Who wants a Tory babygro for Christmas?

Last-minute (and disastrous) gift ideas from the political parties

I wonder who buys these things. There must be someone, right now, walking around wearing a T-shirt with the slogan Big Government = Big Problems on it. That's a Tory one, obviously. As is the slightly more direct: "Release Your Inner Tory" T-shirt, which appears to depict a lock and chains exploding as said "Inner Tory" bursts out of the stomach of the unsuspecting wearer. It's like something out of Alien.

Other gift ideas from the Conservative Party include the Tea for Change mug, the delightful "Bye Bye Bureaucracy" poster, and the must-have Blue is the New Green bag. And then, of course, there's the babygro with "Future Prime Minister" printed on it in bright green capitals. Perhaps this is an unwitting reference to the youthful looks of Cameron and Osborne. Or maybe they're thinking that even Cameron isn't young enough and they should start pitching to the über-youth market NOW by recruiting the under-twos. Either way, the idea of buying one of these for a baby is pretty horrifying.

So how does Labour match up? The list of items is rather short, it has to be said. Compared to the Tories' endless array of dodgy garb and kitchenware, the Labour offerings are paltry.

There's the standard diary, tie, pin badge, postcards, and then my personal favourite: the NHS mug. This comes with the helpful instruction: "Ideal for post-campaign session cup of tea!" No novelty babygros for Labour, then. Just slightly sanctimonious messages hinting at the value of our health service. Happy Christmas!

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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