Some time before the EU referendum I predicted that a 'leave' vote would make UKIP the largest party. Well, I am very sad to admit that I was absolutely right. It's just that the Conservative Party has morphed into UKIP-lite.
My argument ran that as it became obvious that the UK could not simultaneously remain in the EU's Single Market for economic purposes and have solely British control over immigration rules then support would shift to UKIP and the Tories would split. What has happened is that the Government has stolen UKIP's clothes and is heading for chauvinism and economic isolation. There's a joke being made to Americans now. Why not come over and buy some property here? You'll get a nice house and change from $100!
The proposed rules about companies saying how many 'foreigners' are employed is a measure bound to inflame prejudice and threaten the livelihoods of people who have settled here in good faith. It is being reviled around the world as a sign of how the last country in Europe to embrace xenophobia in the 20 the century has taken the lead in this ignoble pursuit in the 21st century.
But perhaps the most ludicrous action of all in this package of petty chauvinism announced at the Tory Conference are the proposals to limit 'foreign' students. Apparently Amber Rudd is considering proposals so that overseas students will only be able to obtain work visas if they study at some universities, rather than 'lower quality' courses. According to one of her advisers quality will be measured by whether the universities are one of the two dozen members of the Russell Group of universities.
This proposal would do little, if anything to reduce overseas student numbers as the Russell Group universities would simply expand the intake to recruit the students who would have gone to non-Russell Group universities before. Meanwhile it would do severe financial damage to the rest. It would be an incredible piece of policy nonsense given that recently the Government proposed to ruin the top universities by linking home student fee rises to how well the universities scored in the National Student Survey (NSS) (see previous blog on why this is nonsense). That would mainly favour the non-research intensive universities who tend to do better in NSS scores.
I struggle to understand how it is that a Programme we run at Aberdeen University (or at places like the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex, Robert Gordon University also in Aberdeen etc) is 'lower quality' to one organised at a university in the Russell Group. But it is now. Because Amber Rudd says so. They'll be no NSS on that one I'm sure!
Of course if Amber Rudd fails to divide and rule the universities she may use the option of simply stopping overseas students getting work visas at all. But if this leads to large cuts in income from overseas students then then that would even more surely ruin the universities more thoroughly than will happen anyway with the loss of EU research income and the decline in numbers of EU students studying in the UK.
There's no good argument for doing this, bar the notion that this may nominally cut the numbers of so-called immigrants (students are counted in this list). It is ludicrous to claim that the students I teach at my and other universities are low skilled people, presumably who will put out British people out of jobs picking fruit or cleaning toilets. No they might compete with university lecturers for their jobs of course - but I can assure you that very, very, few of us mind about that!
But facts and expert opinion have departed from being regarded as having any relevance in UKIP Britain. Experts are weak liberal internationalists who have no country. The Prime Minister has sacrificed her country in the race to save her Party by transforming it into UKIP.