Commons Confidential: Dave’s sausage offensive

Kevin Maguire's weekly column.

Our posh-boy premier let slip that he counts the number of Old Etonians in the Commons Press Gallery. The quota is down one since the Times’s political editor Roland Watson, a contemporary of Dave’s, shuffled off to become foreign editor. Call Me Dave greeted Watson’s successor, Francis Elliott – who co-wrote a very readable biography of the Tory toff – with a telling: “Ah, that’s one less Etonian in Westminster.” The PM must hope the public doesn’t vote for one fewer in No 10.

The latest edition of Kingston and Surbiton Voice, the Lib Dem constituency rag of the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, includes three photographs of a man called Derek Osbourne. Two are next to Davey’s Westminster View column; the third, taken outside a school, is below a snap of Davey with Nick Clegg. Osbourne resigned in mid-June as Lib Dem leader of Kingston Council after his arrest on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children. Deadlines are a nightmare, as this journalist knows, but the Kingston Lib Dumbs miscalculated by gambling nobody would notice rather than pulping the paper.

Ed Miliband’s zillionaire supporter Andrew Rosenfeld, a property tycoon worth an estimated £100m, is a sponsor with his union friends of the “People Unite” anti-austerity bus tours. Rosenfeld –who, since he abandoned the Tory cause, gets under Cameron’s skin – intended to travel on one of the buses. I trust Rosenfeld instructed his chauffeur to drop him off around the corner so he could walk to the start.

 A Tory snout  whispers that Con MPs are thin on the ground at Cameron’s backbencher barbecues. Downing Street invitations aren’t the draw they once were as Dave works his way down the rota. “Cameron’s outreach programme will fail,” giggled the congenital rebel, “if he can’t serve us a grilled sausage.”

Lord Mandy adding his tuppenceworth to Labour’s Falkirk selection shenanigans was further evidence the ignoble lord never forgives those who do him a favour, particularly the trade unions that fixed Hartlepool for a then Peter Mandelson.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Editor's note: This article was amended at 17:00 on 9 July, 2013. 

Apparently Conservative MPs are thin on the ground at Dave's backbencher barbecues. Montage: Dan Murrell/NS

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 08 July 2013 issue of the New Statesman, The world takes sides

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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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