Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read posts from today, on tactical voting, homophobia and the Murdoch web charge.

1. How could you vote for a hung parliament?

Last week's New Statesman essay by Anthony Barnett appeared to offer advice to voters who want a hung parliament. But he was wrong, says Next Left's Sunder Katwala, who gives detailed instructions on tactical voting.

2. Is Brown running scared of a Paxo stuffing?

Paul Waugh reveals that No 10 has not yet given the green light for the hour-long grilling on Newsnight that John Major and Tony Blair both faced.

3. Cameron's gay rights gaffe

At Liberal Conspiracy, Paul Sagar blogs on the mainstream media's response to David Cameron's disastrous interview with the Gay Times, and what this tells us about homophobia in our society.

4. BBC capitulation paves way for Murdoch web charge

Trying to get people to pay for access to information on the internet is not the model we should be following, Joy Johnson writes at Left Foot Forward.

5. That "eye-opening" Geoff Hoon claim in Andrew Rawnsley's book

It's been quite a week for Hoon, says Simon Jeffery, and that has drawn attention to a passage in Rawnsley's book The End of the Party claiming that Hoon has kept explosive details about Dr David Kelly under wraps.

Sign up now to CommentPlus for the pick of the day's opinion, comment and analysis in your inbox at 8am, every weekday.


Show Hide image

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.

0800 7318496