Benjamin Zephaniah “removed” from pro-AV pamphlets

AV campaign hots up after No to AV hint at racism in the Yes to AV campaign.

The AV referendum is drawing nearer and the campaign for and against it is getting dirtier. This weekend No to AV were caught playing fast and loose with the facts about their BNP claims. Yesterday, however, No to AV alleged that the Yes camp had removed the black poet Benjamin Zephaniah from promotional literature outside London because they were "ashamed" of his support.

No to AV have certainly got one thing right. As the New Statesman shows for the first time, Zephaniah is definitely absent from the ones sent to West Sussex, where the cast of supporters is decidedly pasty-faced.

This Yes to Fairer Votes leaflet went out in Ealing:

Ealing

While this one went out in West Sussex.

West Sussex

Yes to Fairer Votes deny the claims. "We have a number of endorsers and we vary the endorsers we use on our leaflets," said a spokesman. "These allegations mark a new low for the No campaign and [its] increasingly desperate smears.

"Let's put it this way: Operation Black Vote, the Muslim Council of Britain and a host of similar groups are backing the Yes campaign. The BNP is backing the No campaign. People can draw their own conclusions."

No to AV, however, are making the most of it. Councillor Terry Paul, spokesman for No to AV, said: "Why are Yes to AV ashamed to have the support of Benjamin Zephaniah in places like Cornwall and Hampshire? The Yes campaign's leaflet offers a chilling preview of politics under the Alternative Vote.

"We have warned that AV would encourage parties to pander to extremist opinions in a chase for second- and third-preference votes, but we never imagined the first example of such outdated views would come from the Yes campaign itself."

Ouch.

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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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