Mean, lean, but no longer green. Photo: Getty
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What we learned from David Cameron's profile in the Times

5 things we learned from the Prime Minister's sit-down with the Times

If this election doesn't work out, he might just make a living as a dietician.

The pressures of office have left their mark on David Cameron, particularly on his waistline. He's lost 13 pounds since Christmas by giving up biscuits and peanuts, while cutting down on carbs. Nigel Lawson wrote a bestselling diet book after he resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer – perhaps Cameron can do the same after he leaves Downing Street.

He hates PMQs as much as Ed Miliband does…

He says that its his worst part of the week and never watches it back, calls it a nightmare, likens it to “Christians and lions” but says he has to stay sharp in order to avoid being “lion food”. 

He’s not alone. Earlier this year, Ed Miliband told a Q&A that Prime Minister’s Questions were “a long time I’m not going to get back in terms of my life. I’m not sure it’s made much difference to the sum of human knowledge.”

If only the two of them were in senior positions and able to do something better with the format, eh? 

A grand coalition of sorts. Photo: Getty

Cameron still channels Blair…but only so far

Ukip are offering “the politics of anger rather than the politics of the answer”, Cameron tells Jenni Russell. Late last year, Tony Blair told the WSJ’s Stephen Fidler something similar:

“I always say to people that there’s always a difference between the politics of anger and the politics of the answer. And we’re [Labour] best to be in the position of giving people the answer. You can understand the anger and you can sympathize with it even, but you will never out-Ukip Ukip.”

That latter part has been ignored, of course, both by David Cameron, who tells Russell that immigration is “too high”, and Miliband, who did the same to Jeremy Paxman on Thursday.

The past is never where you left it. Photo: Getty

Cameron really does love Clarkson

As well as talking about his friendship with the defenestrated Top Gear host, Cameron says he is “a classic, slightly Top Gear man”, and has this to say on the subject of his favourite films:

“I have watched Lawrence of Arabia more times than is healthy. It’s beautiful, it’s heroic, it’s panoramic. I watch films for escapism. I like being transported away. Suddenly there you are, chasing across the desert, taking Aqaba from the wrong side, and there’s the most thrilling sight in the world …Not that I have ever been to Aqaba. I love that film.”

Slightly more troubling is his description of health and safety regulations, freedom of information and judicial review as “the buggeration factor”. Yep: Cameron unchained thinks you shouldn’t be able to find out what the government’s doing, stop it needless endangering you, or be able to take it to court if it fails on either of those counts. Thank goodness for Nick Clegg.  And speaking of Clegg…

Nick Clegg gets an endorsement he’s unlikely to put on his leaflets anytime soon.

Cameron on Clegg: “I think, look, he made the right decision to form a coalition. We’ve worked very well together.”

Cheer up, Nick. Photo: Getty

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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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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