The Liberal Democrats have lost some of their "humanity" since entering into coalition with the Conservative Party a Lib Dem minister has said, as the party braced for a difficult night of local election results.
Lynne Featherstone told the BBC's election night programme as the first results started to trickle in that it was not the Lib Dems "finest result ever" and conceded that being in government "hasn't been brilliant" for the party electorally.
"I guess partly being in government we have become ministerial, we have become more political, and perhaps we have lost some of our humanity that Nick [Clegg] had four years ago," she said.
The international development minister said while Clegg had managed to capture the public mood during the 2010 general election debates, that mantle had now passed to Nigel Farage.
"For the Lib Dems, we are the whipping boys in the coalition, personally I think we are the good guys and history will recognise this, but possibly not tonight," she said. "We're getting kicking for being in the coalition."
Featherstone said Ukip candidates had "managed to sound like human beings" and that political leaders in the other main parties had become "so guarded" and "so on message" that they "seem to have lost some of our humanity".
Ukip is expected to do well in both the local elections across England and the European elections. Patrick O'Flynn, the party's director of communications and an MEP candidate, said he wanted the party to secure more than 100 council seats, adding to Sky News: "That would be terrific for us. I think we can do it."
However Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable, speaking at almost the same time as Featherstone but on Sky News, said he expected the Lib Dems would be "pleasantly surprised" by the outcome of the council results in areas where the party is well organised.
"It is going to be a difficult night - I think we've never concealed that - but not just for us. I think both Labour and the Conservatives will find it difficult tonight. We have got approaching 800 councillors up, I think we will do rather better than some of the predictions," he said.
Cable also dismissed talk that Clegg's future as Lib Dem leader could be called into question if the party endured a poor night, saying: "There isn't a leadership issue and I think he has enhanced respect as a result of being willing to engage with these very difficult issues. We don't panic. We're pretty resilient and solid and maintain basic discipline."