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Will Nick Clegg lose his seat?

Can Nick Clegg retain his seat? The polls paint a complex picture. 

Will Nick Clegg lose his seat? The Liberal Democrats have held Sheffield Hallam since 1997, and Labour have never won it. There was never any real chance of a serious challenge from the Conservatives, who came second at the last election, finishing 15,284 votes behind Clegg.

Labour have never won the seat, and their chances of taking it were considered remote until a November 2014 poll by Lord Ashcroft, the billionaire pollster,  showed Labour narrowly ahead of the Liberal Democrats in Sheffield Hallam, with 30 per cent of the vote to Clegg on 27 per cent. Another Ashcroft poll in March of this year confirmed that Clegg was in trouble, with Labour still ahead by 36 per cent to 34 per cent. And in April, Clegg still trailed according to Lord Ashcroft, 36 per cent to 37 per cent.

But an ICM poll this week put Clegg comfortably ahead, with 42 per cent to Coppard’s 35 per cent. The big difference: ICM’s poll named the candidates, while earlier polls just asked a voting intention question. The Liberal Democrats say that Ashcroft’s method doesn’t accurately gauge their strength in individual constituencies – Ashcroft disagrees. But we won’t know who is right, and whether or not Nick Clegg can keep his seat, until the votes are all cast on Thursday.

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Our new relationship with the EU may be a lot like the old one

For all the tough mood music, Theresa May has left room for concessions.

I'm sad and dismayed, but that's democracy for you.

The Mail is in a cheerier mood. "Freedom!" is their splash. "Dear EU, We're Leaving You" cheers the Express' while "Dear EU, it's time to go" is the Mirror's splash. "Dover & Out!" roars the Sun, who have projected those same words on the white cliffs of, you guessed it, Dover. "May Signs Us Out!" is the Metro's take.

"Brexit begins" is the i's more equivocal splash, "The eyes of history are watching" is the Times' take, while the Guardian opts for "Today Britain steps into the unknown".

The bigger story isn't the letter but its content, which leads the FT: "May signs historic Brexit letter and opens way for compromise". The government is finessing its red line on the competence of the European Court of Justice. (The word in Whitehall is that Theresa May hadn't grasped the importance of the ECJ as an arbitration mechanism after Brexit and for cross-border matters such as flights when she made her conference speech.)  And the PM has done a good job of not ruling out continuing payments to the European Union, her best path to the deal Britain needs.

A lot depends on what happens to the British economy between now and March 2019. The pound is down still further today but whether that's a minor eruption or the start of sustained losses will have significant consequences on how painful Britain's best path to the access we need to the single market - paying over the odds for the parts of membership that the British government wants to keep and swallowing that £50bn divorce bill - is doable or not.

For all the mood music emanating from May, she's quietly done a good job of clearing the obstacles to a deal where Britain controls its own immigration policy, continues to staff Europol and to participate in European-wide research, the bulk of our regulation is set by Brussels de facto if not de jure and we pay, say £250m a week into Brussels.

Our new relationship with the EU may be rather closer to our old one than we currently expect.

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