The new leader needs to be a team player as well

We must learn the lessons of our defeat.

If we want to get back into a position where we can challenge the new Tory-led government, we need to be prepared to rethink our policies and learn the lessons of our defeat, by listening to the sometimes sobering messages we received from the electorate.

We need a leader able to project his or her personality and present our policies in today's media environment. All this is true -- but we also need a leader capable of building a team, inspiring loyalty from colleagues, and one genuinely open to ideas.

When I was first elected to parliament 18 years ago, one of the many things that struck me and that I still feel now is how the Labour Party, the party of collective action, can, at MP level and above, behave in such an individualistic way. It's hard to find good teamwork in practice and I have never thought that we, as a party, were any better at working as a team than the Tories, despite our core values.

Yet, despite the increasingly presidential style of political leadership in our country, teamwork is essential.

We all know this and yet we have not practised it well in government. Yes, there has been discipline and there has been restraint, and many have bent their own views for the collective good, but collective, effective teamwork has not been the order of the day.

Time pressures are a good excuse, the complexity and size of government a good excuse, but they are still excuses. How can you reach good decisions if you don't genuinely share them with colleagues? How do you get the best unless the whole team feels involved and has some ownership? And when times are hard, how do you get the depth of loyalty you need, if you haven't inspired it by your own actions over time?

So, as well as the presentational skills that we know we will need, and in addition to delving into the detail of the policy beliefs of the different candidates, we must look for a person capable of building and leading a team, able to inspire loyalty from close colleagues, and who gets the best from people by including them in discussion before articulating the response to any situation. Look for those qualities when you vote.

Bob Ainsworth is MP for Coventry North-East (Labour)

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Why Theresa May won't exclude students from the net migration target

The Prime Minister believes the public would view the move as "a fix". 

In a letter to David Cameron shortly after the last general election, Philip Hammond demanded that students be excluded from the net migration target. The then foreign secretary, who was backed by George Osborne and Sajid Javid, wrote: "From a foreign policy point of view, Britain's role as a world class destination for international students is a highly significant element of our soft power offer. It's an issue that's consistently raised with me by our foreign counterparts." Universities and businesses have long argued that it is economically harmful to limit student numbers. But David Cameron, supported by Theresa May, refused to relent. 

Appearing before the Treasury select committee yesterday, Hammond reignited the issue. "As we approach the challenge of getting net migration figures down, it is in my view essential that we look at how we do this in a way that protects the vital interests of our economy," he said. He added that "It's not whether politicians think one thing or another, it's what the public believe and I think it would be useful to explore that quesrtion." A YouGov poll published earlier this year found that 57 per cent of the public support excluding students from the "tens of thousands" target.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has also pressured May to do so. But the Prime Minister not only rejected the proposal - she demanded a stricter regime. Rudd later announced in her conference speech that there would be "tougher rules for students on lower quality courses". 

The economic case for reform is that students aid growth. The political case is that it would make the net migration target (which has been missed for six years) easier to meet (long-term immigration for study was 164,000 in the most recent period). But in May's view, excluding students from the target would be regarded by the public as a "fix" and would harm the drive to reduce numbers. If an exemption is made for one group, others will inevitably demand similar treatment. 

Universities complain that their lobbying power has been reduced by the decision to transfer ministerial responsibility from the business department to education. Bill Rammell, the former higher education minister and the vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire, said in July: “We shouldn’t assume that Theresa May as prime minister will have the same restrictive view on overseas students that Theresa May the home secretary had”. Some Tory MPs hoped that the net migration target would be abolished altogether in a "Nixon goes to China" moment.

But rather than retreating, May has doubled-down. The Prime Minister regards permanently reduced migration as essential to her vision of a more ordered society. She believes the economic benefits of high immigration are both too negligible and too narrow. 

Her ambition is a forbidding one. Net migration has not been in the "tens of thousands" since 1997: when the EU had just 15 member states and the term "BRICS" had not even been coined. But as prime minister, May is determined to achieve what she could not as home secretary. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.