Fish fingers, the inside story

My how the tables have turned

It's quite exciting really, to think that newspapers in other countries publish articles about stupid things we do. It's like when you pick up a guidebook to the UK in another country and you remember that yes, people do come here on holiday! Or perhaps it's not like that at all, but anyway, this South African newspaper has had a good look at our eating habits.

Now some might read the article and think it paints a narrow, stereotypical view of the British and our culinary traditions. We are now a nation of foodies, don't you know, with truffle risotto and spelt and gluten-free bananas. We don't eat deep-fried Mars Bars any more, actually.

I got quite excited, however, about the development in fish-finger technology the article refers to. I'm being serious. This is pretty big news -- proper, crispy fish fingers! They may mock in South Africa with their Table Mountain and lovely weather, but in fact this is really quite momentous. Unfortunately, the Mail and Guardian seems to find it all rather wryly amusing:

Due in supermarkets next month, Young's Micro Fish Fingers "could be the fast-food breakthrough of the decade", opined the Grocer, the food industry trade journal in Britain.

Oh so now you're mocking our trade magazines, are you?

Before I work myself into a lather, let me leave you with this wonderful fact that ends the piece:

With Britain in recession, the fish finger market has grown 7 per cent in the past year to £131 million, the Grocer reported, citing a Nielsen market study.

That's right, South Africa, we like fish fingers. Crispy ones especially.








Sophie Elmhirst is features 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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