Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The hidden truth of local cuts will soon be revealed (Guardian)

It is worse than under Margaret Thatcher, writes David Blunkett. As living standards fall and services are slashed, revolutionary fervour may return.

2. Until David Cameron learns to explain himself, voters will not trust him (Daily Telegraph)

Many natural Tories are losing faith in a party that appears to ignore their opinions, says Bruce Anderson.

3. Seismic events will shape the Middle East (Financial Times

The region offers no respite to international or local actors, writes David Gardner.

4. End this failed marriage of Church and State (Times) (£)

Even the Archbishop can see the benefits, writes Philip Collins. It’s Anglicans who have most to gain from disestablishment.

5. Welfare reform: history today (Guardian)

The newly released cabinet papers from the fourth year of the first Thatcher government are a prequel to the 2012 welfare reforms, says a Guardian editorial.

6. It's time for America to do the right thing (Daily Telegraph)

Economic stability appears to have been abandoned in favour of infighting and point-scoring over the "fiscal cliff", says a Telegraph editorial.

7. Why have the Tories rejected the spirit of 2012? (Independent)

The Conservatives’ new tactic is a betrayal of all that Cameron stood for when he became leader, writes Mary Ann Sieghart.

8. An apprenticeship will soon match all a degree has to offer (Daily Telegraph)

New routes are rapidly opening into valuable and highly paid professional careers, says Matthew Hancock.

9. Mr Clegg's contempt for democracy on EU (Daily Mail)

The deputy PM demonstrated how he remains as detached from the views of the electorate on Europe as ever, says a Daily Mail leader.

10. Why it's good to walk (Guardian

Strolling around the neighbourhood is an antidote to ignorance, and empowering too, says Lynsey Hanley.

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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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