Iain Duncan Smith looking sheepish. Photograph: Getty Images.
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IDS spends more on his unwatched YouTube channel than most people earn in a year

In the mood for watching some videos on benefits system reform? The DWP's got you covered.

The Department for Work and Pensions serves “over 20 million customers”, its YouTube channel boasts. Sadly, only 451 of these customers have bothered to subscribe to said channel, and even fewer have got round to watching most of its videos - like this, one, dealing with personal hygiene. It's had 12 at the time of writing:

Buzzfeed reports today that it a response to one of its Freedom of Information requests has revealed that in the nine months between April 2013 and January 2014, the DWP spent £31,064.52 on its channel, during which time 33 videos were made. That’s roughly £940 per video.

According to BuzzFeed, this 30 grand figure only covers the production costs, and doesn’t include the “small in-house team” that runs the channel from its offices.

(You’d think that for just under a grand you could hire some decent lights.)

We were curious to see if the DWP was particularly bad at attracting viewers, but it looks like a pretty poor performance across the board. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills beats it with more than 1,000 subscribers, but IDS still has one up on the Cabinet Office’s channel, which only has 139 subscribers. In the past year it's released 44 videos, the most popular of which is about government savings in the year 2011/2012. It has 874 views. Glory days.

Still, the government offices that have embraced the multimedia age are doing better than the Civil Service, which has a paltry 64 subscribers. But that’s still 30 more people than have watched the below video, sexily entitled: “DWP Social Justice: Working in partnership with government agencies and other organisations. pt.1”

BuzzFeed estimates that £31,000 is enough to get 75 young people onto the government's Help to Work scheme. Maybe some young talent might be useful in the DWP's social media department.

I'm a mole, innit.

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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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