of being torn asunder by the four other parties currently lashed to their limbs.

If you wish to be uncharitable to the Lib Dems you could note they have made one promise in their ‘Edinburgh Voice’ newspaper. The strapline directly underneath the masthead on one reading declares an Edinburgh ‘free from the Scottish Liberal Democrats’. Carry on like this and they might just deliver it.