Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Raise a glass to gay marriage – all our lives are better for it (Guardian)

The journey from section 28 to same-sex weddings has been truly radical and rapid – it can be a model for progressive change, writes Jonathan Freedland.

2. How Blair conned the Tory party into selling its soul (Daily Mail)

The Conservatives have ended up looking and sounding like a poor imitation of New Labour, says Simon Heffer.

3. Monetary Mandate (Times) (£)

The Bank of England’s remit of price stability is too narrow, argues a Times leader. It should target growth as well as inflation.

4. MPs: get back to the day job (Guardian)

Our politicians should spend less time in select committees, and more in the chamber of the house, argues Geoffrey Wheatcroft.

5. Cameron shouldn’t fear the EU wolf (Financial Times)

Tory detractors fail to take account of their leader’s radicalism, says Michael Portillo.

6. Gay marriage is not a conservative choice (Daily Telegraph)

David Cameron’s proposals for gay marriage show that he hasn’t thought very hard about it, says Charles Moore.

7. The real James Bond needs policing (Independent)

The security services have been used in ways that contradict all that Britain holds dear, says an Independent editorial.

8. We'll hunt down the tax avoiders (Guardian)

There should be no hiding place for the proceeds of crime, corruption and tax dodging, writes Vince Cable.

9. State of the unions – getting weaker (Financial Times)

Michigan’s right-to-work law marks a shift in the political landscape, writes Christopher Caldwell.

10. The seeds of another GM row are sown (Daily Telegraph)

Owen Paterson's outburst at opponents of genetically modified crops and foods seems set to revive a decade-old war, writes Geoffrey Lean.

Getty
Show Hide image

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.

0800 7318496