David Miliband boosted by new poll

Voters see Miliband as the most effective alternative to David Cameron.

There's some good news for David Miliband this morning, with a YouGov poll commissioned by his campaign suggesting that voters see him as the most effective alternative to David Cameron.

It found that 47 per cent of respondents believe the former foreign secretary is best placed to challenge Cameron, compared to 19 per cent for Ed Milband and 13 per cent for Ed Balls. Diane Abbott and Andy Burnham are on 11 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively.

But the finding which the Miliband campaign will trumpet is that their man has a strong lead among voters who abandoned Labour at the last election:

He has a 25 per cent lead over his brother among these voters on who would be the best alternative to Cameron, and a 27 per cent lead as the candidate most likely to persuade people to vote Labour.

As with any Labour leadership poll, it's important to add some significant qualifications. Miliband's lead may simply reflect the fact that he is the best known of the candidates; there is no reason to believe that Ed Miliband couldn't outperform him once established as leader.

Elsewhere, in a riposte to his brother's repeated warning that the party cannot remain in the "New Labour comfort zone", Miliband tells the Sun: "We need a majority strategy, not a minority strategy."

No one could argue with that, but the assumption made by too many of Miliband's supporters is that a "majority strategy" necessarily entails greater compromise with the right. The psephological reality is that Labour has lost five million votes since 1997, only a million of which went to the Tories.

The party's most popular policies, such as the 50p top tax rate and the bankers' bonus tax, have come when it has broken with Blairite tradition. The need to move beyond New Labour is no longer just a matter of ethics, but one of electoral necessity.

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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