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Protesters outside Tory party conference have been spitting on journalists

A small minority of activists have been condemned for harassing journalists at a TUC protest in Manchester.

Several journalists claim to have been spat at by protesters outside Tory party conference in Manchester, during a 60,000-strong rally organised by the TUC to highlight its opposition to the Trade Union Bill.

Kate McCann of the Telegraph and Owen Bennett of Huffington Post both posted about the incident on Twitter:

The man who allegedly spat at Bennett was detained by police at the scene, while other demonstrators appeared to protest his arrest.

TUC general secretary Francis O’Grady called the man’s behaviour “unacceptable”.

However, Greater Manchester Police were quick to assure the public that, despite the large numbers attending the protest, the vast majority were peaceful: “The fact that only four arrests have been made throughout the day so far was particularly pleasing.”

Charlotte Church, who spoke at yesterday’s rally, has also condemned the actions of the “fringe parts” of the protest. “I plan to write an open letter on behalf of the majority of the people who protested that day to say we’re really sorry, and this isn’t what it’s about.”

The harassment of journalists happened despite Jeremy Corbyn urging activists to "focus on policy" and avoid personal attacks:

While Chris Bryant MP took the chance to address the day’s two burning issues in one:

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland

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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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