I do love the law of inadvertent consequences. The Labour Party’s manifesto commitment to removing tuition fees for students, together with their clever use of social media, delivered a massive increase in young voter registrations, and Labour’s biggest share of the national vote since 1945.
The inadvertent effect will be to force the ‘victorious’ Tories to abandon much of their manifesto, including commitments to counting international students in net migration figures and the development of more grammar schools. With Theresa May now in a precarious position, much of her manifesto will now be junked – just as she junked her two closest advisors over the weekend. We can look forward to a slimmed-down Queen’s Speech next week which focuses on Brexit and a few uncontentious social issues – and which doesn’t mention anything remotely controversial beyond. The core debate now will be about Brexit, and how much softer a stance the Government will now be forced to take.
It was said of Theresa May during the election that the vicar’s daughter had no understanding of business. Which begins to explain why she obstinately tried to diminish the numbers of international students continuing their education in this country. At a time when trade with the EU will be put at risk by our exit from the single market, our Prime Minister was promoting a policy which could have had a devastating effect on one of our major service sectors. Given that one international post-graduate student contributes more to our balance of payments than one exported Range Rover, this always seemed perverse. Higher education is one of the UK’s biggest earners of foreign exchange, but 130 Vice Chancellors had failed to persuade our Prime Minister that she should not treat international students as migrants.
12,874,985 Labour voters have just inadvertently done just that.