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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Emmanuel Macron's French election victory may change less than most expect

The centrist is not the first to succeed from outside the traditional parties in the Fifth Republic.

Emmanuel Macron has won the first round of the French presidential election, and will face Marine Le Pen in the run-off.

The numbers that matter: Emmanuel Macron 24 per cent, Le Pen 21 per cent, François Fillon 19.9 per cent, Jean Luc Mélenchon 19.9 per cent and Benoît Hamon 6.3 per cent.

According to the polls - which came within 0.9 per cent of the correct result in the first round - Macron will easily defeat Marine Le Pen in the second round.

The single transferable take that compares Macron to Hillary Clinton and Le Pen to Trump ignores a few things. Not least his programme, the different electoral system and the fact that Macron is popular - the most popular politician in France, in fact. Jean Luc Mélenchon declined to back a candidate in the second round and will poll his supporters on who his leftist bloc should back. But it's not comparable to the feud between Bernie Sanders and Clinton - which, in any case, was overwritten. Most Sanders supporters backed Clinton in November. The big story of that election was that the American mainstream right backed Donald Trump despite his manifold faults.

The French mainstream right is a very different beast. Fillon has already thrown his weight behind Macron, warning against the "violence" and "intolerance" of the National Front and the "economic chaos" its programme would inflict. And to the extent that it matters, Hamon has also endorsed his former party colleague, saying that there is a difference between a "political adversary and an enemy of the Republic."

So, if he wins, has everything changed, changed utterly? That's the line in most of the papers this morning, but I'm not so sure. French politics has always been more fissiparous than elsewhere, with parties conjured up to facilitate runs for the Presidency, such as the Democratic Movement of perennial candidate, now Macron backer François Bayrou, and Mélenchon's own Left Party.

I'm dubious, too, about the idea that Macron is the first to succeed from outside the traditional centre-right and centre-left blocs in the history of the Fifth Republic. That honour surely goes to Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a popular finance minister in a Gaullist administration, who ran on a independent centrist platform in 1974 - and won the presidency.

Giscard d'Estaing had no majority in the National Assembly and had to "cohabit" with his former colleagues on the Gaullist right. In the long run, far from upending the left-right pattern of French politics, he continued it. (Indeed, d'Estaing is now a member of the centre-right Republican Party.)

You don't have to look hard to see the parallels with Macron, a popular finance minister in a Socialist administration, running on an independent centrist platform and very likely to win, too.

France's underreported and under-polled legislative elections in June will give us an idea of the scale of the change and how lasting it may be. If, freed from the taint of Fillon's scandals, the French Republicans can win the legislative elections then talk of the "death of the traditional centre-right" is going to look very silly indeed.

Equally, while Hamon won the presidential nomination, the Socialist Party's legislative candidates are largely drawn from the party's right. If En Marche!, Macron's new party, can go from no seats at all to the largest group but are short of a majority their natural allies in getting through Macron's programme will be from the remains of the Socialists. Far from irrevocably changing the pattern of French politics, Macron's remarkable success may simply mark a period of transition in the life of the French Left.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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