Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Brass tax (The Times)
Tax avoidance harms the economy - this week's developments have been welcome, says a Times editorial

2. Cameron and Chakrabarti treat press freedom as sacred (Independent)
But aren't some things more important, asks Howard Jacobson

3. Michael Gove does not deserve to be hailed as a rising star (Guardian)
His policies are bad for children and a waste of money, says Peter Wilby

4. A lot of froth over Starbucks (Telegraph)
The row over multinational tax affairs is a distraction from reducing state spending, says a Telegraph leader

5. Pay shake-up offers hope to the regions (Mail)
There's been a step towards closing the divide between the south east and the rest of Britain, says a Daily Mail leader

6. Things can only get worse. Vote Tory. (The TImes)
If Osborne brings recovery, he'll lose the next election for his party, says Matthew Parris

7. Syria and the truth about chemical weapons (Independent)
Do you know which army was the first to use gas in the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk

8. The search for paedophiles is more carnival than witch-hunt (Guardian)
Light entertainment is being turned upside down by a raucous mob, says Hannah Betts

9. David Cameron's trouble with being modern (Telegraph)
The PM must adapt, but he risks ignoring what is important, argues Charles Moore

10. Clegg is oblivious of the damage of high taxation to growth (Daily Mail)
The Deputy Prime Minister is a disaster for Britain, says Robin Harris

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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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