Nick Clegg speaks during his monthly press conference on November 24, 2014 in London. Photograph: Getty Images.
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We won't let the Lib Dems run away from their record

By trying to disguise its failures, Clegg's party is yet again treating young voters contempt. 

At elections, there is no better guide to a party's future intent than their recent actions. Since 2010, Labour has campaigned for the repeal of damaging health reforms which have put profit before patient care, argued against the unfairness of cutting taxes for those at the top while hardworking people pay more and pledged to reverse the bedroom tax. Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems – by contrast – have voted through each of these policies, repeatedly backing David Cameron all the way.

The spectacle of Nick Clegg attacking Tory spending plans that take public spending to levels not seen since the 1930s, after having signed them off, is lamentable, laughable and shows a shocking lack of awareness. The Lib Dem strategy to date has been complicity with the Tories and is now duplicity with the public.

Their election campaign is predicated on running against their own record. As so many young people have asked, how can you trust a word they say about the future when even they are ashamed of their past? 

It's worth revisiting some of the Lib Dems' 2010 manifesto pledges. They promised "fair taxes", but but millionaires and hedge funds have been given a tax cut while working people have seen wages fall £1,600 a year since 2010. They promised a “fair chance”, but broke a central election promise to not raise tuition fees and trebled them as soon as they were in power. They promised a "fair future", but despite pledging to do otherwise, backed cuts which mean there are 628 fewer Sure Start across the country. They promised a "fair deal", but the only deal made was a cosy one with the Tories.

Young people have learned the hard way that the Lib Dems can't be trusted. Because of Clegg’s broken promise on tuition fees, graduates will now leave university with more than £44,000 debt on average – an increase of £20,000 on the previous system. Under the pre-2012 system, half of all graduates would have repaid their debt in full by the age of 40. Now, 73 per cent of all graduates will still be repaying into their 50s, putting the dream of a home, a family, a career and a decent retirement even further out of reach. 

But this isn't all. Nick Clegg backed changes to the electoral registration process which has seen almost one million people drop off the register. It is a scandal that rushed implementation of individual registration – after scrapping Labour’s safeguards – means that so many people, hundreds of thousands of them young people, will be disenfranchised come May.

Many will be students. Those cities with the largest student numbers have seen some of the largest falls in registered electors. In Liverpool there are over 20,000 fewer people on the electoral roll. In Nottingham, 13,000 fewer people are registered. In Manchester and Brighton it’s over 12,000 fewer people. In Leeds the figure is over 3,000 and in Sheffield almost 5,000 people fewer people will be registered to vote. In dozens of towns and cities across the country – including in Nick Clegg’s backyard – students are denied the chance to hold this government to account at the ballot box. 

Many other young people are affected. But the huge effect on students might suit Nick Clegg, who has little to gain from courting the student vote. After raising election spending limits, we know the Tories want to rig the rules of the game in their favour but it is scandalous that, ahead of the most important general election for a generation, a million people are going to be denied a voice. The government must take action now to ensure people sign up by 20 April in time to vote in May - and if they won't, Labour will. 

Over the coming months, as Nick Clegg tries to differentiate himself from David Cameron, I'll be thinking about this country's young people - the million lost voters, the record one in four young people living at home with their parents into their thirties, one million 16-24-year-olds without employment, education or training. But it's not just enough to encourage each and every one of them to register and make clear what they think of this coalition government. 

Despite his recent reincarnation, Nick Clegg has been a leading member of this damaging, discredited government since May 2010. He has voted with the Tories on a staggering 259 occasions, there have been 37 Lib Dem ministers, with access to 200,000 civil servants and a total pay bill of £10.5m. They are as responsible for the crisis in A&E, the increase in VAT, the failure to meet economic targets and the fall in living standards as the Tories. Put simply, the Conservatives couldn't have done it without them. By trying to airbrush their record, they are treating the country's young voters, yet again, with contempt. In a few months' time, let's make sure young people get the chance to return the favour. 

Lisa Nandy is shadow Cabinet Office minister and Labour MP for Wigan

Lisa Nandy is the MP for Wigan. She was formerly Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

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Hannan Fodder: This week, Daniel Hannan gets his excuses in early

I didn't do it. 

Since Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy...

When I started this column, there were some nay-sayers talking Britain down by doubting that I was seriously going to write about Daniel Hannan every week. Surely no one could be that obsessed with the activities of one obscure MEP? And surely no politician could say enough ludicrous things to be worthy of such an obsession?

They were wrong, on both counts. Daniel and I are as one on this: Leave and Remain, working hand in glove to deliver on our shared national mission. There’s a lesson there for my fellow Remoaners, I’m sure.

Anyway. It’s week three, and just as I was worrying what I might write this week, Dan has ridden to the rescue by writing not one but two columns making the same argument – using, indeed, many of the exact same phrases (“not a club, but a protection racket”). Like all the most effective political campaigns, Dan has a message of the week.

First up, on Monday, there was this headline, in the conservative American journal, the Washington Examiner:

“Why Brexit should work out for everyone”

And yesterday, there was his column on Conservative Home:

“We will get a good deal – because rational self-interest will overcome the Eurocrats’ fury”

The message of the two columns is straightforward: cooler heads will prevail. Britain wants an amicable separation. The EU needs Britain’s military strength and budget contributions, and both sides want to keep the single market intact.

The Con Home piece makes the further argument that it’s only the Eurocrats who want to be hardline about this. National governments – who have to answer to actual electorates – will be more willing to negotiate.

And so, for all the bluster now, Theresa May and Donald Tusk will be skipping through a meadow, arm in arm, before the year is out.

Before we go any further, I have a confession: I found myself nodding along with some of this. Yes, of course it’s in nobody’s interests to create unnecessary enmity between Britain and the continent. Of course no one will want to crash the economy. Of course.

I’ve been told by friends on the centre-right that Hannan has a compelling, faintly hypnotic quality when he speaks and, in retrospect, this brief moment of finding myself half-agreeing with him scares the living shit out of me. So from this point on, I’d like everyone to keep an eye on me in case I start going weird, and to give me a sharp whack round the back of the head if you ever catch me starting a tweet with the word, “Friends-”.

Anyway. Shortly after reading things, reality began to dawn for me in a way it apparently hasn’t for Daniel Hannan, and I began cataloguing the ways in which his argument is stupid.

Problem number one: Remarkably for a man who’s been in the European Parliament for nearly two decades, he’s misunderstood the EU. He notes that “deeper integration can be more like a religious dogma than a political creed”, but entirely misses the reason for this. For many Europeans, especially those from countries which didn’t have as much fun in the Second World War as Britain did, the EU, for all its myriad flaws, is something to which they feel an emotional attachment: not their country, but not something entirely separate from it either.

Consequently, it’s neither a club, nor a “protection racket”: it’s more akin to a family. A rational and sensible Brexit will be difficult for the exact same reasons that so few divorcing couples rationally agree not to bother wasting money on lawyers: because the very act of leaving feels like a betrayal.

Or, to put it more concisely, courtesy of Buzzfeed’s Marie Le Conte:

Problem number two: even if everyone was to negotiate purely in terms of rational interest, our interests are not the same. The over-riding goal of German policy for decades has been to hold the EU together, even if that creates other problems. (Exhibit A: Greece.) So there’s at least a chance that the German leadership will genuinely see deterring more departures as more important than mutual prosperity or a good relationship with Britain.

And France, whose presidential candidates are lining up to give Britain a kicking, is mysteriously not mentioned anywhere in either of Daniel’s columns, presumably because doing so would undermine his argument.

So – the list of priorities Hannan describes may look rational from a British perspective. Unfortunately, though, the people on the other side of the negotiating table won’t have a British perspective.

Problem number three is this line from the Con Home piece:

“Might it truly be more interested in deterring states from leaving than in promoting the welfare of its peoples? If so, there surely can be no further doubt that we were right to opt out.”

If there any rhetorical technique more skin-crawlingly horrible, than, “Your response to my behaviour justifies my behaviour”?

I could go on, about how there’s no reason to think that Daniel’s relatively gentle vision of Brexit is shared by Nigel Farage, UKIP, or a significant number of those who voted Leave. Or about the polls which show that, far from the EU’s response to the referendum pushing more European nations towards the door, support for the union has actually spiked since the referendum – that Britain has become not a beacon of hope but a cautionary tale.

But I’m running out of words, and there’ll be other chances to explore such things. So instead I’m going to end on this:

Hannan’s argument – that only an irrational Europe would not deliver a good Brexit – is remarkably, parodically self-serving. It allows him to believe that, if Brexit goes horribly wrong, well, it must all be the fault of those inflexible Eurocrats, mustn’t it? It can’t possibly be because Brexit was a bad idea in the first place, or because liberal Leavers used nasty, populist ones to achieve their goals.

Read today, there are elements of Hannan’s columns that are compelling, even persuasive. From the perspective of 2020, I fear, they might simply read like one long explanation of why nothing that has happened since will have been his fault.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.