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Jeremy Corbyn's Nato stance is a first for a Labour leader

Corbyn's refusal to support collective defence puts him at odds with all of his predecessors. 

It was under the Attlee government in 1949 that the UK co-founded Nato and became one of its senior members. Every Labour leader since has supported the military alliance. But in last night's hustings, Jeremy Corbyn refused to commit to upholding Article 5: the principle of collective defence ("an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies"). 

When asked how the UK would respond if a fellow Nato member state was invaded by Russia, Corbyn replied: "I would want to avoid us getting involved militarily by building up the diplomatic relationships and also trying to not isolate any country in Europe, to bring them up." Pressed on the subject, he added: "I don’t wish to go to war. What I want to do is achieve a world where we don’t need to go to war, where there is no need for it. That can be done."

Corbyn's stance is not especially surprising. During last year's leadership election, he suggested that Nato should have been disbanded ("It's a Cold War organisation, it should have been wound up in 1990 along with the Warsaw Pact"), though he later retreated and stated that there wasn't "an appetite as a whole for people to leave". But his stance on Article 5, which echoes that of Donald Trump, has resurrected the divide.

Owen Smith, his rival candidate, replied: "Were there an invasion of a Nato state by Russia, I am clear that we would need to come to the aid of that state militarily. I believe in us supporting one another, I believe in us working against countries. And the nature of that accord, that treaty, is to do that." He added: "We shouldn't be anything other than robust in facing up to Putin, especially if there were military action against a Nato country." Wes Streeting MP has described Corbyn's stance as "a gross betrayal of Labour's internationalist values". 

As I noted earlier, no other party leader has ever adopted this position. Though it is often claimed that Labour's 1983 manifesto pledged Nato withdrawal, it actually stated: "Labour believes in collective security. The next Labour government will maintain its support for Nato". It is for reasons such as these that 172 Labour MPs voted no confidence in their leader last month and 65 resigned from his frontbench. Corbyn will now find it even harder to persuade any to return in the likely event of his re-election.  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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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