Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Egypt's hopes betrayed by Morsi (Guardian)

Bread, freedom and social justice were the demands of the revolution, writes Ahdaf Soueif. Instead Mohamed Morsi delivered bloodshed.

2. Against George Osborne's war on the poor (Independent)

The Chancellor used his Autumn Statement to attack many of the most vulnerable people in our society, says Owen Jones.

3. Conservatives should embrace gay marriage (Times) (£)

Angry voices in the Church and the party are out of touch with the country, says Tim Montgomerie. David Cameron must stand firm.

4. Why we are calling for an end to the war on drugs (Guardian)

The home affairs select committee wants a focus on treatment and an end to the policy of putting politics above evidence, writes Julian Huppert.

5. The fiscal cliff could split the Republicans (Financial Times)

If Obama persuades enough of the GOP to vote for a tax rise, the party may face civil war, says Edward Luce.

6. Ignore the doom merchants, Britain should get fracking (Daily Telegraph)

Shale gas is green, cheap and plentiful, says Boris Johnson. So why are opponents making such a fuss?

7. Those who would cancel a promise to black America (Guardian)

Racial inequality has deepened, yet Republicans want to ban affirmative action in college admissions, writes Gary Younge.

8. Politics have burst the Monti bubble (Financial Times)

Two things need fixing in Italy, both of which are beyond the scope of the technocrats, writes Wolfgang Munchau.

9. We are wallowing in Labour’s debt, so why is Ed blocking cuts? (Sun)

The Labour leader knows he is walking into a Tory trap and has decided it is worth the risk, writes Trevor Kavanagh.

10. Marriage matters, and it should be rewarded (Daily Telegraph)

Time is running out if David Cameron is to honour his pledge in the Coalition Agreement, writes Tim Loughton.

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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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