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Nick Clegg cheered by students

Six years ago, Nick Clegg was not the most popular politician amongst students. Now, things have changed as many young people find that he speaks for them as the Government hurtles towards a hard Brexit which will blight their future and opportunities. The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour watched him speak to a crowd of students last night:

In his Standard column this week, Nick described another student debate, in his Sheffield constituency, where he had a few words to say to the Labour MP on the panel:

I was on a platform with other politicians taking questions from a student audience. A local Labour MP was having the normal go at me about tuition fees. Fair enough — though I noticed he omitted to mention Labour’s own role in introducing tuition fees, and then trebling them on its own watch.

No, the moment Labour’s malaise really struck me was when this MP started speaking about the vote last week in the Commons on Article 50. He displayed none of the intelligence or humility of Keir Starmer, the shadow secretary for exiting the EU, who disarmingly confessed to the gathered MPs how difficult the issue is for Labour. Instead, in Sheffield this MP started to deliver a sanctimonious lecture to the Ukip and Conservative panellists, berating them for placing immigration above the economy in the Brexit talks.

I couldn’t contain myself. Irascibly, I interrupted his pro-European sermon to remind him that he’d just got off a train from London having voted with Douglas Carswell, Michael Gove, John Redwood and other zealous Brexiteers. How could he claim he was representing the interests of the youngsters in the audience having given his support to Theresa May’s uncompromisingly hard Brexit, yanking the UK out of the single market altogether?

I don’t believe that it would have been a betrayal of democracy if MPs had voted against the Government last week. All that would have happened, once the splenetic outrage of the Brexit-supporting press had passed, is that the Government would have been forced to come back to MPs with a more moderate, workable approach to Brexit which would then have received their support. MPs would not have blocked Brexit but they would have blocked hard Brexit. So it is pretty rich for Labour MPs to deliver pious homilies to other parties about the dangers of hard Brexit.

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