Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Friends and foes are wondering if Mr Miliband has lost the plot (Daily Telegraph)

If Labour persists with the nursery school politics, the party is heading for defeat at the polls, says Mary Riddell. 

2. What are the Conservatives trying to hide? (Times)

If their memberships collapse, parties lose touch with local communities, writes Paul Goodman. And that should worry all of us.

3. Labour should hammer home one simple message on the economy (Guardian)

To regain voter confidence on the economy the party must point out that the pain of austerity has not been worth it, says Robert Skidelsky.

4. Any other ‘statesman’ who negotiated peace like John Kerry would be treated as a thief (Independent)

Kerry isn’t on the Palestinians' side, says Robert Fisk. He’s going all out for ‘peace’ on Israeli  government terms.

5. Yes, Mr Bryant made a fool of himself. But has Labour now revealed its vote-winner? (Daily Mail)

 Labour has now concluded that economic nationalism is the path to power, writes Andrew Alexander.

6. Tell the truth: the NHS will soon be bust (Times)

There’s no end to medical advances and their astronomical costs, writes Gaby Hinsliff. The trouble is, we can’t possibly afford them.

7. Gibraltar and the Falklands deny the logic of history (Guardian)

These relics of empire pay hardly any UK tax – but when the neighbours cut up nasty, they demand the British protect them, writes Simon Jenkins.

8. A 21st-century Nasser could give the Arab world its voice (Guardian)

Egypt's coup makers are phoney nationalists, writes Seumas Milne. But the goal of independence and social justice unites people across the region.

9. Carney is yet to bend markets to his will (Financial Times)

There are limits to what a central bank can credibly promise, writes Martin Sandbu.

10. Homeowners are not so bubbly this time (Daily Telegraph)

A jump in house prices used to be cause for celebration, writes Richard Dyson. So why are homeowners wary about the latest increase?

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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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