Nick Clegg and the youth vote

Could support among younger voters vanish come polling day?

If the Liberal Democrats manage to maintain their considerable momentum through tonight's debate and all the way until 6 May, the youth vote will be key. According to a recent Populus poll, the third biggest party enjoys a massive 40 per cent of support amongst 25 to 34-year-olds, and similarly strong support among 18 to 24-year-olds .

That's the good news for Nick Clegg and his party. The bad news? This support is traditionally soft -- research carried out last year by the Electoral Commission showed that only 44 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds were registered to vote.

The Electoral Commission launched a campaign earlier this year to address this hole in the electoral roll. The result: over 454,000 registration forms downloaded from the About My Vote website alone.

Another half a million new voters (assuming all those forms were filled in) could have significant impact on this election, an election that may after all come down to a few thousand votes.

The possibility of an bigger turnout, forecast by those such as Political Betting's Mike Smithson, could see a strengthening of the under-represented youth vote, and with it an enlarged share for the Lib Dems.

And while the Obama-Clegg comparisons were always ridiculous it's worth remembering that in 2008 the Democratic nominee won by appealing to the new electorate, not by eroding his opponents voting numbers.


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Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.