Leader: An exemplary New Stateswoman

Remembering Kirsty Milne.

Jill Chisholm writes: Kirsty Milne, who has died of cancer at the age of 49, was a political columnist and then associate editor of this magazine through the eventful 1990s. Those of us who remember her do so with respect bordering on awe.
At the New Statesman, we try to approach the issues we address with intelligence, flair and rigour. However, we are well aware that in this ambition we sometimes fall short. Kirsty will live on in our minds as someone who never did.
Whatever she wrote was economically and vividly expressed. Often it was enlivened by caustic wit. It was always rooted in a comprehensive grasp of the facts. The careful judgements on which it depended were never swayed by personal prejudice, ideological bias or the conventional wisdom of the day.
Kirsty was lured away from us by the arrival of devolution in her beloved homeland. At the Scotsman, where she exercised the skills we had so admired in her as a columnist and leader writer, she became an acclaimed chronicler of Holyrood’s birth and infancy, before leaving journalism for academia.
We shall not easily forget her. In so far as we manage to emulate her, we shall be giving her the tribute she richly deserves.

This article first appeared in the 29 July 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.