It is petty of Cameron to oppose Brown's IMF bid

The possibility of an ex-prime minister leading the IMF should be welcomed.

There is a long tradition in the United States of presidents putting party politics aside in order to work with ex-presidents. President Clinton, a Democrat, has worked with presidents George H and George W Bush, who are both Republicans, of course, on a variety of projects around the world. Carter, another Democrat, has been a roaming ambassador for years. Statesmen put party politics aside for the good of the nation. But not David Cameron.

Asked whether the coalition would veto a possible appointment of Gordon Brown to the IMF in a BBC radio interview, Mr Cameron indicated he might. He said: "If you have someone who didn't think we had a debt problem in the UK when we self-evidently do have a debt problem, then they might not be the most appropriate person to work out whether other countries around the world have debt and deficit problems."

This is not what a statesman would say. This is the behavior of a petty, narrow-minded, vindictive person who is putting his and his party's interests ahead of the nation's. The possibility of having an ex-prime minister leading a major international agency would be good for Britain. Would it be better to have someone from another country such as Brazil or Somalia in the role? I think not. Put your petty differences aside.

I listened to Gordon Brown's speech at Breton Woods the other day and he had a vision for the global economy, arguing that this is the first great crisis of globalisation. Hence we need global solutions. No deficit denier, he. Cameron, of course, has zero background or training in economics and it shows.

All this suggests is that Cameron is thin-skinned and can't take criticism, as is becoming increasingly apparent at PMQs. It also suggests that Dave is rather worried about his economic policy failing -- and so he should be. We should expect better from our Prime Minister. He is increasingly sounding like a lightweight.

David Blanchflower is economics editor of the New Statesman and professor of economics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

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Why Theresa May won't exclude students from the net migration target

The Prime Minister believes the public would view the move as "a fix". 

In a letter to David Cameron shortly after the last general election, Philip Hammond demanded that students be excluded from the net migration target. The then foreign secretary, who was backed by George Osborne and Sajid Javid, wrote: "From a foreign policy point of view, Britain's role as a world class destination for international students is a highly significant element of our soft power offer. It's an issue that's consistently raised with me by our foreign counterparts." Universities and businesses have long argued that it is economically harmful to limit student numbers. But David Cameron, supported by Theresa May, refused to relent. 

Appearing before the Treasury select committee yesterday, Hammond reignited the issue. "As we approach the challenge of getting net migration figures down, it is in my view essential that we look at how we do this in a way that protects the vital interests of our economy," he said. He added that "It's not whether politicians think one thing or another, it's what the public believe and I think it would be useful to explore that quesrtion." A YouGov poll published earlier this year found that 57 per cent of the public support excluding students from the "tens of thousands" target.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has also pressured May to do so. But the Prime Minister not only rejected the proposal - she demanded a stricter regime. Rudd later announced in her conference speech that there would be "tougher rules for students on lower quality courses". 

The economic case for reform is that students aid growth. The political case is that it would make the net migration target (which has been missed for six years) easier to meet (long-term immigration for study was 164,000 in the most recent period). But in May's view, excluding students from the target would be regarded by the public as a "fix" and would harm the drive to reduce numbers. If an exemption is made for one group, others will inevitably demand similar treatment. 

Universities complain that their lobbying power has been reduced by the decision to transfer ministerial responsibility from the business department to education. Bill Rammell, the former higher education minister and the vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire, said in July: “We shouldn’t assume that Theresa May as prime minister will have the same restrictive view on overseas students that Theresa May the home secretary had”. Some Tory MPs hoped that the net migration target would be abolished altogether in a "Nixon goes to China" moment.

But rather than retreating, May has doubled-down. The Prime Minister regards permanently reduced migration as essential to her vision of a more ordered society. She believes the economic benefits of high immigration are both too negligible and too narrow. 

Her ambition is a forbidding one. Net migration has not been in the "tens of thousands" since 1997: when the EU had just 15 member states and the term "BRICS" had not even been coined. But as prime minister, May is determined to achieve what she could not as home secretary. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.