Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The lesson from the US: George Osborne has wasted the last three years (Guardian)

Britain's modest recovery is weak, and benefits the richest most, writes Ed Balls. We need a One Nation economic plan.

2. A Grexit begins to look more feasible (Financial Times)

For Greece to reform and not default makes sense only from Berlin’s perspective, writes Wolfgang Münchau.

3. Britain's diversity was lauded during the Olympics. But no longer (Guardian)

There's a glaring gap between the cant we heard at last summer's Games and where Britain has subsequently arrived, writes John Harris.

4. Cruel? Certainly. Unforgivable? Beyond doubt. But the Tories aren't actually evil (Independent)

It would be easy to imagine a cabal of upper-class sadomasochists, plotting ever more devious ways to hunt children on council estates like foxes, writes Owen Jones. But it misses the point.

5. The greens can’t defy gravity. They’re finished (Times)

The cash wasted on failed global warming policies would be better spent on tackling the problems faced by the poor, says Tim Montgomerie.

6. Why David Cameron's war on internet porn doesn't make sense (Guardian)

The prime minister's so-called plan for controlling access to online pornography is a breathtaking piece of political sleight-of-hand, writes Tom Meltzer. 

7. At last! The PM'S acted over online porn. I just hope he sees it through (Daily Mail)

It is startling to find a Prime Minister acting so decisively like this against a presumed liberal consensus and in defence of orderly family values, writes Melanie Phillips. 

8. Heavier sanctions on Iran could backfire (Financial Times)

The costs of economic war would outweigh strategic benefits, say Steve Hanke and Garbis Iradian.

9. If we are going to retreat, must we grovel so shamefully as we leave? (Independent)

Now we arrive in the Middle East as smiling supplicants, blessing any “people’s change” (unless it is any monarchical autocracy of the Gulf), writes Robert Fisk.

10. Forget about trying to contain Germany – we should copy it (Daily Telegraph)

The reunification of this great nation has been one of the success stories of modern times, says Boris Johnson.

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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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