How would the Lib Dems perform with Cable as leader?

Support for the party would rise from 14% to 18% with Cable as leader.

Vince Cable has made it clear that he's available should a vacancy arise for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, but what difference would he make to his party's election prospects? The latest Independent/ComRes survey asked voters this question and identified a significant Cable bounce.

With the Business Secretary as leader, support for the Lib Dems would rise to 18%, compared to 14% under Nick Clegg. On a uniform swing, that would leave the party with 39 of their 57 seats, compared with 23 under Clegg.

One should always be wary of polls showing that a political party would perform better under an alternative leader. Voters have a habit of favouring would-be leaders until the moment they're actually in charge. But with little evidence that Clegg can revive the Lib Dems' fortunes, the ComRes findings will concentrate the minds of his MPs. If the choice is between keeping their seats under Cable and losing them under Clegg, it would be surprising if they didn't rediscover their taste for regicide before the election.

He's behind you, Nick. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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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