Nick Clegg has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats. Photo: Getty
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Nick Clegg resigns as Lib Dem leader. Who will replace him?

Tim Farron is the most likely candidate.

Nick Clegg has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats. In his statement, he made a passionate defence of his party's record in government, saying that "There can be no down that the government of Britain is far stronger . . . and more liberal country than it was five years ago." He went on to say: "I hope at least our losses can be endured with a little dignity."

It was a terrible night for the Lib Dems, who have seen their parliamentary party dwindle from 57 seats to just 8. They lost some longstanding MPs and big hitters - Simon Hughes, Vince Cable, Ed Davey, Lynne Featherstone. As pundits have been saying ad nauseam all night, in coalition it’s always the little party that gets smashed.

Now that Clegg has gone, who will lead the much-reduced Lib Dems? There are two likely candidates:

Tim Farron

The MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale was one of the few Lib Dems to have a good election night - he defied the national swing against his party and was re-elected for his north-west constituency with a nearly 9,000-strong majority.  He’s been considered as the likely next leader for a while now (he served as party president 2011 - 2014), even though he’s a very different kind of politician to Nick Clegg. As George Eaton wrote after spending the day with Farron in March:

Farron is neither politically nor personally close to Nick Clegg, his party's leader. Indeed, perhaps no two senior Lib Dem figures are less alike. One is left-leaning, northern (Farron grew up in Preston), comprehensive-educated, Christian and folksy, the other is right-leaning, southern, privately-educated, atheist and technocratic. It is unsurprising that Farron was chosen to play Nigel Farage during Clegg’s preparation for his debates with the Ukip leader: the pair are natural antagonists.

The party is bound to feel like they need a change of direction in order to put the toxicity of their coalition years behind them, making Farron the most likely successor to Clegg.

Norman Lamb

A slightly longer shot for the leadership would be Norman Lamb, the MP for Norfolk North since 2001. He managed a majority of 4,000 this time. Lamb  is more closely associated with Nick Clegg and the coalition years than Farron, as he served as a minister since 2012 and was even Clegg’s PPS for a while. But he has impressed in his role as minister of state for care and support, talking a lot of sense on the looming elderly care crisis and spearheading their work on mental health. He’s from the right of the party, a so-called Orange-Booker, and is respected in Westminster by colleagues and the media. He represents continuity for the party - he would continue the “Clegg Project”, if there is such a thing.

But given how badly things have gone for the Lib Dems in this election, the party’s activists are surely going to want a chance of direction. Enter Tim Farron.

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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Sooner or later, a British university is going to go bankrupt

Theresa May's anti-immigration policies will have a big impact - and no-one is talking about it. 

The most effective way to regenerate somewhere? Build a university there. Of all the bits of the public sector, they have the most beneficial local effects – they create, near-instantly, a constellation of jobs, both directly and indirectly.

Don’t forget that the housing crisis in England’s great cities is the jobs crisis everywhere else: universities not only attract students but create graduate employment, both through directly working for the university or servicing its students and staff.

In the United Kingdom, when you look at the renaissance of England’s cities from the 1990s to the present day, universities are often unnoticed and uncelebrated but they are always at the heart of the picture.

And crucial to their funding: the high fees of overseas students. Thanks to the dominance of Oxford and Cambridge in television and film, the wide spread of English around the world, and the soft power of the BBC, particularly the World Service,  an education at a British university is highly prized around of the world. Add to that the fact that higher education is something that Britain does well and the conditions for financially secure development of regional centres of growth and jobs – supposedly the tentpole of Theresa May’s agenda – are all in place.

But at the Home Office, May did more to stop the flow of foreign students into higher education in Britain than any other minister since the Second World War. Under May, that department did its utmost to reduce the number of overseas students, despite opposition both from BIS, then responsible for higher education, and the Treasury, then supremely powerful under the leadership of George Osborne.

That’s the hidden story in today’s Office of National Statistics figures showing a drop in the number of international students. Even small falls in the number of international students has big repercussions for student funding. Take the University of Hull – one in six students are international students. But remove their contribution in fees and the University’s finances would instantly go from surplus into deficit. At Imperial, international students make up a third of the student population – but contribute 56 per cent of student fee income.

Bluntly – if May continues to reduce student numbers, the end result is going to be a university going bust, with massive knock-on effects, not only for research enterprise but for the local economies of the surrounding area.

And that’s the trajectory under David Cameron, when the Home Office’s instincts faced strong countervailing pressure from a powerful Treasury and a department for Business, Innovation and Skills that for most of his premiership hosted a vocal Liberal Democrat who needed to be mollified. There’s every reason to believe that the Cameron-era trajectory will accelerate, rather than decline, now that May is at the Treasury, the new department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy doesn’t even have responsibility for higher education anymore. (That’s back at the Department for Education, where the Secretary of State, Justine Greening, is a May loyalist.)

We talk about the pressures in the NHS or in care, and those, too, are warning lights in the British state. But watch out too, for a university that needs to be bailed out before long. 

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