Clegg is three points behind the Labour candidate in Sheffield Hallam (Photo: Getty)
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Believe the hype: Nick Clegg could lose his seat

Speaking in Sutton before the 2010 general election, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, said to an audience of young voters: “The opportunity is immense this time. The cross you put on the ballot paper might be small, but the opportunity is big.”

Back then – during the height of “Cleggmania” – there was the opportunity to change politics for the better by voting for the Lib Dems. But today, it’s the chance to unseat the Deputy Prime Minister and rid parliament of one politician who has done more than any to disillusion young voters.

Make no mistake – Clegg’s home seat of Sheffield Hallam is most definitely in play. Clegg is three points behind Labour’s parliamentary candidate, Oliver Coppard, in the latest Ashcroft polling. And the long-running trend is decisively against the incumbent. Back in May 2014, ICM polling showed Labour up by ten points in Sheffield Hallam. On February 5 this year, Survation showed Clegg losing by the same margin. A Labour victory isn’t only likely; it’s probable.

That’s why this Saturday the Young Fabians, the youth wing of the Labour-affiliated Fabian Society, are helping to co-ordinate a national campaign day in Sheffield. We're travelling from far and wide to join friends from Labour Students and Labour members in the constituency in a united effort to #kickNickout of front-line politics once and for all. Around 70 activists are expected on the ground. Many of them are young people who feel betrayed by Clegg and let down by the promise of the Lib Dems.

And they are right to feel this way. On that sunny day in Sutton in 2010, Clegg railed against the fact that one in five young people between 18 and 24 were out of work. Five years on, young people are still three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population.

In 2010, he promised to close “the grotesque loopholes at the top of the tax system”. Five years on, the tax gap (the difference between the amounts of tax that should be collected by HMRC against what is actually corrected) stands at 6.8 per cent – up £1 billion from April 2012.

In 2010, he said “never again” to the obscene bankers’ bonuses seen prior to the global financial crisis. Five years on, bankers’ bonuses have grown at double the rate of the average UK worker.

This is to say nothing of his complicity in passing the Tories’ bedroom tax, cutting funds to local government, scrapping the education maintenance allowance and, of course, tripling university tuition fees. 

Coppard has worked wonders in a seat that Labour hasn’t won once since its creation in 1885. He’s mobilised students from across Sheffield and across the country to take on their nemesis on his own turf. The campaign is punching above its weight financially and creating an irresistible buzz that is now drawing a broader range of young people – from secondary school pupils to young professionals – into the fight. Coppard’s policies are proving popular, particularly his petition calling for local estate agents to scrap letting fees, which echoes Labour’s national housing policy.

But Coppard will need all the troops he can muster to win on May 7th, and I, for one, intend to provide them.

Louie Woodall is a member of the Young Fabians Executive Committee. Follow the Young Fabians on Twitter for more information on our campaign days.

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.