Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Watch out, George Osborne: Smith, Marx and even the IMF are after you (Guardian)

When even the IMF's free market ideologues recoil from the UK chancellor's austerity politics, democracy itself is at stake, warns Ha-Joon Chang. 

2. For all his proficiency on the pallet, Ed still can’t speak human (Daily Telegraph)

The Labour leader’s populist approach isn’t working – precision and honesty are required, says Mary Riddell. 

3. The German model is not for export (Financial Times)

Forcing the eurozone to mimic Germany’s path to adjustment makes stagnation likely, writes Martin Wolf.

4. Cameron needs a big-tent conservatism (Times

Defectors to Nigel Farage came mostly from older voters, notes Daniel Finkelstein. Cameron needs to attract the young and the aspiring.

5. The idea that we can renegotiate with the EU is pure fantasy (Daily Mail)

The PM may not like it, but Nigel Lawson's absolutely right, says Daniel Hannan. 

6. Three ideas to fix the North-South divide in Britain (Independent)

Forty years ago London was struggling - but it's hard to identify the reasons for its turnaround, writes Hamish McRae. 

7. Lawson calls time on the three-pint heroes (Daily Telegraph)

The former Tory chancellor is right about leaving the EU, and closet sceptics will have to accept it, argues Nigel Farage.

8. The west and its allies cynically bleed Syria to weaken Iran (Guardian)

If western politicians were really interested in saving lives, they would use their leverage to negotiate a settlement, says Seumas Milne.

9. The EU has pushed Britain ‘out’ already (Times

No other European country shares our concern at the lack of democracy in the EU, writes Gisela Stuart.

10. If David Cameron had any sense, he would call a referendum on Europe now (Guardian)

With UKIP and now Nigel Lawson roaming free, he'll only regain the initiative on Europe if he calls Nick Clegg's bluff, writes Simon Jenkins.

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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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