CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Obama's robot wars endanger us all (Independent)

The evidence suggests drones create far more jihadis than they kill, says Johann Hari -- and each one makes an attack on the west more likely.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. Cutting from the rich and clobbering the middle, Cameron looks like a lefty (Guardian)

Pension relief, graduate loans and child benefit all hurt the better-off, says Simon Jenkins. Now the axe will hit the public sector's well-paid classes.

3. Does not owning a linen shirt make you poor? (Times) (£)

The dry, arithmetical definition of poverty is useless, says Philip Collins. It only leads to bad policy that makes no one richer.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. Why higher student fees are right (Financial Times) (£)

Martin Wolf concedes that the changes to student finance will bring pain. But the upside is also huge.

5. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon sends a menacing message (Daily Telegraph)

Con Coughlin warns that Iran's president wants the charges dropped against Hizbollah -- or else.

6. Israel comes face to face with the man who would wipe it off the map (Independent)

Robert Fisk gives his take on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to the battleground of Lebanon's southern border yesterday.

7. The quango quandary (Guardian)

The government said it would save cash by axing these bodies, but, Ian Magee points out, that's one test yet to be proved.

8. Europe should be wary of dancing on Obama's grave (Financial Times) (£)

Europe's leaders failed to recognise how comfortable life was jeering from the sidelines, says Philip Stephens.

9. There is no defence for this scandalous waste (Times) (£)

The Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, lays the way for forthcoming cuts, lambasting the "incompetence and extravagance" of the MoD under the previous Government.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

10. Shed no tears for Liverpool: our football needs deflating (Guardian)

Bill Shankly was wrong, says Martin Kettle. This unimportant game is an insatiable monster. Financial collapse would get it back in perspective.

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The private renting sector enables racist landlords like Fergus Wilson

A Kent landlord tried to ban "coloured people" from his properties. 

Fergus Wilson, a landlord in Kent, has made headlines after The Sun published his email to a letting agent which included the line: "No coloured people because of the curry smell at the end of the tenancy."

When confronted, the 70-year-old property owner only responded with the claim "we're getting overloaded with coloured people". The letting agents said they would not carry out his orders, which were illegal. 

The combination of blatant racism, a tired stereotype and the outdated language may make Wilson seem suspiciously like a Time Landlord who has somehow slipped in from 1974. But unfortunately he is more modern than he seems.

Back in 2013, a BBC undercover investigation found 10 letting agent firms willing to discriminate against black tenants at the landlord's request. One manager was filmed saying: "99% of my landlords don't want Afro-Caribbeans."

Under the Equality Act 2010, this is illegal. But the conditions of the private renting sector allow discrimination to flourish like mould on a damp wall. 

First, discrimination is common in flat shares. While housemates or live-in landlords cannot turn away a prospective tenant because of their race, they can express preferences of gender and ethnicity. There can be logical reasons for this - but it also provides useful cover for bigots. When one flat hunter in London protested about being asked "where do your parents come from?", the landlord claimed he just wanted to know whether she was Christian.

Second, the private rental sector is about as transparent as a landlord's tax arrangements. A friend of mine, a young professional Indian immigrant, enthusiastically replied to house share ads in the hope of meeting people from other cultures. After a month of responding to three or four room ads a day, he'd had just six responses. He ended up sharing with other Indian immigrants.

My friend suspected he'd been discriminated against, but he had no way of proving it. There is no centrally held data on who flatshares with who (the closest proxy is SpareRoom, but its data is limited to room ads). 

Third, the current private renting trends suggest discrimination will increase, rather than decrease. Landlords hiked rents by 2.1 per cent in the 12 months to February 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics, an indication of high demand. SpareRoom has recorded as many as 22 flat hunters chasing a single room. In this frenzy, it only becomes harder for prospective tenants to question the assertion "it's already taken". 

Alongside this demand, the government has introduced legislation which requires landlords to check that tenants can legitimately stay in the UK. A report this year by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found that half of landlords were less likely to rent to foreign nationals as a result of the scheme. This also provides handy cover for the BTL bigot - when a black British tenant without a passport asked about a room, 58 per cent of landlords ignored the request or turned it down

Of course, plenty of landlords are open-minded, unbiased and unlikely to make a tabloid headline anytime soon. They most likely outnumber the Fergus Wilsons of this world. But without any way of monitoring discrimination in the private rental sector, it's impossible to know for sure. 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.