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I think that is where the Home Secretary is beginning to cut an isolated figure, as she did last week at her party’s conference. I understand that her own Cabinet colleagues are making the same argument to her—the Chancellor of the Exchequer got dangerously close to making the same argument on his recent trip to China. The hon. Lady is right. If we are looking for an area where there is economic benefit to the country in the long term, it is absolutely that of welcoming to this country students who will then commit themselves to the country for the rest of their working lives.
The critical response to the Home Secretary’s speech last week did not come just from the usual suspects on the Labour Benches. The Daily Telegraph called it
“awful, ugly, misleading, cynical and irresponsible”,
while the Institute of Directors, no less, dismissed it as
“irresponsible rhetoric and pandering to anti-immigration sentiment”— serious words. They were not alone. The public can spot any attempt to play politics with this issue from a million miles away, and that is why the Home Secretary got the reaction she did. She claimed in Manchester that immigration was undermining social cohesion. I put it to her that legislating in haste without clear evidence and bringing forward half-baked, divisive measures is far more likely to do precisely that.