Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1 Closed blinds vs closed minds (Independent on Sunday)

If Labour defended the poor, it might find support from some in the Government, writes the Independent on Sunday in a leader.

2 They need single beds in No 10, fast (Sunday Times)

Even if they are happy to brave the winter weather, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are surely not planning to return to the rose garden at No 10 to present their “mid-term review”, writes Melissa Kite.

3 Can a royal save the nation from obesity? Fat chance (Observer)

Against all evidence, the Royal College of Physicians is looking for role models to help us live healthier lives, writes Catherine Bennett.

4 When taking the train was a sign of prosperity (Independent on Sunday)

The trendy sneer at suburbia and espouse only city living. But we are pretty much all commuters now, whatever the cost, writes Andrew Martin.

5 The Tories can win if they put real people first (Sunday Telegraph)

Voters worry about the cost of living and immigration controls, not gay marriage, writes Janet Daley.

6 Job done. Disaster averted, the American way – with a train crash (Sunday Times)

You sometimes have to wait a long time for America to right itself. But it will get there, in its own way, in the end, writes Andrew Sullivan

7 David Cameron is determined to stay on and finish the job (Sunday Telegraph)

Our pragmatist Prime Minister David Cameron is set on winning a full term in No 10 so he can see through policies, not out of some crazed will to power, writes Matthew D'Ancona

8 Events, not policies, will decide who takes Downing Street next (Independent on Sunday)

Opinion polls and their predictive power count for naught when stuff happens and the character of politicians is tested in its fire, writes John Rentoul.

9 HS2 is a cancer that will cost our country dear (Sunday Telegraph)

If David Cameron delved more deeply into transport policy, he would find he has been sold the wrong project, writes Cheryl Gillan.

10 The Make Labour Look Like the Party for Skiving Fat Slobs bill (Observer)

The chancellor's cunning plan to embarrass the opposition could end up being very costly for the Conservatives, writes Andrew Rawnsley.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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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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