Morning Call: pick of the comment

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

1. Michael Foot, the most misunderstood of men (Times)

Roy Hattersley says that Michael Foot was the most misunderstood politician of his lifetime. Cast as a fey Robespierre, he was in fact a kingly and humorous man.

2. Don't be afraid of a hung parliament (Guardian)

It is nonsense to suggest that a hung parliament would produce a weak government incapable of tackling the deficit, writes Timothy Garton Ash. Most of the largest fiscal consolidations have happened under coalition governments.

3. Foot symbolises a lost world (Independent)

Democratic politics may never see the likes of Michael Foot again, writes his biographer Kenneth O Morgan. An inspirational and civilising force, he symbolised a world we have lost.

4. Labour's Foot mythology has finally run out of time (Guardian)

Elsewhere, the Guardian's Seumas Milne argues that New Labour can no longer use Foot's leadership to claim that the party cannot be elected on a left-of-centre platform.

5. The BBC's retreat may yet turn into a rout (Times)

The looming BBC cuts will not end the political debate over the licence fee, writes David Elstein. A new government is likely to conclude that at least some of the £600m saved should be used to reduce it.

6. The Tories are on a rocky road towards their sunlit uplands (Daily Telegraph)

David Cameron may have asked us to "vote for change" but he has yet to persuade us that change is necessary, argues Benedict Brogan. He must do so, or risk seeing Brown persuade us to stick with the government.

7. In government America must trust (Financial Times)

Trust in government is most important when citizens are asked to make sacrifices for a brighter future, writes William Galston. Barack Obama must hope that trust increases as the economy returns to growth.

8. We have to learn from Japan's lost years (Daily Telegraph)

The behaviour of the pound this week was a reminder that the time for borrowing is over, and that the time to pay our debts has come, writes Edmund Conway.

9. Greece is right -- Britain and Europe are letting it down (Independent)

Greece and Europe need an EU-wide economic package that stays the gathering momentum for savage budget cuts, says Adrian Hamilton.

10. Cut the arts at your peril (Guardian)

Charlotte Higgins argues that the Tories are wrong to claim that US-style philanthropy can make up for slashed spending on the arts.

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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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