Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Labour politics: the meh index (Guardian)

Miliband needs to find a persuasive alternative vision to the one Cameron has to begun to sketch out, says a Guardian editorial.

2. The left talks gibberish while Cameron racks up successes (Daily Telegraph)

After three years, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s daring reforms are starting to pay dividends, says Peter Oborne.

3. Cameron wants to reform the NHS. But it was his government that handed over the levers (Independent)

The labyrinthine management structures of the NHS and BBC stymie change, says Steve Richards.

4. Primary school tests follow the Piccadilly Circus rule (Guardian)

Wait long enough and every education policy comes round again, writes Peter Wilby. New exams for younger pupils is the latest example.

5. Britain's rentier society fit for a royal (Financial Times)

Never mind education, hard work or getting a good job – having the right ancestors matters, writes Chris Giles.

6. After Liverpool we need a better way of dying (Times)

My time on the review of the controversial ‘care pathway’ showed me how unprepared most of us are for our end, writes David Aaronovitch.

7. Unemployment: signs of recovery that leave too many behind (Independent)

With long-term joblessness on the rise, the auguries are far from promising, says an Independent editorial.

8. Does Whitehall need more party placemen? (Daily Telegraph)

Reform of the Civil Service is overdue, but its impartiality may be under threat, says Sue Cameron.

9. Ten years ago today, Dr Kelly's body was found. The subsequent cover-up is one of the great scandals of our age (Daily Mail)

We still do not know for certain why or how Dr Kelly died, writes Stephen Glover.

10.  A strong leader in Japan is not a minus (Financial Times)

Love him or loathe him, Abe is someone with whom his foreign counterparts can do business, writes David Pilling.

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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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