Partygate and the government’s crackdown on overseas students: the old stories come back again

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Good morning. Is my time machine working? I’m only asking because I woke up to the news that Boris Johnson is facing a police investigation into possible breaches of the lockdown and that the government is taking action on international student visas.

These old stories are new again—and both have political implications worth thinking about. More on these in today’s note. As always, we appreciate your messages: you can reach us at the address below.

Inside Politics is edited by Georgina Quach. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenkb and please send rumors, thoughts and feedback to [email protected]

Help – what year is this?!

Boris Johnson has been referred to the police by the Cabinet Office amid fresh allegations that he broke lockdown rules during his time as prime minister. His ministerial diary revealed that during the coronavirus restrictions, their friends visited Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence. I had a colleague Henry Zeffman submitted the scoop to the Times, along with Steve Swinford and Fiona Hamilton.

According to the Times, the allegations came to light because the Cabinet Office is funding Johnson’s legal advice as part of the government’s public inquiry into the handling of the outbreak, which is why Johnson’s diary came into their possession and, as a result, into the hands of the government. police. The former prime minister denied any wrongdoing.

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From a political point of view, two important things should be noted here. The first is that it increases the chances of Johnson being sanctioned by the Commons Privileges Committee beyond the 10 working days needed to launch a recall petition and by-election in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.

The second is that it reminds Conservative MPs of how tired they are of the scandals and controversies that have marred Johnson’s government. (Don’t forget how it was it’s actually a completely different scandal (this precipitated the eventual end of Johnson’s prime ministership.)

All in all, it’s a day that strengthens Rishi Sunak’s internal credentials and further cements his position at the helm of the Conservative Party.

The path of least resistance

One of the reasons why the Conservatives’ net migration target is, in my view, highly undesirable is that it misshapes government policy and makes forms of immigration that it can easily control more draconian.

What is driving the UK’s high net migration figures? Labor shortages in industries ranging from healthcare to agriculture. While the government can address these gaps without increasing the number of people coming to the UK, this would require a lot of money and time. The influx of refugees from Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the arrival of British national (overseas) status holders from Hong Kong have also boosted the numbers. While the UK government aims to avoid Chinese crackdowns or attempts to forcefully redraw the world’s borders, none of these are within the UK’s control.

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The government controls who can – and cannot – come to the UK on a student visa. As a result, when the net migration target is back in the news, the government responds by introducing new restrictions on student visas. It was like that again yesterday. The UK will ban most international students from bringing family members with them from next January.

The big political issue here is that overseas student migration to Britain is a) popular and b) essential to the bottom line of universities. It’s a symptom of a wider problem: what the government is doing about immigration is completely divorced from its broader policy goals. If the aim is to run higher education as a successful export sector that educates British students on the side, net migration will be high every year. If you want to move away from that, you have to make different decisions.

But as it stands, we do neither: we have a net migration target that is far removed from the rest of the UK’s policy objectives, and which encourages ministers to achieve the relatively few tools they directly control, even if those forms of immigration are restricted. what voters actually like.

Try this now

I went to see it last weekend on the recommendation of my boss, Alice Fishburn Operation Minced Meatthe musical about the World War II operation of the same name.

This is an absolutely brilliant musical that fully deserves the glowing review that Sarah Hemming wrote about it. The production narrates the operation of the namesake with wit, vigor and an amazingly versatile cast.

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Bringing the musical to life with just five actors feels like a magic act, and each of them deserves every possible award. It was performed at the Fortune Theater in London extended until mid-August, so you have plenty of time to watch it. Check out Alice’s roundup of the week’s best commentary and analysis every Saturday subscribe to our Opinion newslettersent Monday to Saturday.

Top stories today

  • Inflation is falling | UK inflation fell to 8.7 percent in April, a smaller drop than the Bank of England had expected, increasing pressure on the central bank to continue raising interest rates. Food price inflation remained close to a 45-year high, at 19.1 percent in April, compared to 19.2 percent in March.

  • Reeves embraces Bidenomics | Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves will embrace “bidenomics” as a template for a Labor government, saying Britain will “be pushed out” unless it accepts that the rules of the global economy have changed.

  • The EU is asking for time for the city settlement | Brussels has rejected industry calls to rethink a plan to acquire the lucrative clearing business from the City of London, saying it must move on to secure strong European markets.

  • Sunak promises long-term help to Ukraine | Western support for Kiev will continue “for years”, the British Prime Minister declared, indicating that Ukraine’s Western allies are ready to support the country during the long conflict with Russia.

A woman pollster talks to a man and asks:

Dominic Raab has announced that he will resign from politics at the next election © Banx

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