Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. It's welfare, not wealth, that will define Ed Miliband's leadership (Daily Telegraph)

Labour's reluctance to stand up for those in greatest need leaves it in no man's land, says Mary Riddell.

2. Welfare cap: it's not about the money (Guardian)

Gavin Poole argues that opponents of the cap on benefits fail to see that it will raise self-esteem and break the cycle of poverty.

3. NHS reform should be dropped, before it's too late (Independent)

Steve Richards says that "sweeping upheaval" is a polite way of expressing the chaos that is being imposed.

4. Barack Obama has reasons to smile again (Daily Telegraph)

The president's future looks more hopeful, says Alex Spillius -- the US economy is recovering, Republicans are weak and he is untainted by scandal.

5. The real debate that America needs (Financial Times)

Romney and Obama are the men to set the agenda, says Gideon Rachman.

6.For Greece default is the only option (Guardian)

Costas Lapavitsas says that the dreadful debt saga will only come to a close when Greece takes charge of its predicament.

7. We want a deal with Iran, not a war (Independent)

The EU decision yesterday to ban imports of Iranian oil makes even more perilous a confrontation that could yet lead to war, warns this leading article.

8. Economic uncertainty is no excuse for inaction (Financial Times)

Increasing demand is the way back to economic health, writes Lawrence Summers.

9. Hockney's painted message for the politicos (Times) (£)

Britain's greatest living artist uses modern means to convey traditional themes. Rachel Sylvester says that MPs of all colours should take heed.

10. Courage: a product of practice rather than faith (Guardian)

Giles Fraser discusses the question of moral courage and whether you can get better at it.

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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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