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Will Momentum be able to affiliate to Labour?

The party's current rules bar the group from doing so - and that is unlikely to change. 

In Momentum's internal war, Jon Lansman has won. The group's founder and owner has drawn up a hastily-approved constitution, which will force members to join Labour by 1 July 2017 or face expulsion. Lansman's move is designed to neutralise Momentum's Trotskyist wing, which has long resisted his reforms. Senior members such as Jill Mountford of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and former Militant member Nick Wrack, who are barred from Labour, will be forced out. 

Mountford said: "This is a coup. We are not splitting and we are not going to be provoked by this. We are going to call a conference for grassroots activists and we will to seek to reverse these changes. The constitution has been imposed, we are going to continue to fight for a democratic organisation."

Lansman's ruthlessness has prompted the rare sight of Blairites praising the veteran Bennite (who I interviewed last year). It was, they wryly noted, the 88th anniversary of Stalin exiling Trotsky to Siberia. "Lansman is behaving like an absolute monarch," said Richard Angell, the director of Progress.

But despite the coming purge, Labour MPs still baulk at the thought of the pro-Corbyn group affiliating to the party. "I will be opposing this with every fibre of my body," vowed Tom Blenkinsop. But what are the chances of Momentum being permitted to affiliate? Under the current rules, the answer is non-existent - unless the group changes beyond recognition. Labour's constitution states that groups which have "their own programme, principles and policy, or distinctive and separate propaganda" or which promote parliamentary or local government candidates (as Momentum does) shall be "ineligible for affiliation to the party." 

It is for this reason that other factions, such as Progress, the old right Labour First and the Bennite Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, are not officially affiliated. It is theoretically possible that the the party could change its rules to accept applications from such groups. But in practice it is unlikely that either the NEC or the Labour conference would approve this hazard-strewn move. Even some of Corbyn's NEC supporters are opposed to Momentum's affiliation bid. 

Were Labour's rules to remain unchanged, Momentum itself would have to change. It would have to cease to be a pro-Corbyn faction and become a blander socialist society (no disrespect to the Fabians). Rather than a genuine affiliation bid, then, Lansman's announcement looks more like a symbolic declaration. By stating that he wishes to affiliate, he has made it clear that those who don't are not welcome. 

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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