As the former party leader Sir Menzies Campbell said the Lib Dems would need to rebuild "from the bottom up" after losing all but one of their MEPs, Lord Storey said Clegg has become an unpopular figure in his home city.
Storey, who led Liverpool between 1998-2005, told the Sunday Politics on BBC1: "Knocking on doors in Liverpool, I have to tell you that Nick Clegg is not a popular person. And some might use the word toxic. I find this very, very difficult because I know Nick very well and I see a principled person who passionately believes in what he's doing, and he's a nice guy."
The peer, who is his party's spokesman in the lords on education, highlighted one of the main challenges the Lib Dems will face after losing hundreds of councillors in recent years. Storey said: "In parts of the country, take Liverpool as an example, where we had 60-plus councillors, we're down to three. It's not just the councillors you lose, you lose all the political infrastructure. So you lose the deliverers, and the fundraisers and the organisers and the members of course. All that will have to be rebuilt."
The remarks by Storey will have hit nerves among Lib Dems that the reduction in the party's local council base will complicate its 2015 general election campaign. The party lost more than 300 councillors in the recent local elections. Former party leader Paddy Ashdown doubled the number of MPs between 1992-97 after increasing the number of Lib Dem councillors.
Campbell said Clegg was the best person to lead the Lib Dems into the next election and beyond. But the former party leader acknowledged that the Lib Dems will need to rebuild.
Campbell told the Sunday Politics show: "Nick Clegg is a man of principle, he's a man of enormous resilience. If you consider what he's had to put up with, my view is quite clearly that he is the person best qualified to lead the party between now and the general election, through the election campaign, and beyond. I think you'll find we're going to be rather more assertive about taking the credit. We will do everything in power to change [public opinion] between now and May 2015."
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