Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. UK has political capital to lift investment (Financial Times)

There is significant room for the government to raise capital spending, says Tory MP Jesse Norman.

2. No exaggeration: Ukip is now a force to reckon with (Guardian)

If the cards fall its way, Nigel Farage's party will shape both the 2015 election and the politics of Britain and Europe for a generation, says Martin Kettle.

3. Why fuss over exams at 16? No one else does (Times) (£)

O levels, GCSEs or the EBC – they all look obsolete as the school-leaving age rises to 18, writes David Miliband.

4. What exactly makes the Lib Dems different? (Independent)

The party has two problems: lack of policy impact and ambivalence over the true meaning of localism, says Steve Richards.

5. This shameful BAE Systems deal would rip the heart out of Britain plc (Daily Mail)

Companies with the word ‘British’ in their name have become easy prey for predators, writes Alex Brummer.

6. Do we really want to arm our police? (Daily Telegraph)

Despite the murder of two unarmed WPcs in Manchester, few officers want an armed force, writes Philip Johnston.

7. The justice and security bill is on the right track (Guardian)

As an instinctive liberal, I believe this bill will shine a light into the state's darkest corners, writes Ken Clarke.

8. Pinstripes, plain views – and a real problem for Cameron (Daily Telegraph)

Ukip hopes to split the Tory leadership from its base, writes Paul Goodman. The PM would be a fool to ignore the threat.

9. A plague we must stop before it is endemic (Independent)

If Britain was ever an uncorrupt society, those days are long passed, writes Andreas Whittam Smith. MPs and police officers work in small, closed societies where bad practices easily flourish.

10. The real lesson from Japan’s lost decade (Financial Times)

The Treasury should set the Bank of England a nominal GDP target, argues Chris Giles.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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