Is a hung parliament best for the left?

Anthony Barnett argues that the left has a duty to kick out New Labour.

Here at New Statesman Towers we're just putting the finishing touches to this week's magazine, but I wanted to tell you about the remarkable polemic from Anthony Barnett you'll find in it.

Barnett, the co-founder of Charter 88 and openDemocracy pioneer, launches a ferocious attack on Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson and argues that all left liberals have a duty to vote New Labour out of power.

But he has little time for those who claim that David Cameron's Conservatives offer a credible alternative. The Ashcroft affair, he writes, confirmed that the two parties inhabit the same "corrupt conservatory".

Instead, he calls on voters to support the candidate most likely to increase the number of independent and third-party MPs, and produce a hung parliament.

Here are two key extracts:

We need to hang parliament and hang the two main parties. We need to vote Brown and Mandelson out, first of all, but not vote Cameron and company in to carry on where Labour has left off. We need a hung parliament so that invention and new voices are registered, so that the public can express how it has lost trust in the political class, and different forces be allowed to reshape the political scene.

Those on the left should help Britain vote out New Labour, but frustrate the Cameroons. Brown, Mandelson and Blair had an unprecedented opportunity to reform the British system with public support. Instead, they chose to intensify the centralisation of power.

Unsurprisingly, Barnett's definitive break with the Labour leadership has already provoked a hostile reaction from some. So, in the first of a series of replies to the piece, the distinguished academic David Marquand rejects calls for a hung parliament and accuses Barnett of preferring a minority Cameron government to any sort of Labour administration.

Make sure you pick up the new issue tomorrow and join the debate about the future of the left.

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.

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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