Support for Labour surges after Miliband's speech

The party's lead over the Tories rises from nine points to 14 in the first poll since the Labour leader's speech.

The party conferences are among the few political events that can have a visible effect on the polls (the Budget, which led to a sustained fall in support for the Tories, is another) and Labour has duly won a bounce from Ed Miliband's well-received speech. The latest YouGov poll gives the party a 14-point lead over the Conservatives, up from nine points before the speech and the joint-largest lead it has enjoyed since the general election. Labour's share of the vote has increased by three points to 45%, while the Tories' has fallen by three to 31%. If repeated at an election on a uniform swing, these figures would see Miliband enter Downing Street with a majority of 130 seats.

The Tories will derive some consolation from the fact that Cameron continues to lead Miliband as the "best Prime Minister", but his advantage has shrunk to four points (31-27), the lowest since Miliband became leader.

Further evidence that Miliband's speech has improved his standing is supplied by a Survation poll for the Daily Mirror. The number of people who view him as "statesmanlike" has risen from 18% to 34%, whilst his net approval rating has improved from -46 to -15. In addition, 30% said they were more likely to vote for Labour following his speech (a figure that is more impressive than it appears. Some Labour voters will have needed no further persuasion.)

It remains to be seen whether this is a temporary or a permanent shift, but the Tories can no longer dismiss Miliband as unelectable (if they ever could). Nick Clegg's veto of the boundary changes means that Labour needs a lead of just one point on a uniform swing to win a majority. Based on the Tories' current performance, it's increasingly hard to see how they could prevent such a result.

Thirty per cent of people said they were more likely to vote Labour following Ed Miliband's speech. 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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