Sir Trevor "grilling" Cameron?? He couldn't grill a frozen burger . . .

And don't forget the broadcaster's John Major interview.

The dumbing down of British politics continues apace. Hot on the heels of Piers Morgan's cringe-inducing "interview" with Gordon "Plonker" Brown comes ITV1's next headline-grabbing contribution to enlightening the non-voters of this nation: Trevor McDonald Meets David Cameron.

(Full disclaimer: I worked on ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme, which many would argue was the last genuine attempt by the broadcaster to give attention and airtime to domestic political coverage.)

The Cashcroft-owned PoliticsHome headline for this story is:

Cameron faces McDonald grilling

"Grilling"? Sir Trevor McDonald, knight of the realm and ex-anchor of News at Ten, couldn't grill a frozen beefburger that had been left to defrost on his kitchen counter for several hours. Ronald McDonald, of Golden Arches fame, could probably do a better job of examining the Tory leader's policies forensically.

In the original Telegraph story, it says Cameron was asked to appear on Morgan's show but declined, explaining that he preferred to do "something a bit more substantial".

"Bit more" are the key words.

Let me remind those of you with short memories (ie, much of the Westminster village) that in 1996 News at Ten was reprimanded by the ITC (the predecessor to Ofcom) over its seven-minute interview with the then Tory premier, John Major. The ITC chairman, Sir George Russell, described Sir Trevor's questions as "a little too friendly and relaxed", and even "inappropriate".

At one point, Sir Trev, whom critics accused of grovelling, said to Major:

I have been reading some of the interviews you have been giving to newspapers recently and what comes over is the extraordinary dedication you have for this job.

Bring on Dave!

 

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Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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