Tonight we have seen Nick Clegg, deputy PM during the Con-Dem Coalition (lest any of us forget), pay the ultimate price for backtracking on his 2010 tuition fee promises.
As the results started to come in, it soon became apparent that Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam seat, which he has held safely since 2005, was under threat from Labour. In the end Clegg lost out by polling 19,756 votes and coming second to the ascendant Jared O Mara of Labour, who garnered 21,881 votes. I am a politically active millennial who went to university and voted Remain and frankly I’m delighted that Clegg has lost his seat.
Clegg struck a graceful and conciliatory tone in defeat, arguing that he had “lived by the sword and died by the sword”. Although he was probably referring to Brexit, I believe Nick Clegg has died by the sword of his broken tuition fee pledge.
In a normal election, the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto would have had enough punch to turn many a millennial head. But this is 2017, in post-Brexit Britain. Despite a peppering of appealing policy pledges, such as “rent-to-buy”, the Lib Dems have shown they daren’t dream big enough. Young people won’t be taken in by Tim Farron’s moderate manifesto, because we want radical change.
We knew that 75 per cent of 18-24 year-olds voted to remain in the EU last June; that shrinking wages and skyrocketing rents are pricing young people out of the housing market and condemning a lost generation to permanent debt, food banks and homelessness. The Lib Dems had so little to say about that. All they had was “rent-to-buy”, a second referendum and the carrot of renewed housing benefit for 18-21 year-olds. It just wasn’t enough.
Tim Farron deserved to lose seats, and Nick Clegg deserved to lose his seat especially. If Farron, Clegg and co had really wanted to woo my generation into the ballot box, then they should have taken a pledge out of Jeremy Corbyn and Caroline Lucas’s books and committed to abolishing tuition fees. Or they could have at least committed to the idea of entering into a coalition with Corbyn, instead of arrogantly ruling it out.
A few weeks ago, at the Convention on Brexit and The Political Crash, Nick Clegg gave an address. He spoke with the measure and poise of a seasoned statesman and made some valid points. But then something infuriating happened: he cracked a joke about raising tuition fees.
It was reminiscent of the final rap-battle in Eight Mile, where Eminem goes first and owns all the potential criticisms of himself, thereby rendering his opponent dumbfounded, speechless. But unlike Slim Shady, Clegg is not cool, no matter how many times his party positions itself as pro-cannabis. His joke went down like a lead balloon with an audience still saddled with debt because of the concessions he made. Because, for those of us who will be paying off the debt for most of our adult lives, it really isn't a laughing matter.
By continually allowing themselves to be defined through their opposition to Brexit, the Liberal Democrats have become a single-issue party, or reverse Ukip.
The ICM poll on 30 May showed that 73 per cent of 18-24 year-olds would vote for Labour, while 6 per cent said they would back the Liberal Democrats. Contrast this with the knowledge that 75 per cent of the 18-24 year-olds who voted in the EU referendum last June voted to Remain, and it becomes obvious that the Brexit drum-banging of Tim Farron and his party was never going to be enough to bring young people back in to the Lib Dem fold.
Now I’m going to do a Farron and give you three ever so slightly patronising reasons why the youth won’t back him: policy, history and electability.
In Corbyn’s Labour, millennials are being offered a radical alternative to austerity. We can say no to isolationism, without turning our back on the 52 per cent of the country who voted Leave. We can vote for the abolition of tuition fees, for state-owned railways, £6bn for our NHS and a £10 per hour minimum wage. This unashamedly left-wing programme promises tangible improvements to people’s lives.
Politicians lie all the time but it was Nick Clegg who taught us be cynical, and Jeremy Corbyn who taught us to believe again. Unlike shady Clegg, Corbyn has the truth, the youth and the UK grime community on side. His party was never even in with a chance.Reuse content