Nigel Farage on the campaign trail. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid
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Ukip's first rule: "Nigel always wins"

Nigel Farage has turned on his opponents.

Well that didn’t last long. Ukip’s post-Civil War peace has given way to another bloody day: Patrick O’Flynn has resigned as economics spokesman, issuing a groveling apology for calling Nigel Farage “snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive.” And Suzanne Evans has not had her paid policy development brief renewed, with Mark Reckless reportedly likely to replace her.

It is a reminder that what Nigel wants in Ukip, Nigel gets. Along with Douglas Carswell, O’Flynn and Evans are the alleged plotters who wanted Farage to stick to his original pledge to stand down after failing to win Thanet South. This is their punishment. Carswell, as Ukip’s sole MP in Westminster, is rather harder to attack.

And it is also a reminder of the shallowness of Ukip’s talent-pool. At the start of 2013, none of Carswell, O’Flynn and Evans were in the party; by the general election, all three were among the ten most important figures in Ukip. Such a rapid ascent is unthinkable in more established parties. It risks inciting jealously among Farage’s loyal courtiers – some of whom briefed against the ‘plotters’ – who resent being usurped.

Only a month ago, Farage let Suzanne Evans dominate the stage at Ukip’s manifesto launch. Evans produced a document that the press found impossible to mock. It was possible to imagine that moment as Ukip’s coming of age. Along with figures like Carswell, O’Flynn, Paul Nuttall and Steven Woolfe, Evans seemed to embody a party that would no longer be defined by its leader.

But for all his protestations about being a different sort of leader, the last fortnight has confirmed Farage to be a man who guards his power as zealously as Louis XIV. “L'État, c'est moi”, the Sun King once said. “I am the party,” Farage is now saying – and there is no danger of that ending anytime soon.

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.

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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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