Labour PPC attacks Brown as “worst prime minister we’ve had”

Wouldn’t it have hurt more if he’d just said “worse than Thatcher”?

Brown worst PM

After his astonishing speech to Citizens UK, Gordon Brown might have hoped to attract at least grudging admiration from some of his Labour foes. If so, he didn't factor in one Manish Sood, the party's candidate in North-West Norfolk.

In a last-minute bid for the award for political hyperbole, Sood has described Brown as the "worst prime minister we have had".

He told the Lynn News:

Immigration has gone up which is creating friction within communities. The country is getting bigger and messier. The role of ministers has gone bureaucratic and the action of ministers has gone downhill -- it is corrupt. The loss of social values is the basic problem and this is not what the Labour Party is about.

I believe Gordon Brown has been the worst prime minister we have had in this country. It is a disgrace and he owes an apology to the people and the Queen.

It's probably best not to devote too much time to what Alastair Campbell accurately described on his blog as the "bizarre ramblings of a candidate in an unwinnable seat".

But I'm still perplexed by Sood's insult of choice. Describing Brown as the "worst prime minister" invites us to compare and contrast Brown's record with that of Anthony Eden and that of Neville Chamberlain. Wouldn't it have been more cutting and incendiary just to say "worse than Thatcher"?

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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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