Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton last year. Photograph: Getty Images.
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How many of Clegg's coalition negotiating team will keep their seats?

Danny Alexander and Lynne Featherstone are both vulnerable to Labour challenges.

So confident is Nick Clegg that the next election will result in another hung parliament that he's already announced the Lib Dems' coalition negotiating team. The right-leaning Danny Alexander and David Laws, the party's manifesto co-ordinator, survive from 2010 (Chris Huhne and Andrew Stunell do not) and are joined by the left-leaning pensions minister Steve Webb, international development minister Lynne Featherstone and peer Lady Brinton. Like others, as I've argued before, Clegg is underestimating the chance of a Labour majority in 2015 (although his emphasis on a future coalition is a logical means of keeping the Lib Dems in the conversation) But even if we assume there will be another "balanced parliament" (as the Lib Dems like to call it), it's worth posing this question: how many of his negotiating team will keep their seats?

Laws (majority: 13,036) and Webb (majority: 7,116), who hold Tory-facing seats, look safe. But Alexander and Featherstone, who face challenges from Labour, are rightly regarded as vulnerable in Westminster. 

Alexander's Scottish constituency of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey is being targeted by Labour activists and trade unionists, who believe they can unseat the man who even his own colleagues lament has gone "native" in George Osborne's Treasury ("rather than meeting Danny we just ask for the Treasury 'lines' - it's quicker," one Lib Dem adviser told me recently). The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has a majority of 8,765 but given the huge swing against the Lib Dems north of the border, that is no longer large enough to guarantee survival. With a majority of 6,875, Featherstone, who won Hornsey and Wood Green in 2005 on a wave of anger over the Iraq war and top-up fees, is in even greater danger. 

Clegg's decision to announce his coalition negotiating team (the Tories and Labour will undoubtedly make their own prepartions, but don't expect them to share them with us) isn't just a bet on another hung parliament; it's a bet that Lib Dems' strategy of "57 by-elections" will ensure the likes of Alexander and Featherstone keep their seats. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Why Theresa May is a smuggler's best friend when it comes to child refugees

Children prefer to disappear than trust the authorities.

On Monday, Theresa May abolished the post of minister for Syrian Refugees. On Tuesday, a House of Lords select committee report found there were 10,000 migrant and refugee children missing in the EU, of which Britain is still technically a part. And smugglers across the continent raised a glass.

Children do not stay still. In 2013, Missing Children Europe reported that half of unaccompanied children placed in reception centres vanished within the next 48 hours. One explanation is that they fall prey to the usual villains – pimps and gangs. 

But there is another explanation. Refugee and migrant children have so little trust in the authorities that they would rather disappear and put their faith in the underworld. 

One reason for this is that under EU law, asylum seekers are returned to their first point of entry, which is likely to be an overcrowded Greek port rather than a city with education facilities and job prospects. 

Children will go to extreme measures to disappear. The report noted:

“We were particularly troubled to hear of children in Italy and Greece burning or otherwise damaging their fingertips in order to avoid registration, in many cases because they were afraid of being detained or forcibly returned to transit countries having reached their final destination.”

Children are also desperate to find their families. The EU’s Family Reunification Directive should in theory reunite families who have successfully sought asylum, but the UK has opted out of it (and now the EU altogether). Other EU member states have moved to restrict it. The UK has opted into the Dublin Regulation, which allows for family reunification. 

This is partly due to a suspicion that family reunification acts as an incentive for families to send children first, alone. But the report found no evidence of that. Rather, it is usually a case of parents trying to protect their children by sending them out of a dangerous situation. 

The process can be achingly uncertain and slow. Smugglers understand how impatient children are. Two MEPs told the select committee about the port in Malmö, Sweden:

"Traffickers await the arrival of minors, telling them that: 'Well, we can get you to your family much quicker than if you go through the system here' and that 'Getting a guardian will take ages, and then they do the age assessment, which is intrusive. Don’t do that. Just go there, call this guy, take this mobile and they’ll take care of you.'”

In his brief time as Syrian Refugees minister, Richard Harrington brought the topic of unaccompanied minors to MPs again and again. He promised to improve the speed at which applications under the Dublin Regulation were processed. On 13 June he told MPs: “We are doing our absolute best to speed it up as much as we can.”

His role has now been absorbed into the Home Office. No. 10 described it as a temporary position, one no longer needed now the resettlement programme was underway. When the UK finally triggers Article 50 and begins Brexit, it can also leave its EU obligations behind as well. May, the former Home secretary, voted against allowing in 3,000 child refugees.

This does not bode well for asylum policy in Brexit Britain. Meanwhile, with no fast legal route to family unification, smugglers can look forward to the kind of bumper profits they enjoyed in 2015

The consequences can be fatal. Masud, a 15-year-old unaccompanied Afghan, travelled to Calais in the hope of reaching his sister in the UK under the family reunification rules. 

As the report put it: “Masud died in the back of a lorry while trying to reach the UK just before the New Year, having lost hope that his claim to join his sister would ever be heard.”