Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Forget mansion tax. We need a windmill tax (Times) (£)

Alice Thomson says that wind farms on inherited estates are fuelling vast government subsidies for earls and dukes

2. Drop the 50p tax rate and target property - the gutsy Welsh way to go (Guardian)

Our cockeyed council tax epitomises the political cowardice of successive governments, says Simon Jenkins. Will George Osborne be braver?

3. Time for the Coalition's Jeremiah to move on (Daily Telegraph)

Vince Cable has made an acute assessment of the Government's economic and industrial policies, says this leading article. Shame he is partly to blame.

4. For the NHS's sake, we Lib Dems must ditch the health and social care bill (Guardian)

Lib Dem calls for changes have been ignored. Evan Harris calls for NHS supporters not to support this legislation.

5. Why the Pembury road matters more than the Olympics (Financial Times)

We need to shift the emphasis away from grand projects, says John Kay.

6. What we'll miss in Steve Hilton's gap year (Times) (£)

Big Society, free schools and elected mayors can be traced back to a man in a New York restaurant, says Daniel Finkelstein. Now he too has gone.

7. How to keep pressure on Iran and avoid rise in oil prices (Financial Times)

Obama has a tricky diplomatic line to tread, write Ian Bremmer and David Gordon.

8. Barack Obama must hold his nerve on Iran (Independent)

This leading article argues that for all the mutual distrust, diplomatic efforts are yet to be exhausted.

9. Negative campaigning - why I'm all for it (Times) (£)

In America we understand that attacking your opponent is the way to expose the truth, writes Dick Morris. Britain should copy us.

10. Welcome to the GOP's great political experiment (Financial Times)

It is hard to see how the Republicans' rightward lurch can end soon, writes Jonathan Chait.

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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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