David Cameron speaks to invited World War II veterans aboard HMS Belfast in central London, on May 20, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Bad news for the Tories as net migration and the deficit rise

Targets are missed on two fronts, with net migration up by 212,000 and borrowing up by £1.9bn. 

The Conservatives are in better spirits than almost anyone expected them to be on election day. Weeks of careful expectation management have ensured that a third-place finish in the Europeans has been priced into David Cameron's political share price, with potential rebels appeased in advance, while the narrowing of the national polls has reassured Conservative MPs that they can win the next general election. 

But the day has not started well for the Tories, with new figures showing that they're off course on two key targets. The ONS estimates that net migration rose by 212,000 last year, up from 177,000 in 2012 and far above the "tens of thousands" Cameron is aiming for. 

In addition, the deficit stood at £11.5bn last month, a year-on-year increase of £1.9bn. With borrowing still rising, despite the return of growth, there is no prospect of George Osborne meeting his pledge to reduce the national debt as a share of GDP by 2015-16 and to eliminate the structural deficit by the end of this parliament. 

But while the figures represent an unarguable policy failure for the Tories, the political question is whether Labour can capitalise. As long as voters continue to doubt that the opposition would be any better at reducing immigration and the deficit, Miliband will struggle to reap any benefits. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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